Literature Annotations


Plath, Sylvia
The Surgeon at 2 A.M.


Genre Poem
KeywordsAnesthesia, Art of Medicine, Hospitalization, Physician Experience, Surgery
SummaryThis poem is in the surgeon's voice. He surveys his country's terrain, "a garden I have to do with--tubers and fruits / Oozing their jammy substances . . . . " He delves into the patient's organs, "I worm and hack in a purple wilderness." He admires the sunset-colored blood and the "blue piping" that conducts it through the body's intricate maze. When he removes a part of the body, it is sent to the lab ("a pathological salami") and "entombed in an icebox." The surgeon walks through the ward, casting his eyes on the sleeping patients: "I am the sun," he says, " . . . Grey faces, shuttered by drugs, follow me like flowers."
CommentaryThe surgeon's power manifested in striking images. He has perfected the body, but has never seen the soul, as he walks through the dead of the night in lonely splendor. While the poem doesn't indicate the surgeon's gender, it seems clearly masculine.
SourceCrossing the Water
PublisherHarper & Row
Edition1971
Place PublishedNew York
Alternate SourceThe Collected Poems
Alternate PublisherHarper Collins: Harper Perennial
Alternate Edition1992
Alternate EditorsTed Hughes
Place PublishedNew York
Annotated by Coulehan, Jack
Date of Entry 06/13/96
Last Revised 07/13/96