Which figures of speech are used in Sylvia Plath's "Metaphors"?

Expert Answers

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

A figure of speech is defined as any use of language where the words have a non-literal meaning. In literature, therefore, there are a number of different examples of figures of speech, such as similes, personification, metaphors and hyperbole to name a few. In this poem, Plath, as the title suggests, makes extensive use of metaphors to present herself and her pregnancy and her feelings about her new state, which, it could be argued, are profoundly ambivalent, as the following lines suggest:

This loaf's big with its yeasty rising.
Money's new-minted in this fat purse.
I'm a means, a stage, a cow in calf.
I've eaten a bag of green apples,
Boarded the train there's no getting off.

Plath here uses stereotypical metaphors associated with pregnancy to explore the way that society views pregnant women not as separate individuals but as mere vehicles for the birth of new life. This is suggested through metaphors such as "I'm a means, a stage, a cow in calf." Each metaphor arguably distances the speaker's sense of self from her own identity. The final metaphor used in the closing line of poem, where pregnancy is compared to a train ride from which there is "no getting off" until birth, strongly suggests that pregnancy is viewed, at least in part, as something that mothers are not able to escape or run away from. The suppression of self that is referred to through the use of metaphors and the way that the focus of others is not on the mother but on the baby she carries creates a critical mix of emotions in the speaker, suggested through the lack of escape and possibilities in this closing metaphor.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team