Sylvia Plath, Mirror, Poem Analysis Part II

June 7, 2017

Sylvia Plath, Mirror, Poem Analysis Part II

Title

The title suggests a possible subject of the poem: a mirror or mirrors. These are usually symbolic of reflections in time and inward reflections.

Poetic Techniques

Personification: This poem is a personification of a mirror, with the mirror being the first person narrator. This is a figurative personification, see below for explanations:

- “I am silver and exact.” (1): The colour silver merely describes the colour of the mirror and the term “exact” implies that the mirror shows exactly what it sees, an exact reflection.

- “I have no preconceptions.” (1): This implies that the mirror will not judge or have preconceived ideas of what is in front of it. The mirror will show a direct reflection.

- “Whatever you see … love or dislike.” (2-3): The mirror will see you just as you are on the outside, its judgement of the person will not be clouded by emotions, character, or feelings. It simply sees the exterior.

- “I am not cruel… four-cornered.” (4-5): This shows that the mirror is honest and god-like in that it does not judge.

- “Most of the time… Faces and darkness separate us over and over.” (6-9): This shows where the mirror is located in the house, opposite a pink speckled wall. For most of the day, the mirror only looks at this wall, for that is the way it is positioned. The depiction of the wall “flicker[ing]” refers to the separation of the wall and the mirror by both darkness and faces. The mirror cannot see the wall when there is a person looking in the mirror and it cannot see the wall again when it is dark in the room. The mirror also suggests that this wall has become a part of its heart. This suggests that the proximity has made the mirror and the wall “friends”, which is a slight personification of the wall as well.

- “Now I am a lake. …for what she really is.” (10-11): Here, the mirror is comparing itself to a lake. When people look at their reflections in a lake, they are often looking at more than just their outward physical appearance. A lake is associated with a state of anxiety or nervous excitement, so here the mirror is lamenting about the fact that people often partake in “soul-searching” while looking in the mirror.

- “Then she turns to those liars, the candles or the moon.” (12): Here, the mirror is showing the false reflection that can be found in candlelight or in moonlight. These often show shadows and skewed versions of ourselves.

- “I see her back, and reflect it faithfully.” (13): This shows that even when the woman has her back turned, the mirror still shows exactly what it sees. It does not use her distraction to act differently. This line suggests that there is a special relationship between the woman and the mirror and that the mirror will always be faithful to the woman, even when she strays to candlelight and moonlight.

- “She rewards me with tears… I am important to her.” (14-15): Here, the woman shows distress with what she has seen in the mirror, but she still returns to the mirror. It is clear that despite what she sees in the mirror, she values it.

- “She comes and goes. …replaces the darkness.” (15-16): Here, the mirror reflects on the relationship it has with the woman. She always returns to the mirror each morning.

- “In me she has drowned a young girl, and in me an old woman / Rises toward her day after day, like a terrible fish.” (17-18): These final lines are crucial to the poem. Here, the mirror is not only stating that the woman is growing older, but the mirror is also, perhaps, suggesting that the woman’s relationship with the mirror is damaging her character. Her obsession with the reflection of the mirror has eradicated the young girl she once was,and has brought about an “old woman.”

· Metaphor/Simile: The mirror compares itself to a “little god”, which suggests that it is an honest and all-powerful figure. The mirror also compares itself to a lake in line 10 (see explanation in “Personification” above). The final line is a simile comparing the woman looking into the mirror to a “terrible fish”. This simile suggests that the woman is agingherself with her infatuation with appearance and her own reflection.

 

Themes:

appearance; vanity; honesty

Tone: 

honest; straightforward

Structure & Rhythm:

· One stanza of 18 lines

· No real rhyme scheme

Background/Context (Poet):

This poem reflects the need for personal reflection, which may have been a practice Plath used in her battle against depression.

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