by Sylvia Plath
In A Nutshell
Sylvia Plath wrote as a wife and a mother at a time when what it meant to be those things was rapidly changing. Sure, there were shows like Leave it to Beaver, which made women out to be perfect wives, mothers, and cooks day in and day out. But the chances that World War II gave women to work outside the home planted the seed for later opportunities, and more and more women everywhere found themselves either out of the house, or dissatisfied with being in it. How's that for a sweeping generalization?
Here's the thing. Sylvia Plath was stuck right in the middle of all this. Caught between the widespread feminism of the seventies, and the family centered idealism of the 1950s and 1960s, Sylvia Plath found herself writing about many of the themes these two sides of the coin would address. But she wrote about them on a deeply personal level—outside of any feminist movement. But just because she wasn't burning her bras doesn't mean she wasn't about busting out of society's comfort zone.
Which is exactly what she does in her 1959 poem "Metaphors." We could spend years thinking about all of the different things the metaphors in this poem might mean, but at its heart, there's no denying that this poem is all about what it's like to be a pregnant woman in Plath's day. Plath wrote this poem about a year before she gave birth to the first of her two children, but while she writes from her own personal experience, she also draws from the universal experience of what it's like to be a woman—in any age.
Why Should I Care?
Unless you are legitimately from Mars, and the creatures there are born magically, you have a mother. Whether or not you get along with her, or even have had the chance to meet her, your mother is at least half of the reason why you are here on this earth, reading this very sentence.
Yep, we are all here on earth as the result of a pregnancy. And while you may or may not ever get the chance to be pregnant yourself (sorry, gents), it's a state of being that affects us all—even if it just means we have to give up our seat on the bus to the expectant mother who's about to pop.
The speaker of this poem has her own take on pregnancy, and in true Sylvia Plath fashion it can come off as a little bitter. But you don't have to agree with her to enjoy the poem. All you have to do is understand where that voice is coming from as a woman in the middle of the 20th century. It's hard work being a mom, and it was even harder when the glass ceiling wasn't even close to being busted.