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Meaning/ Themes

Through describing the continuous and unstoppable growth of the mushrooms, since mushrooms are very insignificant organisms but they are successful in adapting and survive in all sorts of environment, the persona wants to talk about the oppressed/ down- trodden, their feelings and how they het their own back to some degree.


1)Inferiority change to superiority ( Change of attitude)

-The progressive revelation(示) of the mushrooms’ power and fertility

-The mushrooms are once unnoticed, ‘bland- mannered’, but they are numerous, powerful, unified and become sinister due to their multiplication

-The mushrooms, though seem to be meek are independent, and their survival relies only on their strengths (simply “water” and “ crumbs of shadow”)

-The mushrooms appear to be innocent and harmless but turn out to be aggressive.

2)Persistent struggle

-Mushrooms are out of sight, out of mind

-They may be humble but there are many of them and one day they will gain full recognition

-The menace is implicit in the phrase ‘our foots in the door’, showing that their intrude cannot be kept out

3)Violence of nature

-The mushrooms ‘take hold’ and ‘acquire the air’ steadily, with invasive power

-With their ‘fist’, it shows their willingness to fight and invade

-‘Our hammers, our rams’, are referring to the instruments used in invasion

INTENTION (of writing the poem)

-It is a striking social commentary (during 1960) about the struggle of women to overcome the restraints of the housewife image

-The mushrooms’ growth and determination is parallel to the expansion with the women’s fight got notability and independence

-The problems she felt with gender and the ‘masculine’ and ‘feminine’as forces in nature.


∑The stages of the growth of the mushrooms is illustrated by the number of stanza, from being very silent to active, and then persevere to their goals, the determination is clearly depicted. Eventually, their triumph is expressed and they gained the authority.

Stage 1: stanza 1-3

Stage 2: stanza 4-7

Stage 3: stanza 8-10

Stage 4: stanza 11


-The growth of the mushrooms has started

-They are firstly unnoticed and secretive, the first stanza also suggest their fragility. Yet the mushrooms start their lives by pushing through the loam,

-Their strength and energy is more controlled since they want to keep their plotting of opposition to be secretive. Their obscurity is secretive and mysterious, and powerless since they didn’t want to show off. Therefore, they were undiscoverable


-Mushrooms continue to grow and their existence becomes more visible, is more apparent and obvious ( powered with violence)

-Their strength is firstly seen as they describe themselves being able to break through even the ‘paving’( they move everything in their path out of the way)

-Their image is still quite unclear ( earless, eyeless, voiceless)

→ They are a bit sinister ( because their intention and aggression)


-The mushroom’s fertility is obvious as they multiply

-Their number is very formidable (frightening) now, they are gradually becoming obvious, from shapeless to touchable and visible since they are described with various images, ‘table’, ‘shelves’

-They are also found useful as they are described as ‘edible’. This also suggest that their power and importance is more apparent, their existence is reinforced


-The mushrooms claim that they are ‘meek’, so they will ‘inherit the earth’

-A sudden burst out of mushrooms is depicted as they were going to inherit the earth, they will control the world, and even intrude our living space, which shows the fertility and the power of the mushrooms, the strength and the adaptability of the mushroom are obvious to us, highlights the sense of forcefulness and aggression of the mushrooms.

-The sunshine can be seen and also represent eventual victory of the mushrooms which was historic and momentous.


-Punctuation ( short, abruptness of punctuation)

-the language conveys a chant- like form

-the sense is not singular but in plural ( the voices seem coming from multitude of mouths, like the heads of the fungus, not a singular one)

- Use of colon in the second last stanza

-The function of the colon emphasize in the non-finished line. It reinforce that the action aren’t done. Colon suggests the following sentences are the elaborations of the previous line that convey an important message.

-Use of exclamation marks

-line 23-24

-Helps showing excitement, intensify the tome of aggression. Also it makes the lines sound like an aggressive sinister chant by the mushrooms

-End- stopped lines

-There is no dispute what they are saying

-It is very short, sharp , harsh and certain. Sinister feeling is also given out, emphasise that the mushrooms or the oppressed people believe it is right, claiming their status and power in the end.

-Statement like


-The lines are not interrupted, like the mushrooms’ non-stoppable urge for recognition; their slow insistence to work towards their target, which is inheriting the earth.

Sound Device

-Assonance (repetition of vowels)

-1st stanza: /i/ sound and /ee/ sound

-representing something small is pushing through the paving, pushing its way through like a needle and also entails the silence of inferior group that act very discreetly, quietly and carefully.

-5th stana: /ee/ sound /i/ sound

-Diphthongs (our, mer, ear)

-echo of ‘ham’ in ‘ram’

-highly decorative artifact, showing the insistence of the mushrooms as they move steadily toward their target

*The assonance use can create movement/ feeling through different stanzas, the change of the sounds is parallel to the change of mushrooms’ feeling as they grow

-it reflects how they become more visible, as the progressive power of the mushrooms are shown in the sound in the lines

-Rhyme ( half rhyme)

-short lines are ‘popping out’ at the readers like the mushrooms.

-the word rhymes suggests their qualities

e.g.: our toes, our noses: sinister fairy tale quality

eyeless and earless: more sinister mote as if they cannot be influenced nudgers and shovers: they are a primeval force, like mindless children


-The verse structure is 11 stanza of triplets

-The rhythm is flattering and irregular ( suddenly slowing or accelerating)

-Like the pace of the mushroom growing and invading the earth

Sense Devices

-Extended metaphor

-A need to dramatize and add sensation to things to reinforce the atmosphere of the poem, mushroom.

-This help express the feeling of inferiority and depression

-The metaphors again reinforce the extended meaning of mushrooms- downtrodden people. The persona saddest that those inferior group are scatter everywhere, but gradually united with each other and become more influential


-Mushrooms are given human features in order to emphasize the extended metaphor. It also allows readers to visualize how the inferior group conquered the world in the sense of mushroom.

-It makes readers connect to the poem, the fragility of mushrooms’ life cycle is equal to the fragility of human existence

-Metaphor (line 4: our hammers, line 14: our rams)

-This allows the readers to visualize the images of the mushrooms, feeling their growth in power and feel their movement

-Biblical Allusion

-‘The meek will inherit the earth’(Beatitudes, Matthew Chapter5, 5:5)

-Blessed are the reek: ‘for they shall inherit the earth’

-the mushrooms here are the meek and they are blessed, they are the symbol of the unempowered people, it may refer to what suggested in the Bible


“Fist” and “hammers” symbolise the invisible power of women and inferior group. They are extremely furious about the unfair treatment and they are planning to conquer the world and take revenge.

“On crumbs of shadow” symbolise the low social status of the downtrodden people. They didn’t have good living condition and are treated unfairly. Nevertheless, they can still survive. It highlights their strong determination and perseverance.

“Voiceless” symbolize the downtrodden people who don’t have the right to speak out their opinions.

“meek” symbolize women who will have the right to inherit the earth( elaborate in the next part)

“earth” is a pun which symbolise the soil and the whole earth.


Overall, the poem maintains a serious mood. It’s a humorless poem as it’s mainly talking about the situation of the inferior group before and the gaining of power. The poem also bring a sense of mystery such as the sentences “ whitely, discreetly”, “ perfectly voiceless”. It depicts the silences and how secretive the mushrooms (inferior group) are.


The persona has a positive attitude towards the invasion of mushroom, which symbolized she support the down-trodden people in becoming powerful. She is also very firm and certain about the future women, as well as the downtrodden and oppressed people. Although they lives before might be very challenging as full of obstacles as mushroom had, their future will definitely be brighter and overwhelming as long as they united together and persevered.

The persona also adopts a style of poem for younger children but making it sinister. The rhythms and the cadences make the poem like a nursery rhyme, with child- like references. However, the references are somehow sinister, often a semi- hysterical undertone.


- Oxymoron

(Line 10: soft fist, line 28: hudgers and shovers)

-the mushrooms do not need to use excessive forces to achieve survival or something great Soft fist: convey the anger of the inferior people towards those who mistreated them, but they

are gentle in fighting against them. They seems harmfulness and gentle in the beginning but actually very powerful and dangerous.

Hudgers and shovers: It implies that the mushroom (inferior group) is gaining power and typify that no matter they push gently, they can still gain victory. This underlines that the inferior group is very aggressive, sinister and pretentious.


-repetitive force, like the multiplied number of mushrooms, reinforce the numerous image

-This enhance the forceful tone of the mushrooms

-the power of the mushrooms are accelerated