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How does Plath's use of extended metaphors and other literary features effect the reader's response to her poetry?

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Introduction

How does Plath's use of extended metaphors and other literary features effect the reader's response to her poetry? In this essay I will describe the literary techniques and the use of language used by Sylvia Plath in three of her poems Tulips, Mushrooms and Mirror. These poems are all extended metaphors for vanity and self-image, the stress of everyday life and the family and a metaphor for strength without violence. This technique of extended metaphors is a common literary tradition also used by other poets such as John Donne in "The Flea" and Emily Dickinson in "Funeral" and "Daffodils". Tulips is a calm peaceful poem written by Plath representing her experience when she was in hospital having an appendectomy operation. The overall message of the poem is that she prefers life in the hospital to her life as it allows her to shed her responsibility, it is peaceful and calm and it gives her security. Her family give her a bunch of tulips, which represent the outside world, which she despises. These tulips are used as an extended metaphor the strains of family life and the grief that it causes her. ...read more.

Middle

The mirror's attitude may represent the arrogances that men and society posses. The mirror really thinks it is very important, "the eye of a little god" suggesting that it is holds power over us. The mirror also makes a comment about how the wall is a part of its heart as the wall is perfect and faultless, unlike humans who "separate us over and over" this suggest he prefers looking at the wall. However this shows the mirror to be a hypocrite as it is judging people it is being bias and passing judgement even though it claims not to. This is another similarity between the mirror, men and society. In this part of the poem Plath uses balanced calculated lines to add to the mirrors sense of confidence. In the second stanza the object of the poem turns from a mirror into a lake. A lake unlike a mirror distorts images and is not as clear. The women looking into this lake is said to be "searching my reaches for what she really is" suggesting she would rather look at what she would look like rather than what she really looks like hence why she might be looking in a lake. ...read more.

Conclusion

The last two lines are very matter of fact end stopped lines there is no disputing what they are saying. It is very short, sharp, harsh and very sinister and the mushrooms or quiet people believe it is right. The mushrooms could also represent minority groups or women. The tone of the poem becomes more aggressive throughout. When deployed, extended metaphors can powerfully convey emotions in an emblematic way. They are used to dramatise and sensationalise things to add to the atmosphere of the poem, demonstrated especially in 'Mushrooms'. Plath uses extended metaphors well, to express feelings of inferiority and depression. Both 'Tulips' and 'Funeral' by Emily Dickinson turn beautiful and radiant things such as 'flowers' into something distressing and suicidal - the tulips are 'too red' and she 'dared not meet the daffodils.' It is interesting to note that Plath criticises the tulips for being 'too red,' Dickinson is afraid to go near the beautiful and perfect daffodils as they magnify her imperfections. Extended metaphors are one of the only literary techniques that make the poem extensively open to interpretation, thus, broadening the significance of the poem and powerfully put across feelings, making this technique remarkably effectual and assertive. ...read more.

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