“Metaphors” by Sylvia Plath
- “I’m a riddle in nine syllables” — this means that there are nine parts of the secret that the reader is supposed to discover;
- “An elephant, a ponderous house” — here, the author is referring to herself as someone clumsy and awkward because of the large size;
- “A melon strolling on two tendrils” — again, the size is emphasized since the melon is something round, big, and ripe, whereas tendrils are extremely thin, which makes it too difficult for them to cannot carry a melon;
- “O red fruit, ivory, fine timbers!” — in this line, a watermelon is suggested, and the “legs” on which it stands are stronger than in the previous line; “timbers” presuppose solid strength, and “ivory” makes me think of an elephant, which is associated with durability and toughness;
- “This loaf’s big with its yeasty rising” — somehow, this line reminds me of the idiom “to have a bun in the oven”; along with the previous and further metaphors, this line makes me inclined to think that the author implies pregnancy;
- “Money’s new-minted in this fat purse” — again, Plath is mentioning something new growing in something big, which could be a baby;
- “I’m a means, a stage, a cow in calf” — “means” presupposes that she is very important; “a stage” indicates that everyone is paying attention to her because of her size mentioned in the previous lines; “a cow in calf” is some paradox: maybe it is a way of saying that she used to be slim, but now her body has grown considerably;
- “I’ve eaten a bag of green apples” — although green apples presuppose some sourness, I am still inclined to think that the author means the size (“a bag”): she is big as though she has just eaten a large bag of apples;
- “Boarded the train there’s no getting off” — continuing my previous guesses about pregnancy, I would say that this line means that the only direction in which the events can develop now is for her to have a baby; she cannot become smaller, she cannot become less clumsy — only bigger, until she has a baby and then returns to the stage of the “calf” and not the “cow. Having analyzed the whole poem, I can now adjust my guess about the first line and say that most probably, the author meant the nine months of pregnancy.
“The Fish” by Elizabeth Bishop
What is striking about this poem is the admiration and respect with which the narrator describes the fish she has caught. Through the use of metaphors and similes, through artfully crafted epithets, Bishop makes the audience sympathize with the fish and invited the reader to see all the beauty of this “homely” creature. After the seemingly unpleasant description of the fish, the author goes on to note the five hooks remaining in the fish’s “lip” as the symbol of resistance, victory, and struggle.
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This contrast between the two parts of the poem is another striking issue about this literary piece. When the main character is depicted with brown skin that hangs in strips, barnacles, and sea-lice, nothing but pity can be evoked in the reader. However, as soon as the “five old pieces of fish-line” are mentioned, the whole idea about the fish is altered. This is a real warrior, a fighter for his life, a courageous creature that used to be determined to escape no matter what. Probably this shift from pity towards admiration is another reason why Bishop’s poem is useful for anyone learning to analyze poetry.