Study Guide

Metaphors Introduction

By Sylvia Plath

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Metaphors Introduction

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.

What is Metaphors About and 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.

Metaphors Resources


Plath on
Biography, poetry, and more. It's a great place to start if you're going down the Plath rabbit hole on the World Wide Web.

Scholars on Sylvia
For a studious, academic approach to the poet, check out Modern American Poetry's offerings.

Site for Sylvia
This one's got it all—a detailed bio, info on her writings, and even a collection of photographs.


"Sylvia Plath"
Crooner Ryan Adams has a thing or two to sing about your new favorite poet.

We must admit: it's strange to hear this one in a dude's voice.


Plath reads "Fever 103"
We couldn't find "Metaphors" in her voice (if you do, let us know!), but hopefully this one will satisfy your craving. The creepy video should help.

Sylvia, The Movie
Check out the opening scene of her biopic, starring Gwyneth Paltrow, whose voice is, sadly, nothing like Sylvia's.

Voices and Visions: Sylvia Plath
Here are the first scenes in Voices and Visions's take on Sylvia. Click on through for the rest of the documentary.


Sylvia Plath and Hubby
Here she is with Ted Hughes. Their marriage was not exactly hearts and roses.

Clacking Away
Remember the days of the typewriter? Yeah, we don't either.


The Collected Poems
Plath's poems, in chronological order, to satisfy all your cravings for disturbing imagery and the female perspective.

Crossing the Water
See "Metaphors" in its native habitat.

Movies & TV

Sylvia, 2003
Paltrow sure looks the part, doesn't she?

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