The Maturation of a Maternal Bond in Morning Song
What is the only difference between the emotions of an ordinary smiling new mother in the 1960's and those of Sylvia Plath when she writes her melancholy "Morning Song" soon after her child's birth? While most new mothers pretended all was well, Plath published her true feelings. Simply because society held that all new mothers should be filled with immense joy after giving birth does not mean that they actually were. Plath had the courage to admit she was confused, and her poem, "Morning Song," focuses on one woman's mixed senses of apprehension and of awe upon the birth of her child which create both feelings of separation and affection that contend to determine the strength of her maternal bond.
The first line of Plath's poem, "Love set you going like a fat gold watch," shows the emotional forces conflicting within the mother's mind. The fact that she chooses the word "love" rather than a more carnal image like "sex" shows that the infant was conceived from an intimate bond and creates a positive connection between mother and child. Using simile, "a fat gold watch," changes the impact of this line. While the word "fat" alludes to the cumbersome nature of the infant, the word "gold" represents the child as precious and valued, and the word "watch" conjures to mind the seemingly endless task of raising a child. In her book The Second Sex, Simone de Beauvoir asserts that "a whole complex of economical and sentimental considerations makes the baby seem either a hindrance or a jewel," but Plath's "fat gold watch" suggests a newborn can be both (509).
Detachment caused by the mother's sense of apprehension is evident as she says to her child, "New statue. / In a drafty museum, your nakedness shadows our safety." The mother's reference to the baby as a "new statue" seems odd in that the infant not long before created in her own womb should seem foreign to her. De Beauvoir states that though "the woman would like to feel that the new baby is surely hers as her own hand, . . . she does not recognize him because . . . she has experienced her pregnancy without him: she has no past in common with this little stranger" (507). By telling the infant "your nakedness shadows our safety" the young mother indicates that the "nakedness," or newness, of the infant is frightening to the new parents and as they contemplate this "shadow" of responsibility, they are awestruck and confused and "stand round blankly as walls."
I'm no more your mother
Than the cloud that distills a mirror to reflect its own slow
Effacement at the wind's hand
These lines of Plath's poem make it quite clear that the mother's sense of apprehension interferes with her ability to recognize her bond with her child....