By Sylvia Plath

I’m a riddle in nine syllables,
An elephant, a ponderous house,
A melon strolling on two tendrils.
O red fruit, ivory, fine timbers!
This loaf’s big with its yeasty rising.
Money’s new-minted in this fat purse.
I’m a means, a stage, a cow in calf.
I’ve eaten a bag of green apples,
Boarded the train there’s no getting off.

Summary of Metaphors

  • Popularity of “Metaphors”: This short poem of just nine verses first appeared in 1959 when Sylvia got her first experience of pregnancy. It was published in the same year. The poet expresses queer thoughts regarding pregnancy through different metaphors, saying she has a riddle as well as several things simultaneously. This disorientation during pregnancy is the hallmark of the femininity that she has expressed through different corresponding metaphors. Herein lies the popularity of the poem.
  • “Metaphors” As a Representative of Disorientation: The poet presents herself as the speaker of the poem who calls herself by different names, saying that all have nine syllables. Even the poem has nine syllables in each of its lines. She calls herself an elephant, a house, and a melon, having different colors. Then she comes to bread, saying that she is a bulging purse as well as means to produce something. She compares herself to a stage that is going to have something acted upon it, or a cow that is going to give birth to a calf. At this point, she becomes clear about her pregnancy, saying that it seems to her that she has swallowed several green apples or that she has boarded a train not to get down. These different metaphors show her disorientation of pregnancy, and she becomes entirely confused about her state.
  • Major Themes in “Metaphors”: The weight of pregnancy, disorientation, and queer thoughts during pregnancy are some of the major thematic strands that this poem “Metaphors” exhibits. The poet has presented the idea of the weight of pregnancy through different big objects such as an elephant, a house, a walking melon, or even a cow. In fact, she has used these metaphors to clarify her situation to her readers, saying that she has, in fact, become a riddle with nine syllables. These queer thoughts occur to a pregnant lady when she does not tolerate the weight of the newborn anymore and thinks that going back is out of the question. This disorientation gives birth to such queer metaphors.

Analysis of Literary Devices Used in Metaphors

Sylvia Plath uses various literary devices to enhance the intended impact of her poem. Some of the major literary devices have been analyzed below.

  1. Assonance: Assonance is the repetition of vowel sounds in the same line, such as the sound of i/ in “I’m a riddle in nine syllables” and the sound of /o/ in “A melon strolling on two tendrils.”
  2. Alliteration: Alliteration is the repetition of consonant sounds in the same line in quick succession, such as the sound of /t/ in “two tendrils.”
  3. Consonance: Consonance is the repetition of consonant sounds in the same line, such as the sound of /l/ in “A melon strolling on two tendrils” and the sound of /r / in “O red fruit, ivory, fine timbers.”
  4. Imagery: Imagery is used to make readers perceive things involving their five senses. Sylvia Plath uses imagery in this poem, such as “O red fruit, ivory, fine timbers”, “O red fruit, ivory, fine timbers” and “Money’s new-minted in this fat purse.”
  5. Metaphor: It is a figure of speech in which an implied comparison is made between objects that are different. The poet used several metaphors for her bulging body, such as an elephant, a house, a melon, a stage, or even a cow.
  6. 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 an element, a house, or a melon, to show her pregnant situation.

Analysis of Poetic Devices Used in Metaphors

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: It means the type of language. The poem shows esoteric and poetic diction.
  2. Free Verse: It means to use verses without any rhyme scheme or metrical pattern. Sylvia Plath used free verse in this poem.
  3. Stanza: A stanza is a poetic form of some lines. This poem has a single stanza comprising nine verses.
  4. Tone: It means the voice of the text. The poem shows riddling and confusing tone.

Quotes to be Used

The following lines are useful to quote about the inevitability of the pregnancy.

I’m a means, a stage, a cow in calf.
I’ve eaten a bag of green apples,
Boarded the train there’s no getting off.