Does the phrase "I shall wear purple" in Joseph's poem "Warning" (or "When I am Old") contain a metaphor?

Expert Answers info

D. Reynolds eNotes educator | Certified Educator

calendarEducator since 2016

write9,519 answers

starTop subjects are Literature, History, and Social Sciences

Jenny Joseph's poem "When I am Old" speaks to the power poetry still wields in our society, with thousands of women becoming members of Red Hat societies as a result of it.

A metaphor is a comparison that does not use the words like or as. The entire poem functions as an extended metaphor for how the speaker plans to act when she is old. She is challenging the stereotypes of how an older woman should act. She states that an older woman is supposed to be practical and responsible, paying her rent on time, having friends to dinner, reading the newspaper, and setting a good example for children. But, the speaker says, she will not be that person.

Instead she says she will wear purple with a red hat that doesn't match it, buy brandy and satin sandals, sit down on sidewalks when she is tired, press fire alarms, eat three pounds of sausage if she feels like it, and basically, do what she wants.

Without using the words like or as, she compares her concept of old age to being energetic, young, alive, colorful, and free to be who she is. The poem is a manifesto in which the speaker uses vivid images to assert her intention to redefine aging. Essentially, she is saying I am going to be (with an implied like) a person who behaves flamboyantly in old age, and I won't be meek, modest, or repressed—so get ready world.

check Approved by eNotes Editorial