The Sow by Sylvia Plath

The Sow by Sylvia Plath

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Sylvia Plaths poem, Sow, depicts a beast of mythic proportions through various images, comparisons, and specific word choices. By presenting the sow from both the point of view of its owner, neighbor, and of the speaker, Plath paints a vivid picture of farmyard decadence that the reader can relate to.

The first three stanzas present an image of neighbor as a secretive, but shrewd farmer. He is shrouded in mystery to the narrator and her companions, as is his great prize-winning sow, impounded from public stare. He obviously views the sow as a source of great pride, but also something very secret and personal. Even his barn takes on a mystical quality as the narrator wanders its lantern-corridors as if in a maze. In fact, the speaker will only venture in at dusk to try and catch a glimpse of the wonderous beast.

Upon seeing it for the first time (and throughout the remainder of the poem), the speaker describes the sow using a number of comparisons to which the reader can easily relate. First, this was no china piggy bank it had to be taken seriously nor a dolt pig ripe for heckling; it was much too prized to eat. Due to the sows obvious majesty, the narrator is assured that it will never meet the fate of its parsley- haloed; cousins (dinner). Nor is the sow like other common; sows, content just to raise their litters. Finally, the speaker compares the sow, through a literary allusion, to the massive Brobdingnag race of Gullivers Travels, effectively assessing its massive frame.
The sow is also given (excuse the pun) dimension through the narrators diction. Words like gape and marvel express her personal wonder at beholding it, while its demeanor and royal massiveness are also shown through specific diction such as lounged, bulk, belly-bedded and dream-filmed. And, in the last stanza, a final allusion attributes to the animal a universal and monumental power, with a barnyard twist: proceeded to swill the seven troughed seas and every earthquaking continent.

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The title character of Sylvia Plaths poem, Sow is a magnificent and powerful creature, seen through the eyes of her caregiver and also those of a stranger as nothing less than miraculous. Through diction choices, comparisons, and allusions, the sows’ full gravity is conveyed to the reader.
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