Please give an explanation of the poem "Mushrooms."

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accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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This is a great poem by Sylvia Plath that really forces us to reconsider mushrooms once again and to look at them in a new way, which is of course the sign of a great poem. In the poem, Plath personifies fungi and talks from their perspective, focusing on how they grow so quietly and secretly:

Nobody sees us,

Stops us, betrays us;

The small grains make room.

Note the way in which the mushrooms talk about nobody "betraying" them: the element of secrecy and betrayal adds a somewhat sinister element to their otherwise benign and "bland-mannered" presence. Again we see another hint that their quiet, subtle growth is something sinister with the repetition of the phrase "So many of us!" reinforcing the sheer number of mushrooms and how quickly they can grow and replace. The tone at the end of the poem becomes very sinister. Consider the last two stanzas and what they say:

Nudgers and shovers

In spite of ourselves.

Our kind multiplies:


We shall by morning

Inherit the earth.

Our foot's in the door.

The steady, quiet and subtle growth of the mushrooms gives them the surety of their final dominance, as nothing can stop their strength of numbers.

Critics seem divided about the meaning of this poem by Plath, but most seem to agree that the mushrooms stand as a symbol for the way that steady banality and petty ambition (as symbolised by the mushrooms) are shown to triumph and be an unstoppable force.

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