Study Guide

Metaphors Themes

  • Women and Femininity

    It's all but impossible to write a poem about pregnancy and not tackle the theme of women and femininity head on. That's just what Plath does in "Metaphors." In her slew of comparisons, she paints a picture of what it means to be an expectant mother in her day and age, and let Shmoop tell you: that picture? It ain't pretty.

    Questions About Women and Femininity

    1. What do you think the woman this poem is describing is like? Do you think she's married or not? How can you tell? Do you think it matters?
    2. Why do you think the speaker keeps referring to valuable items? How do you think this relates to the idea of a pregnant woman? 
    3. What's with all the fruit?
    4. How do you think this poem would be different if its author were male, not female?

    Chew on This

    The metaphors in this poem show that the speaker feels as if, as a pregnant woman, she's become a valued commodity rather than a human being.

    The references to fruit in this poem connect the speaker to the biblical first woman, Eve, and her perceived sin of eating the forbidden fruit.

  • Appearances

    Let's face it: when a woman's pregnant, her looks change. That's just a fact of life. And it's this fact that Plath chooses to hone in on her pregnancy poem, "Metaphors." The visual imagery describing the new look of the pregnant speaker just goes to show that when you're with child, the world looks at you differently. And for Plath, that's not a good thing.

    Questions About Appearances

    1. How do you picture the speaker of this poem in your head? What images jump out at you the most?
    2. Do you think the metaphors in this poem accurately describe a pregnant woman? Why or why not?
    3. How do you think the speaker feels the appearance of a woman changes or does not change how she is perceived by society? Do you agree? Why or why not?
    4. How important do you think appearances are in this poem?

    Chew on This

    The imagery in this poem shows us that even when pregnant, a woman's appearance is prized over anything else.

    This poem shows how the changes in appearance caused by being pregnant can affect women negatively.

  • Versions of Reality

    While we're not explicitly told that "Metaphors" takes place in a different world or dream reality, there's not much of the real world coming through in this poem. We have to break through a metaphorical version of reality to find it. Through metaphors, this poem sets up a different universe, which connects back to the real world in surprising ways. It's important to see the world that the poem has literally created, sure, but it's also important to see how this imaginary world links back to the real world of this pregnant woman's life.

    Questions About Versions of Reality

    1. Which metaphor in this poem is hardest for you to picture? Easiest? Why?
    2. When did you start to figure out the riddle, what the metaphors were about? Is it possible to read this poem in any other way? 
    3. Where do you think the train that the speaker boarded could be going, both literally and figuratively? Why?
    4. Why do you think Plath chose to write this poem entirely in metaphors? Why not just talk about actually being pregnant? What does the poem gain from giving us a metaphorical reality?

    Chew on This

    The metaphors in this poem establish an alternate reality that sheds light on the real world.

    This poem shows that being pregnant can shift a woman's reality.