Poppies In October

Poppies In October

By Sylvia Plath

Even the sun-clouds this morning cannot manage such skirts.
Nor the woman in the ambulance
Whose red heart blooms through her coat so astoundingly —
A gift, a love gift
Utterly unasked for
By a sky
Palely and flamily
Igniting its carbon monoxides, by eyes
Dulled to a halt under bowlers.
O my God, what am I
That these late mouths should cry open
In a forest of frost, in a dawn of cornflowers.

Summary of Poppies in October

  • Popularity of “Poppies in October”: Written by the American poet, writer, novelist, and short story genius, this beautiful short poem “Poppies in October” first appeared in her world-famous collection. The collection was published in 1965, shortly after her suicide which made the collection a specific treatment for the readers to discover the genius of this writer. The poem presents a symbolic image of life and death in a way that has made it popular across the globe.
  • “Poppies in October” As a Representative of Life and Death: Sylvia Plath’s speaker is perhaps the poet herself. That is why she has twisted and turned the images in such a way that these symbols signify a multiplicity of meanings. The speaker presents petals through the images of skirts of women, yet the same woman is in the ambulance and is going to be hospitalized due to some cardiac issues, which are also not clear. The poet weaves the same flowers of poppies into another twist, saying that it is a gift from God, but still, it is not required. The flowers show a mixture of colors and even an explosion of carbon monoxide, which has made it a gift for men. Yet, she prays to God that she has lived in this world where even frost gives birth to such flowers and that too on a morning full of cornflowers.
  • Major Themes in “Poppies in October”: Unexpectedness in nature, the beauty of nature, and confusion about life and death are major themes of this poem. Although the poet presents almost all the images through poppies, it is unclear what she means by making the poppies bloom, and that too in October when they do not traditionally bloom. And top it all, it is frost. This unexpectedness is as unexpected as life or, for that matter, death as the woman goes into an ambulance due to some heart problem. It is symbolized through the “red heart.” It shows how beauty and death go side by side, and yet this creates confusion in the poet that although colors mix in poppy flowers, they also have some type of poison in the shape of carbon monoxide that takes life and turns a person into a dead body. These symbolic meanings have various directions.

Analysis of Literary Devices Used in Poppies in October

Sylvia Plath used various literary devices to enhance the intended impact of her poem and mold wield the real message to her advantage. Some of the major literary devices are as follows.

  1. Assonance: Assonance is the repetition of vowel sounds in the same line, such as the sound of /a/ in “Nor the woman in the ambulance” and the sound of /i/ in “A gift, a love gift.”
  2. Alliteration: Alliteration is the repetition of consonant sounds in the same line in quick succession, such as the sound of /th/ in “That these” or /s/ in “such skirts.”
  3. Consonance: Consonance is the repetition of consonant sounds in the same line, such as the sound of /m/ and /k/ in “Even the sun-clouds this morning cannot manage such skirts” and the sound of /f/ and /t/ in “In a forest of frost, in a dawn of cornflowers.”
  4. Imagery: Imagery is used to make readers perceive things involving their five senses. Sylvia Plath used imagery in this poem, such as “Nor the woman in the ambulance”, “Whose red heart blooms through her coat so astoundingly” and “A gift, a love gift.”
  5. Metaphor: It is a figure of speech in which an implied comparison is made between objects different in nature. The poet used the metaphor of poppy petals for the heart problem.
  6. Symbolism: Symbolism is using symbols to signify ideas and qualities, giving them symbolic meanings that are different from the literal meanings. The poem shows symbols, such as skirts, an ambulance, a heart, a gift, and red color to show the issue of life and death.

Analysis of Poetic Devices Used in Poppies In October

Poetic and literary devices are the same, but a few are used only in poetry. Here is an analysis of some of the poetic devices used in this poem.

  1. Diction: It means the type of language. The poem shows good use of formal, poetic and connotative diction.
  2. Free Verse: It means to write verses sans rhyme scheme or metrical pattern. This poem shows the use of free verse.
  3. Repetition: It means to use words or phrases repeatedly to stress upon a theme or idea such as “gift” twice in a verse.
  4. Stanza: A stanza is a poetic form of some lines. There are four stanzas with each comprising three verses.
  5. Tone: It means the voice of the text. The poem shows a sad, sorrowful, inscrutable, and mysterious tone.

Quotes to be Used

The following lines are useful to quote when talking about an unexpected gift from somebody.

A gift, a love gift
Utterly unasked for
By a sky