Poetry Analysis: Sylvia Plath’s “Insomniac” – asia lenae

"Metaphors" is a very short poem from 1959. Plath announces that she is a riddle in nine syllables, and then uses a multitude of seemingly unrelated metaphors to describe herself. However, it is clear upon inspection that she is describing a state of pregnancy. The nine lines correspond to the nine months of pregnancy, and each line possesses nine syllables. Plath was pregnant with her first child, Frieda, at the time of the poem's composition. Though most critics concur that Plath's healthiest relationships in life were with her two children, the poem suggests a deep ambivalence about motherhood. The basic conflict is the poem is that of duty vs. individuality. The narrator feels that by subsuming herself to the duty of motherhood, her own individuality is being stifled. Though the poem uses consistent first person, the ironic effect is that the speaker's individuality is only expressed in terms of the child she carries. She is aware of herself, but only in terms of what she cannot be.

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Sylvia Plath: Poems study guide contains a biography of poet Sylvia Plath, literature essays, quiz questions, major themes, characters, and a full summary and analysis of select poems.

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Upon closer analysis, Plath's choice of imagery reinforces her belief that she is simply a carrier. For instance, an elephant is valuable not for itself, but for its ivory. The timber of a house is valuable only for what it contains - a family - and not in itself. A purse is insignificant; only the money which it holds matters. Her evocation of green apples suggests both a sour, uncomfortable treat, but also offers an implicit allusion to Eve, who ate an apple from the tree of knowledge and thus cursed all women with the legacy of painful childbirth.

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