How do Plath in ‘Morning Song’ and Clarke in ‘Catrin’ suggest their thoughts and feelings about motherhood? In this essay, i will be exploring the thoughts and feelings that Clarke and Plath portray throughout their respective poems. Firstly, Clarke shows a sense of hostility and struggle throughout the poem ‘Catrin’. The elongated struggle in the poem is achieved by making the poems 2 stanzas very different, one being the present and one being the past; meaning Clarke can compare what things used to be like to how they are now.
Clarke seems to be reflecting into the past for answers, this is apparent where she keeps repeating ‘i remember’, which shows she is trying to relive the experience to see where the struggle began. We see Clarke’s sense of continued struggle and confrontation where she says ‘still i am fighting’, where ‘still’ conveys to us the fact that this has been happening all her life with her daughter; showing the continued tone of hostility between the pair.
This hostility and struggle is maintained throughout the entirety of the poem, especially where we talks about the birth.
To describe the birth, Clarke uses word such as ‘fought’, ‘confrontation’ and ‘struggle to become separate’. These words all show that Clarke was not only struggling physically during the birth, but also that she was having to come to terms with the fact that they are now separate entities. Clarke implies that the emotional struggle was more prevalent than the physical by not focusing on pain during birth, but more so the pain afterwards.
This emotional pain is highlighted where Clarke says’ red rope of love’ in place of umbilical cord.
Although she is talking about the umbilical cord the true focus is on the love that she feels for this child, and the way she feels this bond has now been severed due to the birth. This breaking of their bond is also implied where Clarke says ‘to be two, to be ourselves’. Another interpretation of this is that Clarke sees this as the beginning of their separate identities, and she is anxious to see how the situation will develop. A feeling of anxiousness is portrayed through the entirety of Catrin.
We see her anxiety at the thought of being a mother where she says ‘traffic lights’, as she is seeing her life as being at a crossroads, and she is confused as to what she is to do. Another interpretation of this is that Clarke is apprehensive, just as you would be sitting at a traffic light waiting for it to turn green; she is waiting to get life started with her baby. This image of a new beginning is also conveyed where Clarke describes the hospital as being ‘square environmental blank’ and that it’s ‘disinfected’.
Although this literally could mean it is clean, I think Clarke is portraying an emptiness that their history will fill. This is quite an intimidating thought, showing that perhaps Clarke doesn’t feel confident in her ability to be a good mother. Catrin as a poem highlights the sense of a mother not feeling up to the challenge of parenthood. We see her nervous nature affecting her judgement in both of the stanzas: past and present. When she is talking about the birth her description includes the word ‘hot, which implies that she is apprehensive as the word ‘hot’ associates with sweating and hence nervousness.
Towards the end of the poem, in the second stanza (the present), we see her anxiety again where she says that her love is ‘tightening about my life’. This implies to us that she feels trapped as a mother, as she doesn’t know what to do. By following this with ‘trailing love and conflict’, it suggests to us that she feels challenged, as she know there will be arguments if she denies her daughter what she wants. The poem is full of conflict between the 2 characters of Clarke and her daughter, and the tone Clarke uses almost shows a fondness she feels for the arguments and confrontations they have had.
This ton is present where she states ‘wild, tender circles’. This is an ambivalent statement, as she is talking about a negative adjective ( wild) but also using a positive one ( tender). By showing ambivalence we get a feeling that Clarke sees these fights between the two of them as moments to be treasured as they are a learning curve in their history together. The second poem we analysed was ‘Morning Song’ by Sylvia Plath. Immediately, just from the title there is a significant difference in the two poems.
The title ‘Morning song’ isn’t very personal, and doesn’t give us an insight into the character of the child, where-as ‘Catrin’ is personal due to the fact that it is a name and this portrays a sense of closeness between Clarke and her daughter, Catrin. The title of ‘Morning Song’ is a subtle title, leading us to wonder what it could be about. However, Catrin is the opposite to this due to the fact that it is a blunt title informing us that it is about someone called Catrin. Toward the end of ‘Morning Song’ we get a hint as to why it may have been called that where Plath says’ ‘and now you try your handful of notes’.
This is reminiscent of a bird song, but also of the fact that a baby waking up often causes a noise. Where Plath says ‘your clear vowels rise like balloons’, the tone is appreciative due to the fact the mother is treasuring these moments of her babies morning song. The clearness could perhaps be due to the fact the mother had been waiting for the notes, and therefore her ear was tuned to the noise as she was waiting to hear the cry that would indicate to her that the baby was alive.
‘Morning Song’ is broken down into many stanzas telling the story of Plath’s view of motherhood bit by bit, which differs to ‘Catrin’ as ‘Catrin’ is simply 2 stanzas, past and present. By breaking the poem down into miniature stanzas it gives the effect of different stages on the journey of Plath’s motherhood. To begin with Plath conveys a sense of fear at the thought of motherhood. This sense of fear is portrayed by the realisation of a beginning being pushed throughout the first stanza. Plath says ‘your bald cry took its place among the elements’ and this shows that she feels the baby is real now, part of her world.
Another interpretation of this could be that Plath is trying to convey a sense of pride at the fact her daughter is alive, crying and well. The way she says ‘elements’, suggests that she feels the sound of crying will become a regular sound as an element is something that is so common it is almost always around. Plath also talks about love in the first stanza: ‘love set you going like a fat gold watch’. The love is relating to the torrent of emotions Plath feels for her child, seen in the simile ‘fat gold watch’ , where it connects to the thought of life and creation and the fact that the ticks of a clock sound much like a heartbeat.
By making this comparison not only does Plath show her love and thought that the child is valuable to her, she also marks the moment of her creation as in important time due to it being the starting of her heartbeat. This infers to us that the creation and birth of Plath’s child is a great memory of hers. This is different to Clarke’s ‘Catrin’ where the birth of the baby is described to be a ‘fierce confrontation’. Plath conveys a feeling of confusion throughout ‘Morning Song’ by portraying contrasting emotions throughout the entirety of the poem.
In the second stanza, we see a negative torrent of emotion’s where Plath describes the arrival of the baby. This portrays a feeling of anxiousness and fear that Plath is now a mother, and has a baby to care for. Where she says ‘echo, magnifying your arrival’ it infers that she could see this occasion as momentous but also fearful as the tone of the poem indicates that she could possibly have been on her own at this point. This feeling of aloneness and isolation makes this occasion that should have been momentous, have a subdued effect as the tone is sad and fearful.
This eerie tone to the poem is continued where Plath states ‘I am no more your mother’. This shows us Plath is beginning to feel detached from her baby, even though it’s only just the start of their journey together. This could be perhaps because Plath believes the baby doesn’t need her any more, as it can now survive without her. Clarke has a problem in ‘Catrin’ to do with the separation, but rather than feeling alone Clarke is in the ‘struggle to become separate’ which indicates that she knows she needs to become separated from her baby, but doesn’t want to.
We see Plath’s detachment again where she states they stood ‘blankly’, which conveys a sense of emotionlessness at her child’s birth, when she should be full of joyous emotions. Another interpretation of this blankness, is because the two of the have no history, therefore so far they have a blank canvas of a relationship which they are going to build upon as they of through life together. Through the poem ‘Morning Song’ an overall sense of anxiety is portrayed, both in what Plath says and what she does.
For example, where she says ‘I wake to listen’, it shows that Plath is alert to hear if her baby is okay showing the anxiety she feels at the thought of her baby being hurt, but also the instinctive, protective nature that Plath has developed for her child. This instinctive character is also highlighted where Plath states ‘one cry and I stumble from bed’. By saying ‘stumble’ it indicated that Plath had no choice in the matter, she HAD to get up, hence her grogginess. The fact she is immediately alert conveys a sense of love and protectiveness that Plath feels for her child, whether she is willing to or not.
Anxiousness is also conveyed in ‘Catrin’ where Clarke states the room as being ‘hot, white’, as this shows Clarke’s nervousness at being a mother, and starting a new blank history. Both of the poems show an element of protectiveness over their daughters, this is shown in ‘Catrin’ where Clarke says ‘still I am fighting you off’. Clarke is showing her protectiveness as she wants to say no to her daughter to protect her, but also instinctively wants to keep her happy and therefore is finding it hard to say no.