By Sylvia Plath

Since Christmas they have lived with us,
Guileless and clear,
Oval soul-animals,
Taking up half the space,
Moving and rubbing on the silk

Invisible air drifts,
Giving a shriek and pop
When attacked, then scooting to rest, barely trembling.
Yellow cathead, blue fish————
Such queer moons we live with

Instead of dead furniture!
Straw mats, white walls
And these traveling
Globes of thin air, red, green,

The heart like wishes or free
Peacocks blessing
Old ground with a feather
Beaten in starry metals.
Your small

Brother is making
His balloon squeak like a cat.
Seeming to see
A funny pink world he might eat on the other side of it,
He bites,

Then sits
Back, fat jug
Contemplating a world clear as water.
A red
Shred in his little fist.

Summary of Balloons

  • Popularity of “Balloons”: Written in her poetry collection, Ariel, in 1963, “Balloons” is an emotive, poetic piece by Sylvia Plath. As an iconic American poet and writer who captures pain and suffering in this poem. Using her poetic imagination, she describes the transformational phase of humankind using a balloon as an extended metaphor. The poem has won popularity due to the representation of abstract ideas in a unique way.
  • “Balloons” As a Representative of Sufferings: This poem elevates the nature of ordinary balloons by giving them humanistic qualities. It begins when the speaker describes how balloons have lived with them “since Christmas.” Unlike pets, these oval-sound “animals” occupy space in the house. She presents a catchy description of how balloons move in the house, especially how they are rubbed on the silk surfaces. In fact, the speaker associates their pureness and innocence with small children. As the poem continues, she describes the experiences of balloons shrinking, popping, and scooting to a corner without any fear.
    In the second stanza, she compares those balloons to strange moons of different colors resembling blue fish. She explains how their presence brings happiness to the house crowded with furniture, carpets, and mats. Basically, she tries to contrast other intimate things in the rooms with balloons. Although they are lifeless, they seem vibrant, delightful, and appealing. The writer introduces a little boy carrying a pink balloon in the last two stanzas. The boy sees through the thin balloon layer that makes the world pink on the other side. However, the balloon pops in his little hands and brings him back from a colorful world to a monotonous world.
  • Major Themes in “Balloons”: Imagination versus reality, suffering, the shattering of childhood dreams, and innocence are the poem’s major themes. Throughout the poem, the speaker focuses on an ordinary object to relate man’s hidden and unnoticeable pains and sufferings. She places a balloon in the center to talk about childhood innocence. She shows how our world and happiness are limited during childhood. We often find joy in little things. However, we do not appreciate the beauty of little things when we grow up. On a deeper level, the speaker says that when we grow up, we try to find peace in worldly things, and by doing that, we give up our dreams and goals. The popping of the balloon symbolizes the shattering of one’s dreams and loss of innocence. Thus, this beautiful poem depicts how with time, our dreams, intentions, choices, and priorities change.

Analysis of Literary Devices Used in Balloons

literary devices are used to create unique and deep meanings in simple poetic pieces. Plath used some literary devices in the poem to express her ideas about innocence and change, as shown below.

  1. Assonance: Assonance is the repetition of vowel sounds in the same line, such as the sound of /e/ in “When attacked, then scooting to rest, barely trembling.” and the sound of /o/ in “A funny pink world he might eat on the other side of it.”
  2. Consonance: Consonance is the repetition of consonant sounds in the same line, such as the sound of /t/ in “A funny pink world he might eat on the other side of it” and the sound of /r/ in “Globes of thin air, red, green.”
  3. Enjambment: It is defined as a thought in verse that does not come to an end at a line break; rather, it rolls over to the next line. For example,

“The heart like wishes or free
Peacocks blessing
Old ground with a feather
Beaten in starry metals.
Your small”

  1. Imagery: Imagery is used to make readers perceive things involving their five senses. Sylvia Plath used imagery in this poem, such as; “When attacked, then scooting to rest, barely trembling.”, “The heart like wishes or free” and “Contemplating a world clear as water.”
  2. Metaphor: It is a figure of speech in which an implied comparison is made between objects different in nature. The poet used balloons as an extended metaphor of a balloon in the poem to talk about childhood innocence and dreams.
  3. Personification: Personification is to give human qualities to inanimate objects. The poet has personified balloons throughout the poem, such as; “Since Christmas they have lived with us” and “Moving and rubbing on the silk.”
  4. Simile: It is a device Used to compare something with something else to make the meanings clear to the readers. Plath used this device in the final stanza of the poem, such as; “Contemplating a world clear as water.
  5. 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 playing, change, pain, and happiness.

Analysis of Poetic Devices Used in Balloons

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: The poem shows descriptive diction having rhetorical devices, symbolism, and impressive images, showing formality and poetic touch.
  2. Free Verse: Free verse is a type of poetry that does not contain patterns of rhyme or meter. This is a free verse poem with no strict rhyme or meter.
  3. Quintain: A quintain is a five-lined stanza borrowed from Medieval French Poetry. Here, each stanza is quintain.
  4. Stanza: A stanza is a poetic form of some lines. There are six stanzas in this poem, with each comprising five verses.
  5. Tone: It means the voice of the text. The poem shows an innocent, exciting, and then rational tone.

Quotes to be Used

The following lines are useful to quote the playful and joyous activities of small children.

“Brother is making
His balloon squeak like a cat.
Seeming to see
A funny pink world he might eat on the other side of it,
He bites,”