In the first stanza, Plath compares her tears to vinegar, which is a substance that is corrosive, pungent, and stinging. The word vinegar shows on a surface level that her relationship was over, emphasizing the fact that she is extremely depressed. Later, she refers to an acetic star and a caustic wind. All of these rich imageries imply a tone that is harsh and corrosive. By comparing her tears to “vinegar”, Plath successfully expressed the idea that not only the crying was sad, but the tear in itself was sad. This creates a realistic image of her sadness after being abandoned by her lover.
In the second stanza, Plath uses the imagery of a sour expression that ensues after tasting a lemon to describe her inner feelings. “Wry-face” suggests that Plath is disgusted, disappointed, and perhaps annoyed. The phrase “sour lemon moon” is a symbol of loneliness and desolation. This metaphor gives us the image that the female has left earthly life and has transcended to a secluded and private spot so that she can grieve over her bad relationship. This also helps indirectly suggest she is now alone and her lover has left her for someone else.
In the last stanza, Plath metaphorically compares her drooping and wilted heart to that of a small, sour, unripe plum. Plath expresses her pain at being jilted and describes her disposition of being sour and caustic, and her heart now wilted. Plath uses the phrase “my lean, unripened heart” to tell her readers she is so badly hurt that her heart may never recover or heal.
The purpose of the poem is to express dissatisfaction and unhappiness for a personal experience of Plath. Every word Plath used strengthens the mood of the entire poem that is filled with bitterness.