A metaphor is one of the most common figures of speech that is used to describe an object, person, situation or action in a creative way that helps a reader understand it better. The comparison is usually not literal and the two things might be vastly different. A few examples include ‘Hope is a thing with feathers’ by Emily Dickinson and Daddy’ by Sylvia Plath.

A very powerful example of an extended metaphor is available to readers in ‘An Apple Gathering’ by Christina Rossetti. ‘An Apply Gathering’ is an extended metaphor for importance of a woman’s perceived purity. Rossetti used an apple tree and the fruit it bears as a symbol for a woman’s virginity.

Take a look at there lines as the speaker recalls discovering that there were no apples growing on her tree:

I plucked pink blossoms from mine apple-tree

And wore them all that evening in my hair:

Then in due season when I went to see

I found no apples there.

While to a casual, uninvested reader this might seem like a simple description of what a female character is doing, to those who want to dig deeper, it is much more meaningful. the use of enjambment in the third line of this section is used as a moment of revelation. The speaker finally understands the implications of what she’s done and how, from now on, her life is going to be quite different.

There is a moving scene later on in the poem in which all the speaker’s peers are appreciating the apples on their individual trees. The speaker though is without a single piece of fruit. She stands out from those around her. They all know that she lost her virginity, as represented by picking her apples too soon.

Metaphors don’t have to control an entire poem though, as they do in ‘An Apple Gathering’. They can be short statements that pass almost unnoted within single lines of poetry. Or, they might influenced a few lines, and then be passed over for new figurative comparisons or details. When writing poetry, metaphors are one of the key ways that you can expand your verse and relate it to sights, sounds, and experiences that might not come to the average reader’s mind.

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