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Literary Devices in Two Poems

This study will compare the tones, themes and the uses of various literary devices in two poems: Sylvia Plath's "Morning Song" and Galway Kinnell's "After Making Love We Hear Footsteps." The two poems focus on the relationship between a child and its parents, but, as this study will argue, Plath's poem contains a tone of alienation which is not present in Kinnell's poem, which is an unrelieved celebration of childhood, parenthood, and familial love of various sorts.

The tone and theme of the poems are expressed through the use of literary devices. Plath's alienated tone and her theme of the strange nature of a human infant are expressed through symbol, style, and voice, among other devices. Kinnell uses the same devices to express the joyous and playful tone of his poem, and the theme of familial happiness.

On first glance, it appears that with Plath's poem we will be entering joyous and playful territory as well. Our first image of the infant of the mother/poet is a pleasant surprise: "Love set you going like a fat gold watch" (Plath, line 1). We respond immediately to the image of a pudgy baby as a "fat gold watch," a very valuable object full of life and time. However, on second thought, there is something ominous about the poet's use of the image of a watch. After all, a watch runs down, runs out of time, stops. Is Plath giving us a hint of death in the image of a newborn baby?

But the next two lines seem innocent enough, with the midwife slapping the feet of the baby, and the baby's first cry bringing it into the world. The next stanza, however, seems utterly strange if we understand the narrator as the mother of this newborn baby:

Our voices echo, magnifying your arrival. New statue.

In a drafty museum, your nakedness

Shadows our safety. We stand round blankly as walls (Plath lns. 4-6).

This sounds more like the arrival of an alien from outer space then a baby from the womb of a mother. Comparing t...

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