According to the Enotes Guide to Literary Terms, a metaphor is "a word or phrase that is applied to a person, idea, or object to which it is not literally applicable...it is an implied analogy...which imaginatively identifies one thing with another". Among the many metaphors Gary Soto introduces in Chapter 1 of "Buried Onions" is the giant onion referred to in the title of the book. Soto sees the onion as a "remarkable bulb of sadness", buried under the ground of people's existence, with rising fumes that inevitably make them cry. Soto's onion represents the hardships of the human condition in general and the unique challenges faced by the Latino community in particular.
Other metaphors found in Chapter 1 include the laundry which "wept from the lines, the faded flags of poor, ignorant, unemployable people", and the "Ganges River", to which the narrator compares himself, "muddy and foul", after he has biked over to the playground in the blistering sun. Another particularly descriptive metaphor is the author's comparison between life and the "noisy kids" swinging in the park, "swinging up high, laughing, and coming down low with straight faces". Soto draws a parallel between the children with their constantly changing expressions and the vagaries of life, in which "one moment you were cracking up and the next moment you were dull-faced with nothing to do" (Chapter 1).