Please help with a line by line analysis of the poem Mushrooms by Sylvia Plath.There's so many different views and answers. I need a teacher to answer!

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kiwi's profile pic

kiwi | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator

Posted on

Here is a general summary followed by more a specific line by line breakdown.

Plath’s personification of the mushrooms can be seen as a way of expressing the plight of women in the 1960’s. The ‘perfectly voiceless’ fungus represent the silent but growing majority of women, hidden in darkness, gradually, quietly pushing until they ‘inherit the earth’.

 

The mushrooms are sinister in their steady power as they ‘shoulder through holes’. The first person narrative further enhances this. Plath makes excellent use of assonance and para-rhyme to express the calm assurance of the ’bland mannered’ mushrooms: seemingly unthreatening, ‘asking/Little or nothing’ and yet compelled to multiply, grow and take over. Their fertility also identifies the connection with women. The final line ‘Our foot’s in the door’ is ominous and threatening in its tone.

Stanza 1 – narrator ascertains that the change will happen overnight and uses pararhyme in whitely/discreetly

Stanza 2 uses assonance to establish the growing process toes/loam

Stanza 3 repetition of us and not being seen gives a sinister edge

Stanza 4 oxymoron of soft fists emphasises calm strength as the mushrooms push through

Stanza 5 explains that though seemingly without senses, the mushrooms are strong

Stanza 6 again they have power despite being ‘voiceless’ and they keep pushing through the poem. Enjambement connects this to the next stanza

Stanza 7 the lack of attention and nutrition (typical of women) is not an obstacle

Stanza 8 Repetition of ‘So many of us!’ becomes sinister and has power in the exclamation

Stanza 9 repetition of ‘we are’ followed by objects to be used/consumed explains the current position of the mushroom

Stanza 10 expresses that the movement is ‘in spite of ourselves’ : inevitable

Stanza 11 Explains that the takeover will be swift ‘by morning’ and contains the Biblical phrase ‘Inherit the earth’. The final line is a sinister warning that this has almost begun.

 

richardcampanaro's profile pic

richardcampanaro | High School Teacher | eNotes Newbie

Posted on

Kiri,

What are your questions about the poem? Are you having trouble with vocabulary, how she wrote it or the imagery?

Vocabulary and context are the most chellenging pieces of poetry for me. DOn't try to figure out what the poem meant to Plath. What does it mean to you? Make sure you understand first what she is saying:

example:

"

Overnight, very
Whitely, discreetly,
Very quietly

Our toes, our noses
Take hold on the loam,
Acquire the air."

To understand what she is desrcibing, you must first know
what she means to 'take hold on the loam.'


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