[pic]For example, a pregnant woman is not really as big as an elephant, and she has not made her belly big by eating green apples, but Plath uses these familiar metaphors to convey the idea of pregnancy in "Metaphors". When we study writing, we learn to avoid worn-out cliches, but Plath has made creative use of them to make them new again. She never names the actual subject of the poem, but pregnancy is implied by the figures of speech that she employs. This poem presents a series of clichs about pregnancy that lead up to the final thought of giving birth in the last line, "Boarding the train there's no getting off". She shows us a belly as round as a melon, a loaf of bread in the oven and other images that conjure up the literal idea of pregnancy. The first line gives us the number nine, and the poem has nine lines, implying the nine months of pregnancy.
I'm a riddle in nine syllables,
An elephant, a ponderous house,
A melon strolling on two tendrils,
O red fruit, ivory, fine timers!
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.
You might not recognize every metaphor in the poem, but once you understand the meaning of at least one of them, you can guess what the poem is about. When you gain the insight that it is about pregnancy, the meaning of each metaphor falls into place, even if you have never heard it before. By hinting at a larger picture, she leads readers to build up a series of mental images until they form a coherent whole.
Plath uses metaphor differently and more sparingly in some of her other poems. For example, in "Mirror" she speaks from the viewpoint of the mirror, describing how it sees the world. The mirror tells us with its own voice that it shows us exactly what it sees, without prejudice: "I am not cruel, only truthful " (line 4). This personification of an inanimate object progresses to a surface of a lake. The lake and the mirror are not really alike, but both do cast reflections. The second line of the poem, "Whatever I see I swallow immediately" conveys a double meaning. The mirror both accepts what it sees without question and devours the images that it reflects, since the same person will never cast the same reflection twice. The lake devours in a more literal sense, when a young girl drowns in the water. The poem shows us that the lake is like the mirror, but it is more substantial because is has depth, whereas the mirror is a flat surface. Rather than telling us with mere words, Plath uses metaphor to lead us to that conclusion. However, the mirror and the lake are not what they appear to be on the surface.
[pic]The first stanza implies that the mirror is actually the eyes of other people who look at the woman, and it implies that, like the mirror, she spends most of her time looking at the wall because she does not want other people to see her. Although the mirror is speaking, the subject is really the woman who looks into the mirror. She sees herself as she really is, an old woman, because the mirror shows her the truth. She rarely looks at the mirror, and she rarely lets other people look at her. .
I am silver and exact. I have no preconceptions.
Whatever I see I swallow it immediately
Just as it is, unmisted by love or dislike.
I am not cruel, only truthful
The eye of a little god, four-cornered
Most of the time I meditate on…