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.
Sylvia Plath (1932-1963)
Plath chooses many metaphors to describe her pregnancy in this poem. The poem is actually a riddle, which is revealed in the first line – “I'm a riddle in nine syllables,” Next, in the second Plath describes herself firstly with visual metaphors. Elephants and ponderous houses both remind people of the images of figures that are massive and bulky, as she feels weighty in her pregnant body. However, there are other connotations. Elephants have very long gestation periods. Plath’s pregnancy may feel endless. Moreover, a house is not only the image of a ponderous item but also a family container. There is the Biblical connotation of the body as “house of the soul.” In the third sentence – “A melon, strolling on two tendrils” the reader can easily picture a pregnant woman’s round belly and thin legs just as a melon strolling on two tendrils.
The fourth sentence is “O red fruit, ivory, fine timbers!” One after the other, Plath also uses the metaphor. Red fruit is a Biblical allusion “fruit of thy womb” and clearly relates to having a child. In addition, I think the internal melon is a red fruit, just like the color of the new-born babies. Ivory and fine timbers both have metaphors: the ivory is the most valuable and costliest thing on an elephant’s body; the house is worthlessness without the fine timbers which is constructed from. These three figures are all the metaphors that describe the unborn child’s importance. The fifth line – “This loaf’s big with its yeasty rising”, the line about a rising loaf of dough, is an even more understandable metaphor, because there is a modern pun on a familiar disparaging reference to pregnancy as "a bun in the oven." The sixth line also uses the metaphor again. Plath describes herself as “Money’s new-minted in this fat purse”. Minting is the process of making coin from base metal. Coins are placed in a purse; thereby a fat purse is a prize, due to have many coins inside. The purse has no great worth in itself, but contains great value. The sixth line is the metaphor about the relationship between mother and child – Plath is just like the purse; without the valuable child, she is just an ordinary person.
In the seventh line – “I’m a mean, a stage, a cow in calf”, Plath describes herself as a means, a stage, a cow in calf. A means is that she is just a way for a baby to be born, but does not feel maternal. A stage is that the child is on the center of the stage, while the mother is just the platform for the child’s performance. Then a mother is just as the breeding cow that is valued for the calves she can produce. In the eighth line – “I’ve eaten a bag of green apples”, Plath also uses metaphor. First, when someone eats an entire bad of apple, he/she must is extremely fill up. Moreover, the apples are green. Green fruit is sour. People must feel pain after finishing a whole bag of sour apples; the feeling is just like a pregnant woman having a morning sickness. Furthermore, there are more abundant meanings than that: it could be another Biblical allusion. Eve was strictly punished for eating just one apple in the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, while Plath feels that she must have eaten the whole bag, so she suffers such a painful feeling. The most important is that the apple reminds the reader of the Biblical consequence of Eve’s origin sin: God punished Eve with bringing suffering on all women during childbirth. “Unto the woman he said, I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children.” (Genesis 3: 16) The last line – “Boarded the train there’s no getting off”, the train that the woman can not get off is the process of the birth. Nothing can stop the train until it arrives at the destination - it is just like nothing can stop a pregnant woman until she delivers the baby. In the whole poem, Plath uses at least fourteen metaphors. The nine lines all have metaphors.
In this poem, Plath choose many metaphor to describe her pregnancy. I feel that theses metaphor are describing that she does not enjoy the the "miracle" time. she seems to be complaining about the time she is pregnant and is excited until nine months is over.