“Mirror” By Sylvia Plath
The poem Mirror is adeptly exploring and advancing the themes of both truth and ageing. Plath personifies the mirror and narrates the poem from this persona giving us the perspective of things in the light of the mirror’s point of view. The persona of the poem is the mirror. The mirror successfully takes the form akin to a foreign creature will the ability to swallow almost everything in its path, it also has cognitive capabilities hence it meditates (Plath, 1, 6). The mirror’s persona effectively delivers the message about its existence and its purpose that demonstrates the woman’s conflict that is inherent within herself.
The first stanza introduces the reader to the mirror through descriptive word in such a way that the persona is mechanized using hard facts that are integrally cold. This gives the reader the notion that the mirror is an unbiased object that utters things from an honest observation it makes. This stanza effectively articulates the objectivity of the mirror and makes it a force that would linger in the mind of the reader through out the poem as s/he visualizes the important aspects of the mirror from the way it described itself. This is an important quality that is instrumental to the reader enabling him to capture the emotion of the mirror during every step of its narration through the first and the last stanzas. The mirror therefore becomes an avenue through which one can see raw truth indiscriminately. The poem revolves around the truth right from the manner in which it describes itself to have sharp edges and cold. It says, “I am silver and exact. I have no preconceptions”(Plath, 1,1).It’s objectivity is further shown in the second line when it says, “Whatever I see I swallow immediately”(Plath, 1,2). It indiscriminately does its work without hesitation since it is devoid of prejudice showing its straightforwardness. It is therefore impermeable to our emotions regardless of the nature of our situations, it cannot give skewed responses to console us- it is brutally honest, “unmisted by love or dislike” (Plath 1,3).
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One poetic device that Plath has used is personification that gives the mirror a certain character and personality that we experience through the poem. Therefore, the reader is able to appreciate the limitations of the mirror albeit it has human characters. This orchestrates in building the image of a mirror that is incapacitated to judge the woman the way humans. It does not form opinions of the woman and in lieu of that it gives its report based on factual evidence. Another instance of personification is when Plath attempts to give it a character akin to a deity when she writes, “The eye of a little god, four-cornered” (Plath 1,5). This line is used to achieve the picture of a God-like predisposition of the mirror to reveal everything about anyone who stands in front of it. In addition, the mirror is capable of meditating and it also possesses a heart which are both humanlike qualities. The mirror says “on the opposite wall. It is pink, with speckles. I have looked at it so long I think it is part of my heart”(Plath 1, 6-8). The poetess manages to use this quality of personification to exhibit the monotony in the “life” of the mirror. It is compelled to face the wall lying opposite to it without any choice. The mirror has established a human like bond with the opposite wall and feels offended when it is put in the dark. This stops it from interacting with the wall that seems to be its only form of company given that the woman only goes to the mirror in the morning and evening.
The second stanza takes an abrupt turn and events unfold in quick succession by the use imagery. Plath effectively uses imagery to help the reader to comprehend the nature of the relationship that exists between the mirror and the woman. At this point, the poet is satisfied with the insight she has achieved in illuminating the objectivity of the mirror. In the second stanza, the mirror transforms to a lake. This can be demonstrated by the first line “Now I am a lake”(Plath, 2,1). This imagery is very important since it shows ubiquity of the mirror. Even when the woman is not in the house where he mirror is, the mirror would still follow her to wherever she is so that she sees here own reflection. This shows how the truth follows the woman wherever she goes. This shows how the woman cannot run away from the truth no matter what she does or where she goes. This can be demonstrated by the way the woman attempting to find the truth in the lake “Searching my reaches for what she really is” (Plath, 2,2). The line also demonstrates her obsession with the mirror. In that relationship, the woman relentlessly searches of comfort and consolation from the mirror. However, every time she does this, she encounters the cold truth that the mirror gives her about her predicament: her fading beauty as she ages day after day.
The mirror emphasizes the important role it plays to the woman by the way it explains the way the woman explores her image in the mirror, “ reaches for what she really is”(Plath, 2,2). Due to the dissatisfaction she gets from what she sees in the mirror, she seeks a second opinion from other individuals “to those liars, the candles or the moon” (Plath, 2,3). The imagery used: candlelight and moon by the poet is used to show the deception. This is because light emanating from these two bodies is deceiving. This can be exemplified by the way the candlelight obscures the flaws in one’s face. The same way moonlight does to hide age-spots and wrinkles. The woman’s disappointment is shown when the poet says “She rewards me with tears and an agitation of hands”(Plath, 2,5). The mirror is unable to understand the emotions of the woman since it refers to her tears as rewards. The mirror lacks sympathy due to its inability to understand her sadness and all it can do is serve her faithfully. The ignorance and naivety to of the mirror is revealed when it claims to be “important to her”(Plath, 2,6). Her main concern is her image and not the mirror yet it remains faith full to her. It also demonstrates the superficial nature of the mirror since it gives precedence to the physical outlook. She finds it impossible to stop looking at herself in the mirror and she keeps coming back to it. “She comes and goes” (Plath, 2,6). The woman came to a point of acceptance with her status as an aging woman “In me she has drowned a young girl,(Plath, 2,8).
The prominence of the theme of image and aging is replete in the poem with impressive consistency and Plath did not digress from the subject matter. The poet fully explores the woman’s struggles with the process of coming into terms with her fading image to the point of seeking a second opinion. He being is what defines her existence and that is what matters to her the most. The theme of pain that comes as a result of fading beauty is also intertwined with the theme image in relation to youth. The woman is seen to cry and this shows that she has reached the zenith of her frustration due to aging. The truthfulness of the mirror is limited to the physical aspect; it is not able to explore the emotional state of the woman. However, the perspective of the mirror suffices the reader to understand the themes in the story.
The rendition of the poem is in an intense, personal and heart-gripping. This was appropriately used to accentuate the emotion of the woman and the themes are well advanced by the tone. The tone effectively addresses women since women are afraid of aging and they would defiantly be apprehensive at the prospect of it occurring to them.
The poem is devoid of sophisticated diction however, it the diction the poet used is sated with subtext as well as insinuations. In addition to this, the syntax employed is not complex probably because her target audience is young women who are probably worried about aging.
The poem generally addresses women in an effective way to appropriately focus on their plight. These women are however informed by Plath that the aging process is inevitable it should be welcomed gracefully since that is the only way to avoid being in distress over something they cannot control. The women are therefore addressed appropriately by Plath as she artistically interwove themes laced with appropriate stylistic devices such as imagery and personification to drive the message home.