In Sylvia Plath's "Sow," she presents the reader with a nearly mythological porcine "pork"trait. However, through contrasting reactions experienced by the speaker and his neighbor, Plath demonstrates that an object of ob"sow"quity for one may be seen as everyday mediocrity for a person exposed to such forces daily. Through Plath's "pig"nacious descriptions of the pompous porker, she leaves little doubt as to her claims as a connoisseur of fine swine. She portrays the neighbor's and the narrator's perceptions of the sow and thereby influences the reader's reaction with a combination of diction, sound devices, and allusion.

The distinct styles of diction that characterize the first and second halves of the poem illustrate the differences between the speaker and the neighbor. "Sow"'s introduction features an aura of mystery, capturing the speaker's eager anticipation with alliteration like "shrewd secret" and phrases like "impounded from public stare." Eventually, Plath caters to the speaker's, and therefore the reader's, sudden revelation and first glimpse of the "vast Brobdingnag bulk" with words that conjure awe - "ancient hoghood." However, the vocabulary used in the description of the neighbor instantly brings the reader back from the sow's ethereal plane - the farmer's "jocular fist thwacks the barrel nape." The lengthy evocation of everything that the pig is not in the first half signifies exactly how the neighbor views his prize - "glorified for prime flesh and golden crackling." Contrasting senses of diction thus demonstrate the various reactions held by the poem's characters.

Devices of sound and meter further illuminate the viewpoints held by the neighbors. Plath captures the speaker's sense of excitement and makes it palpable to the reader with a continuous use of enjambement that often runs between the 3-line stanzas:

What a vision of ancient hoghood must
Thus wholly engross
The great grandam!
With the sudden caesura at "grandam! - our," the building tension climaxes and transcends into Plath's Romantic knight imagery, characterizing the speaker's sense of awe. However, the onomatopoeia in the neighbor's section makes it clear that he lacks respect for his force of nature and its "grunt." In the last lines of the final stanzas, Plath's choppy meter demonstrates the shock felt by the speaker and the reader at the farmer's impertinence - "Made lean Lent" crashes upon the reader in a tumult of cacophony and alliteration. Devices of meter and sound thus illuminate the different perceptions of the characters.

Finally, a string of allusions used by the speaker demonstrates the poem's epic sweep in describing the most mundane of nature's creations. With evocations of "Brobdingnag," Plath compares the sow to Swift's tyrannical giants in Gulliver's Travels and shows that the speaker recognizes the animal's terrible grandeur. Later, this narrator romanticizes the swine with a reference to knights and jousting "in the grace of combat," setting the creature up for the reader as a legendary hero. However, at the appearance of the farmer, Plath's sense of allusion disintegrates into banal Biblical bombast, as commonplace as the farmer believes the sow to be - "lean Lent" and "gluttonies" - references to sin. This series of cultural references show the clashing perceptions of the pig.

Thus, Plath's diction, metrical devices, and allusions present two disparate views of this sow. She intimates that an object of worship for some may be seen as an overly familiar crutch for others. While the speaker treats the pig as a grandiose force of nature, the farmer who breeded the leviathan has become accustomed to its bulk. Thus, Plath comments that first impressions after incessant hype often have little in common with reality.

Sow (?), v. i.

To sew. See Sew.




© Webster 1913.

Sow (?), n. [OE. sowe, suwe, AS. sugu, akin to s&umac;, D. zog, zeug, OHG. s&umac;, G. sau, Icel. s&ymac;r, Dan. so, Sw. sugga, so, L. sus. Gr. "y^s, sy^s, Zend. hu boar; probably from the root seen in Skr. s&umac; to beget, to bear; the animal being named in allusion to its fecundity. &root;294. Cf. Hyena, Soil to stain, Son, Swine.]

1. Zool.

The female of swine, or of the hog kind.

2. Zool.

A sow bug.

3. Metal. (a)

A channel or runner which receives the rows of molds in the pig bed.


The bar of metal which remains in such a runner.


A mass of solidified metal in a furnace hearth; a salamander.

4. Mil.

A kind of covered shed, formerly used by besiegers in filling up and passing the ditch of a besieged place, sapping and mining the wall, or the like.


Sow bread. Bot. See Cyclamen. -- Sow bug, ∨ Sowbug Zool., any one of numerous species of terrestrial Isopoda belonging to Oniscus, Porcellio, and allied genera of the family Oniscidae. They feed chiefly on decaying vegetable substances. -- Sow thistle [AS. sugepistel] Bot., a composite plant (Sonchus oleraceus) said to be eaten by swine and some other animals.


© Webster 1913.

Sow (?), v. t. [imp. Sowed (?); p. p. Sown (?) or Sowed; p. pr. & vb. n. Sowing.] [OE. sowen, sawen, AS. sawan; akin to OFries. sa, D. zaaijen, OS. & HG. sajan, G. saen, Icel. sa, Sw. s�x86;, Dan. saae, Goth. saian, Lith. s&emac;ti, Russ. sieiate, L. serere, sevi. Cf. Saturday, Season, Seed, Seminary.]


To scatter, as seed, upon the earth; to plant by strewing; as, to sow wheat. Also used figuratively: To spread abroad; to propagate.

"He would sow some difficulty."


A sower went forth to sow; and when he sowed, some seeds fell by the wayside. Matt. xiii. 3, 4.

And sow dissension in the hearts of brothers. Addison.


To scatter seed upon, in, or over; to supply or stock, as land, with seeds. Also used figuratively: To scatter over; to besprinkle.

The intellectual faculty is a goodly field, . . . and it is the worst husbandry in the world to sow it with trifles. Sir M. Hale.

[He] sowed with stars the heaven. Milton.

Now morn . . . sowed the earth with orient pearl. Milton.


© Webster 1913.

Sow, v. i.

To scatter seed for growth and the production of a crop; -- literally or figuratively.

They that sow in tears shall reap in joi. Ps. cxxvi. 5.


© Webster 1913.

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