The Confessing Tongue: Religious Allusions in Sylvia Plath's "Tulips"

Raya Dawn Joan MacKenzie


This essay explores the religious allusions in Sylvia Plath’s “Tulips” through an analysis of the poem’s relationship to the confessional genre.  Both the Catholic confession and the poetic confession require a level of commitment to the self and to social dialogue.  I argue that the speaker, though presenting her speech in a confessional frame, remains unwilling to engage with herself and her society throughout most of “Tulips.”  In particular she avoids association with motherhood and Mary, both symbolic of the full engagement of the self as generative and responsible for other human beings.   Slowly, however, the speaker re-connects to herself and her community as she owns more and more of the religious imagery in the poem.

Full Text:



Plath, Sylvia. “Tulips.” The Norton Anthology of Poetry. Ed. Margaret Ferguson et. Al.

Fifth Edition. New York: W.W. Norton and Company Inc., 2005. Print.

“Tongue.” Concise Oxford English Dictionary. 11th. ed. Revised. Oxford: Oxford University

Press, 2008. Print.

EISSN  1927-4599
University of Victoria