What are some of the literary devices used in the poem "Blackberrying" by Sylvia Plath?
In her poem "Blackberrying," Sylvia Plath makes use of repetition, imagery, and figurative language to describe the speaker's experiences in nature and the thoughts the natural world evokes from her.
The poem's first stanza begins with an example of repetition. In the first few lines, the speaker writes,
Nobody in the lane, and nothing, nothing but blackberries,Blackberries on either side, though on the right mainly,A blackberry alley, going down in hooks, and a seaSomewhere at the end of it, heaving (1-4).
BlackberriesBig as the ball of my thumb, and dumb as eyesEbon in the hedges, fatWith blue-red juices. These they squander on my fingers.I had not asked for such a blood sisterhood; they must love me.They accommodate themselves to my milkbottle, flattening their sides. (4-9)
one bush of berries so ripe it is a bush of flies,Hanging their bluegreen bellies and their wing panes in a Chinese screen (15-16).
A last hook brings meTo the hills’ northern face, and the face is orange rockThat looks out on nothing, nothing but a great spaceOf white and pewter lights, and a din like silversmithsBeating and beating at an intractable metal (23-27).
In addition to those described by the previous educator, Plath uses numerous literary devices to convey her message in this poem. The use of blank verse, and within it, enjambment (the continuation of a sentence or phrase over several lines), serves to emphasize the sheer endlessness of the blackberries:
Big as the ball of my thumb, and dumb as eyesEbon in the hedges, fatWith blue-red juices.
In the room provided, I can at least cover a couple techniques to get you started.
1. Personification, which is giving inanimate objects human-like qualities and actions. The sea wind "slapping its phantom laundry in my face". Laundry is also a metaphor for the wind's smell, its moist warmth. The hills "are too green and sweet to have tasted salt" is more personification. Also, the waves "beating and beating at an intractable metal" (this phrase is also a simile; she says the waves are like a blacksmith). The bird calls "protesting, protesting", flies that "believed in heaven." The berries give her a "blood sisterhood; they must love me/They accomodate themselves".
2. Imagery, which is using descriptive phrases to bring the 5 senses to life. She uses great words to help us feel like we are there, experiencing her walk. "A sea somewhere at the end of it, heaving" describes the full, rich sound of the ocean waves. "Blackberries big as the ball of my thumb...fat with blue-red juices" is a great image of juicy, ripe blackberries. The black birds overhead fly up in "cacophonous flocks-bits of burnt paper wheeling in a blown sky". Cacophonous is a great word to describe the startled squawking of a flock of birds, and to describe their image as burnt paper wheeling brings to mind perfectly that image.
I hope those two can get you started! Good luck!