Sylvia Plath

(October 27, 1932 – February 11, 1963 / Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts)

Metaphors - Poem by Sylvia Plath

I'm a riddle in nine syllables,
An elephant, a ponderous house,
A melon strolling on two tendrils.
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Comments about Metaphors by Sylvia Plath

  • K Murphy (3/11/2016 4:46:00 AM)

    Does she have to be happy or unhappy about her pregnancy? I think she is more indifferent to her pregnancy, that she is what she is, pregnant. The poem is written from her perspective, so, it is how she sees herself but I she is more happy than unhappy about the pregnancy.

    I'm a riddle in nine syllables,
    ] Pregnant, nine lines containing nine syllables in each and nine months of pregnancy. She did a play of nines with this poem which tells me that each word was carefully chosen to get nine syllables in each line.

    An elephant, a ponderous house
    ] An elephant is large. Ponderous, slow and clumsy. House, large? unmovable? She sees herself as being large, slow moving, and clumsy.

    A melon strolling on two tendrils.
    ] She sees herself as large and round walking around leisurely with skinny legs.

    O red fruit, ivory, fine timbers!
    ] O red fruit, makes me think of Did someone pop her cherry? Fruits carry many seeds and are known to be the ovary of a plant. It is often referenced to a woman's womb because from seeds we can produce many more plants and if it is a red fruit it may be a cherry or it may be a pomegranate, which has been known to be a symbol of fertility.
    ivory, at its simplest is a hard creamy white substance. Could she be referencing semen?
    fine timbers! , timber is used for building. Man and woman each have half the material for life. We take 23 chromosomes from our mothers (eggs or seeds) and 23 from our fathers (sperm) . It takes a man and a woman to create life so our timber could be a woman's eggs and man's sperm. She ended it with an exclamation point, note of admiration, or excitement.

    This loaf's big with its yeasty rising.
    ]The loaf is her child. If you have baked, you know that when you are done kneading the dough you let it sit and as it does the yeast begins to rise and doubles in size. So, from the line I get that she is far along in her pregnancy.

    Money's new-minted in this fat purse.
    ] She uses Money's, to represent her child. Money has value and describing it as new-minted it hasn't existed before and it is made for the first time in the fat purse, that is her body. I think she uses fat purse to show her being lesser to the value that she carries inside her, her child.

    I'm a means, a stage, a cow in a calf.
    ] She's just a part of something more like a step in a process of creating life. A cow in a calf, a cow is large but it is also a later stage of a calf. I think she sees herself as just a stage in her child's life and that being a cow in a calf is that she is a grown woman now experiencing the early stages of motherhood.

    I've eaten a bag of green apples,
    ] Green apples known difference from other apples are there tartness. By how many people have taken her words to be negative perhaps the green apples are her words. Her words can be seen as sarcastic, using irony to mock herself during pregnancy and now she is eating her words.

    Boarded the train there's no getting off.
    ] The train could be pregnancy, the journey of it.
    Boarded, she's pregnant.
    No getting off, she's pregnant and experiencing pregnancy there is no getting off because she will be a mother. Motherhood would be the destination of the train. (Report) Reply

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  • Amanda Piercy (4/16/2009 5:27:00 PM)

    Also, (sorry for two posts!) I disagree with Cassandra because she wrote this poem during her FIRST pregnancy (not her second) and this was probably one of her most happier periods during her life. (Report) Reply

  • Amanda Piercy (4/16/2009 5:24:00 PM)

    In discussion in my literature class we talked about whether Plath seemed happy or unhappy in her state of pregnancy. Unfortunately my teacher is a male, and unfortunately I do not think men can really grasp the feeling. I have not had children but I think she's happy. She basically says that she's gone this far and she can't turn back, but she is showing her excitement over the baby to come. She also seems curious and wonderous about the new life growing inside of her. Overall, I think the physical state of being large is probably hard for her to adjust to, but she seems completely at peace with the condition and excited for her little baby. (Report) Reply

  • Micheal Yost (3/5/2009 8:14:00 PM)

    well first of all i was handed this poem by my english teacher for an assignment, and i need to solve the poem, and well i am basically agreeing with everything about being pregnant, but yet i am unsure on if she was happy or not happy, i am leaning more towards being unhappy. any comments or anything that will help me with this paper please email me yostm4589@uwc.edu (Report) Reply

  • Kaylers Smith (2/26/2009 3:13:00 PM)

    I agree that this poem is about Plath's pregnancy, but in a biography I have read about the marriage between Plath and Hughes shows in great detail that she has no regrets about her second pregnancy. Plath loved being a mother, she loved babies. I agree that this poem is just stating the umcomfortability of being pregnant, with the constant 9 factor. Thou (Report) Reply

  • Trevor Devlin (12/3/2008 9:36:00 AM)

    I have to disagree, Evelyn Ayers-Marsh, with only your comment about her pregnancy, partially. I believe it was a burden to her, that she was pregnant, and yes, i noticed she had the nine syllables in every line, nine months of pregnancy,9 lines of poetry, and the 9 metaphors. What i disagree with is that, I think she was between hating her pregnancy, and loving the child to come. If she truly hated it, she would have killed the baby, and herself (she was known to almost commit suicide multiple times, while also going through electro-shock therapy) . So, she obviously did not hate it, rather, she was just 'Sick of it, ' like listed in line 8, where she states 'I've Eaten a bag of Green Apples.' This means she was sick of her pregnancy, most likely, but she did not blame the child at all. It was her fault for getting pregnant. That is my opinion. (Report) Reply

  • Cassandra Key (10/24/2008 10:02:00 AM)

    I have to agree with preivous speakers, this poem is about Plath herself being pregnant. It is known that the last child she had she was not that fond of having. So I beleive this poem is depicting her feelings about that. The diction she uses has more of a negative conotation. Words like loaf, tendrill, and elephant appear to more used more in the negative way. Also, it is not a good indication that a woman wants her child when she compairs the two births to that of livestock. The final statement, 'Boarded this train, there's no getting off', can also be taken that she doesn't want to be pregnant and would like to 'get off the train'. (Report) Reply

  • Lee S (4/14/2008 10:08:00 PM)

    She discusses more than her proportions to display a correlation between herself and pregnancy. A riddle in nine syllables is an obvious euphemism to her nine months of child carrying. There is no doubt that she expresses a sort of melancholy to the situation, too, because she states that she's eaten a bag a green apples. This could be an allusion to the bible and the garden of eden, where eve eats the apple. IT could suggest that she finds her pregnancy a sin, especially considering her man left her after she became pregnant. The fact that she says she's boarding a train that she can't get off of is another sign that she really isn't comfortable with the fact that she's pregnant. It's almost as if this situation has stunted her life as is, which she was more than content with, or that there was more she wanted to do and now can't because she's... Well, pregnant. (Report) Reply

  • Raluca Croitoru (2/28/2008 11:22:00 AM)

    I believe that this poem is not about a pregnant woman since the author imples that only by referring to her proportions. I think it's more about a woman who faces a crisis because she feels that she lost her identity('melon strolling on two tendrils') , she doesn't like herself anymore, idea implied by the powerful words which suggest her disproportion: 'elephant', 'ponderous house', 'fat purse'. She tries to regain her confidence, but she feels hopeless since 'there's no getting off'. (Report) Reply

  • Taraysha Brantley (9/25/2007 10:21:00 PM)

    I think that this poem is simply about how happy she was too have a baby and how she felt when she was going through the stages of pregnancy. When she said, 'O red fruit, ivory, fine timbers' I think it meant that the ivory which is an expense part of the elephants husk was an example of the baby and fine timbers meant her housing the baby. So, I think it meant that the ivory being such a precious and beautiful thing is the baby and how she thinks that the baby is the best part of herself. And I think that her having a baby was a joyous and new thing for her. Very good poem! ! . (Report) Reply

  • Evelyn Ayers-Marsh (4/21/2007 5:17:00 PM)

    I agree with Catherine, I see this poem as an observation of what pregnancy looks and feels like rather than a statment of dislike for being pregnant. The fact Sylvia played with the form to come up with nine metaphors in nine lines each containing nine syllables makes me feel that maybe the opposite was true and she liked being pregnant.

    In any case, to me this is a 'perfect poem' and one of my all time favorites. (Report) Reply

  • Catherine Broderhausen (3/14/2007 8:01:00 PM)

    plath is not upset about being pregnant. she is simply realistically looking at the state of pregnancy. that IS plath - realistic. this poem implies absolutely nothing negative at all about her being pregnant....simply an observation. (Report) Reply

  • Menaly Diietz (3/7/2007 8:22:00 PM)

    There's no doubt this is a good poem. But i find it sad, she's pregnant and she makes it very clear that she's not happy about it...She hates the physical changes her body will go through and the fact that she can't do anything about it... It's very hopeless this poem. (Report) Reply

  • Steven Bell (10/17/2006 4:08:00 PM)

    This is a cool peom

    Probably... (Report) Reply










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