Sylvia Plath (October 27, 1932 – February 11, 1963) entered many literary contests when she was in high school and won most of it. She sold her first poem to ‘The Christian Science Monitor’, while she was in high school. Her first short story was sold to ‘Seventeen’ magazine. In Smith College she was a co-winner of the contest held by ‘Mademoiselle’ in 1952. Between 1957 and 1958 she was an instructor in English at Smith College. She then went to England with her husband. In 1960 her collection of poems were published as ‘The Colossus’ and it was received well. Her novel, Bell Jar, which became popular, was published in London in 1963 but she used a pseudonym Victoria Lucas.Bell Jar was strongly autobiographical with a little bit of fiction thrown in.
‘You’re’ was written in 1960 and it captures the emotions of a pregnant woman in unusual manner.
The baby in the womb is compared to many things, as varied from something as small as bread to moon. The baby is happy and ‘clown-like’ with its feet pointing to the stars. Its head is moon like and breathes like a fish. The next comparison is to the dodo and then she goes on describe the womb. In the dark womb the foetus is all wrapped as if ‘like a spool’. Like owls it moves in the night in the womb. Her pregnancy period was from fourth July to first of April and she says it is as ‘mute as turnip’. In the last line of the first stanza she brings the oft-used idiom ‘bun in the oven’. The womb is the oven and bun is the baby.
In the next stanza the metaphors and similes used are rather harsh and vague like the use of turnip in the first stanza. Maybe an x-ray was taken and it seemed as ‘vague as fog’ and one had really search for the baby as one search the mail in the mail box. She says that the baby is ‘farther off than Australia’ indicating the baby’s distance from the outsidewrold. The baby inside is like the Greek god Atlas who holds the sky; all bent. The shape of the prawns is also bent and the metaphor of the prawn is used. In the womb the baby is at home and comfortable, ‘snug as a bud’. In the next line the baby in the womb is compared to a ‘sprat in a pickle jar’. Once again a marine animal, eel, is brought in as metaphor. As an eel wriggles so too the baby is wriggling and his kicks are thought of as jumpy Mexican Beans. It’s as if the poet has taken stock of the full period of pregnancy and felt everything was correct, like a well-done sum. The baby was ready to come out and start his own life, like a ‘clean slate’.
‘You’re’ is a free verse with no end rhymes. There are some internal rhymes as in ‘dodo mode and creel eel’. There are two stanzas each with 9 fairly long lines, maybe indicating 9 months of the gestation period. Alliterations are used in some lines, ‘happiest….hands, little loaf, Bent-backed’.
Assonance, where there is a repetition of the same syllable, is used very often. Some examples are ‘Gilled/fish, Snug/bud’. There is no specific meter in the poem but what stands out is that eleven out of eighteen lines are end-stopped. Metaphors, similes and idioms are used in the poem; in fact metaphors and similes make up the poem and are seen in all the lines. The poem ‘You’re’ is like her relationship she had with the idea of childbirth. She had written, 'Sometimes I shiver in a preview of the pain and the terror of childbirth, but it will come and I live through it.' The poem has a love-hate relationship to the idea of pregnancy. Some metaphors and simile are endearing while some come as a shocker. The use of turnip and all the marine animals give a creepy feeling. So too, what has a dodo got to do with the baby? However considering Sylvia Plath’s poetry “You’re” is one of her happier poems with no mention of death, only a reference to life, as a clean state.