What kind of poem is "Mushrooms" by Sylvia Plath (poetic device)?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Plath uses an extended metaphor, meaning that throughout the poem she is comparing mushrooms to women without using the words "like" or "as." She also brings in assonance, which is when two words close to each other begin with the same vowel. Two examples are "acquire" and "air" in stanza two and "earless" and "eyeless" in stanza five. Vowels are soft and breathy, like mushrooms and, stereotypically, women.

Other literary devices Plath employs include repetition and exclamation in the lines

So many of us!

So many of us!

The repetition and the exclamation points, both of which add weight and intensity to these simple words, build a sense of menace.

Throughout the poem, Plath employs imagery, or description using the five senses, to convey what the mushrooms are like. Words like "whitely" give us a visual picture of the mushrooms, as does describing their heads as "soft fists" breaking through the earth. The imagery also establishes contrast, for the apparently soft, earless, eyeless, voiceless, and bland mushrooms heave, hammer, nudge, and shove to assert themselves and get a "foot" in the door of patriarchy.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Sylvia Plath's "Mushrooms" uses a variety of poetic devices, but the central device is personification.

She personifies mushrooms, and by extension the personification is then reversed back to humans.  In other words, the speaker gives mushrooms human characteristics, to then reflect ways in which humans are like mushrooms.

The mushrooms possess toes and noses, and "take hold" of dirt.  They have "soft fists," they use tools--hammers and rams--and are "bland-mannered."  The mushrooms possess quiet power and work unseen at night.

The fertility of the mushrooms, together with metaphors of the mushrooms as shelves and tables, as well as their meekness, possibly suggests an identity with women.  And, using a New Testament allusion, woman will, reveals the poem,

Inherit the earth.... 


Approved by eNotes Editorial Team

We’ll help your grades soar

Start your 48-hour free trial and unlock all the summaries, Q&A, and analyses you need to get better grades now.

  • 30,000+ book summaries
  • 20% study tools discount
  • Ad-free content
  • PDF downloads
  • 300,000+ answers
  • 5-star customer support
Start your 48-Hour Free Trial