Look at "Metaphors" by Plath.How do the denotation (dictionary meaning) and connotation (understood meaning) work together to make a clever interesting poem? Please help!  It doesn't have to be a...

Look at "Metaphors" by Plath.

How do the denotation (dictionary meaning) and connotation (understood meaning) work together to make a clever interesting poem?

Please help!  It doesn't have to be a very detailed response but does need to be a good one. 

Expert Answers
James Kelley eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In reading this poem, I tend to follow the prompt in the opening line and enjoy Sylvia Plath's poem "Metaphors" as a riddle of sorts. I think that reading the poem in this way may very well help you discuss it in terms of denotation and connotation. The images of the poem center around the speaker's pregnancy -- she's, among other things, "An elephant, a ponderous house, / A melon strolling on two tendrils."

The denotative value of each key word is the dictionary defintion. An elephant is a very large mammal; a melon is large and round, tendrils are curling vines, etc. The denotative meanings are important, but they're not enough by themselves; the images seem unrelated. The connotations are what allow for a second, richer meaning to emerge. The speaker does not seem all too overjoyed to be pregnant. Many of the images in the poem convey a negative connotative meaning, such as unpleasant fullness or ripeness.

kc4u | Student

Sylvia Plath's 9-line-long riddle poem is called "Metaphors." Each of these nine lines offers metaphors; the title is also a metaphor in itself; the whole structure is loaded with metaphors--the teasing conflict between the denotations and the connotations.

The nine lines of the poem correspond with the conception and growth of the embryo in the mother's womb during the nine months of pregnancy--from "an elephant, a ponderous house" to boarding the train that a woman can never get off. A woman is "a riddle in nine syllables;" the syllables make a word; and we are told in the Bible how the Word is made flesh.

The different stages in the gestation are like the different layers in the making of a poem, and at every layer it's a battle between "denotation" and "connotation," the outcome of which is a "metaphor."