I’m a riddle in nine syllables,
An elephant, a ponderous house,
A melon strolling on two tendrils.
O red fruit, ivory, fine timbers!
This loaf’s big with its yeasty rising.
Money’s new-minted in this fat purse.
I’m a means, a stage, a cow in calf.
I’ve eaten a bag of green apples,
Boarded the train there’s no getting off.

Analysis, meaning and summary of Sylvia Plath's poem Metaphors


  1. jessica says:

    this poem isn’t regretful. she’s realizing what it is to be pregnant. lemme break it down:

    “I’m a riddle in nine syllables.”
    First letter of the poem is the 9th letter of the alphabet. 9 lines, each 9 syllables, reflecting 9 months of gestation.

    “An elephant, a ponderous house,”
    The elephant represents her enlarged state, and a ponderous house is also an image of her big, clumsy body, but more importantly, its a metaphor for her unborn childs “house”. her womb is the dwelling place of this baby and in it, it is provided all life-sustaining necessities.

    “A melon strolling on two tendrils.”
    An image of her big, round belly resting on her thin legs.

    “O red fruit, ivory, fine timbers!”
    these three images describe the child, in relation to the previous descriptions of herself.
    red fruit = the ripe fruit of her “melon”
    ivory = the precious, valuable ivory from this “elephant”
    fine timbers = the wood that’s part of this “house”. also, timbers are made from existing trees, just as this baby is made from Sylvia.

    “This loaf’s big with its yeasty rising.”
    Another reference to her belly that’s rising as it grows. her stomach is the harder, exposed crust while her baby is the unexposed, warm, soft interior.

    “Money’s new-minted in this fat purse.”
    The comparison of money being minted is a metaphor for her baby as an imprint of herself. she is stamping out a copy of herself, and minting a new person. this coin is “new-minted” because it is unique–different from all othe existing coins. money is also an appropriate comparison because it is valuable, just as this baby is to her.

    “I’m a means, a stage, a cow in calf.”
    a means = shes the way this baby will be brought about
    a stage = a stage of this baby’s life, step in development, a landing place and a platform for this baby
    a cow in calf = as a calf is normally in a cow, she is the cow in her calf. her baby is a copy of herself, and she is invested in this baby.

    “I’ve eaten a bag of green apples,”
    a reference to her cravings as a pregnant woman

    “boarded the train, there’s no getting off.”
    the train ride is a metaphor for her journey of pregnancy and her new plath in life. Now that she is pregnant, she knows she will forever be bound to this child. it will always be her baby. there’s no exiting this ride.

    now, this REALLY isnt a difficult poem to analyze. id say its pretty straightforward. i wa sso surprised to read such crappy interpretations and analysis. what are schools teaching kids these days…

  2. poemGuy says:

    “a melon strolling on 2 tendrills????? 0o0o0o0o0o0 a carrage with a baby ok i get it…….i think”

    The melon represents Sylvia herself (think large stomach), and the tendrils are her legs. Two tendrils, and two legs. Tendrils grasp on to objects for support, much like the tendril of a grape plant. And strolling just means she is walking.

  3. May says:

    another way of analyzing this poem is not to think of it as a pregnancy at all but instead note the line “i’ve eaten a bag of green apples” which could mean she has eaten a bag of unripe, sour apples which, as any country girl can tell you, will give you horrible gas. So in reviewing the poem the yeast rising and other bloated imagery are of the bloated gassy feeling from overindulging on unripe apples. Therefore the last line of the poem “boarded the train there’s no getting off” is the remorse she is feeling after eating the apples of this impending gas.

  4. Desirae says:

    This poem is great. I really like how it is light-hearted compared to alot of her other poems.

  5. Amreet says:

    I think it’s a good poem………..
    there are nine line’s in the poem she describe’s how she love’s her pregnancy(nine letters) how long dose it take for a baby too come out (nine months) by the way the first letter she use’es is the nineth letter in the alaphbets(I ) am a riddle>>>>>>>>>> and also all the sentince has nine syllables………………. what claver lady…………………..

  6. Wanz says:

    I love this poem. It is humorous and good for the soul! We need mor laughter in this sick ridden society. I love her uses of words and phrases. She brilliantly takes an unpleasant wonderful miracle to make one realize that some miracles have pain and suffering but the fruit you receive from it is the gift of life.

  7. apn says:

    When I was a student of English back in college, I felt about this poem much the same as does the other student of English in this thread. I saw Sylvia Plath as a depressive with issues of abandonment and self doubt brought on by a life of disappointment, and therefore dismissed this poem as a product of her neuroses and nothing more. I, too, thought that her view of pregnancy was unrealistically negative, and that of herself overly damning. However, now that I’m just five weeks from my own due date, I see that I was wrong and am sad to have spent so many years ignoring her incredible talent for truth. At this point, though I’m honored to have the experience, I really do feel like my purpose has been chiseled down to “vessel”. My balance has been thrown by the jelly-filled beach ball that is my center, and the movements of my child make me feel as though my intestines have been invaded by some sort of alien parasite. I understand what it is to have a belly full of green apples in the literal sense as well as in the broad sensation of doomed over-indulgence, and the only thought keeping me from screaming panic is the thought that next month it’ll happen whether I ask it to or not, so there’s no point in worrying. There’s no getting off the train. Perhaps Plath’s depression allowed her to do what no other poet had yet done: describe pregnancy, both real and metaphorical, in all its frustrating, uncomfortable, desperate, terrifying truth.

  8. Yen2Learn says:

    I disagree with the student of English (3/27/05) that the poem is a negative comment on pregnancy. I see it as a humorous way of looking at a normal, albeit at times inconveniently bulky, human condition. This is my favorite of all of Plath’s poems, short and sweet, and to any woman who has ever been there, a wry and real expression of how it feels to be pregnant.

  9. mattie says:

    Hey, there are also nine letters in the word “pregnancy.” Sylvia Plath is a brilliant, brilliant woman. The Bell Jar is by all means the greatest book EVER and this poem is awesome as well.

  10. AgeAintNothingButANumber says:

    a melon strolling on 2 tendrills????? 0o0o0o0o0o0 a carrage with a baby ok i get it…….i think

  11. Chartyna williams says:

    I really liked this poem can you make more thank you very mich

  12. sarah says:

    Sylvia Plath killed herself because she was a manic depressive. Just in case anyone doesn’t know that. And yeah this poem is good!

  13. John says:

    I’m pregnant too… well sort of. Anyway, this poem confused me at first then after looking closly and breacking it down i realized that this poem is metaphoricle!!! Wow what a trip… but honestly after reading it slower and breacking up the lines and syllables I found this poem quite entertaining.

  14. Kyle says:

    ummm, i am really bad at poems, and i read this and totally didn’t understand it, and i had to read this for a class, then i got on the comptuer and thank you guys for helping me get a good grade 😀

  15. KP says:

    hey breckies!!!!
    whoa that pregnancy thing is weird, i totally didnt get the poem until i read this stuff. hey now i know what to write about for my journal entry. hey maggie and mahogany!

  16. I don't know says:

    I really don’t get this poem. That’s all I have to say. Oh yeah, melons taste good! Especially with rotabunga sauce!!! 😀 (Josie)

  17. a student of English says:

    There are nine lines in the poem, nine syllables in each line, and nine months in a pregnancy. The speaker is pregnant. The speakers is also not happy about being pregnant. She feel like her cargo is more important that she is. While she is “… an elephant, a… house, a melon… a fat purse… a means…”, the baby is the ivory from the elephant, the valuable timber in the house, and the fruit inside the melon. The baby is the money in the fat purse that is the speaker. There is no more joy in being sick from pregnancy than from being sick by stupidly eating a bag of green apples, according to the speaker. The speaker not only regrets becoming pregnant, but also views it as a stupid choice for which she is being punished.

  18. ashley says:

    this poem made me laugh im 4 monthes prego and it brought a smile to my face i love the line a melon strolling on two tendrils. its so clever.

  19. someone says:

    i liked this peom plaese make more like this kk

  20. Lena says:

    I think this is brilliant! Sylvia Plath was a clever woman! nine syllables in each line, nine lines in total. What is so significant about the number nine? pregnancy of course!

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