Sylvia Plath: Metaphors Spoiler

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The editor's notes before "Metaphors" felt like a spoiler.  After reading "Daddy" and "Lady Lazarus" several times, I can easily see several different interpretations.  However, most of the lines in "Metaphors" jumped right out at me with crystal clear imagery after I read that Sylvia Plath thought she was pregnant when she wrote the poem.

 "I'm a riddle in nine syllables" means that she is due in nine months.  "Elephant" and "Ponderous house" refer to her size, or the weight she expects to gain in the next nine months.  During pregnancy, women become very aware of their changing body size.  I imagine that she felt bloated or was visualizing what it would feel like to carry around so much extra weight.

  "A melon strolling on two tendrils" provides the perfect picture of a woman about to go into labor.  Her belly is overbearing like a watermelon balancing on two small tendrils (legs).  The fourth line caught me off guard.  I think "red fruit" may be referring to her seed growing into a baby.  I have no explanations for "ivory," but I think "fine timbers!" may refer to Plath building a home and a life for her child.

 The yeast rising to make a loaf of bread clearly refers to a baby growing inside her womb, as does the "calf in cow" reference.  "I'm a means" could be a way of saying that her life has purpose and direction now that she is about to have a child.  "A stage" may refer to all of the attention she expects to receive during her pregnancy until the big show-the day she gives birth.

The eighth line eludes me.  "I've eaten a bag of green apples" does not seem to fit the pregnancy theme.  When I think of green apples I think sour.  Maybe she is hesitant about the pregnancy?  Perhaps she is scared and still hasn't fully accepted it?  The final line makes a clear point.  No matter whether she wants the baby or not, she has no other options.  The choice has been made for her and she can't turn back now. 

*In order to understand my interpretation of the poem better, check out page 237 in Kelly's Seagull Reader Poems!


Josie Rush said:

Carissa- great insight. I admit to skipping the introduction to metaphors and being extremely confused as to what was going on. Then I read that intro, and, wow, the whole thing went from fuzzy to fantastic.
The bag of green apples...well, I admit to reaching for an explanation there. Hell, maybe Plath liked green apples (I know I do...). But when I think of apples....ah, as I said I'm reaching, here, stay with me...You know the saying, "the apple doesn't fall far from the tree"? Well, Plath is soon to be that tree, in her mind. Something small and healthy (like an apple) is growing inside her. She's bearing fruit. Hope that helped.

Carissa Altizer said:

Josie, I think you are definitely onto it. "She's bearing fruit." What you said could relate back to the line where she writes "red fruit." If she is indeed referring to her seed growing into a baby, then it makes perfect sense to write about green apples. Thank you for your interpretation!

Dave said:

Yeah, I definately noticed how much clearer the intro makes all the poems. Without it this one would have been especially hard. I did notice that all the poems tend to have a random few lines, like the green apples one that seem a little more cryptic than the rest.

Carissa Altizer said:

I looked up additional websites to compare my analysis. Check these out!

Additional poem analysis:

Information on Plath's life and a book, The Bell Jar, that Plath fans may be interested in reading:

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