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Sylvia Plath’s Mirror: a Reflection

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Sylvia Plath’s Mirror: A Reflection
Misty Williams
ENG125 Introduction to Literature
Instructor Stephen Rogers
July 22, 2013

I was drawn to Sylvia Plath’s poem Mirror because of her use of figurative language. I am also drawn to her dark style of writing. Personification, symbolism and metaphors used were key elements in attracting my attention. The personification of the mirror gives the point of view of an impartial bystander observing a woman as she struggles with her changing image and self-esteem. The simile is used to show a woman who is unable to accept who she really is. The use of metaphor explains how something as small as a mirror can have much control over how we view ourselves. Personification occurs when inanimate objects, animals or ideas are assigned human characteristics. In the first four lines the mirror is given human traits with the use of the word
“I”, “Whatever I see, I swallow…” gives the ability to see and swallow, and “I am not cruel, only truthful” gives the mirror a sense of truth and honesty. (As cited by Clugston, 2010, 12.2) The use of personification brings into effect past, present and future. This different perspective allowed me to “see” what the mirror sees and not get involved in the emotions of the woman and how she views herself. The mirror and reflection are metaphors representing the exact truth. The mirror is "unmisted" by prejudice human "preconceptions" and reveals "only" the "truthful" viewpoints of the world right in front of it. The use of metaphor can also be found in the second stanza. “The eye of a little god, four cornered” (as cited by Clugston, 2010, section 12.2, line 5). The mirror associates itself with gods who are omniscient. A mirror is a small thing yet has a powerful and dominant hold on our lives. The reflection we see affects our confidence and attitude. In line 10 the mirror changes to a lake. “The woman bends over me. Searching my reaches for what she really is” (as cited by Clugston, 2010, section 12.2, lines 10-11). The woman is not happy with whom she sees or she cannot accept who she really is. The mirror calls the candles and the moon liars meaning they do not reflect her true self. The candles and moon soften her appearance in their reflection. In lines 13 and 14 we are shown how upset the woman is with her reflection and how important the mirror feels. The mirror knows no matter how unhappy the woman is she will always return for another glimpse of herself.
The last stanza brings the use of simile. “In me she has drowned a young girl, and in me an old woman rises toward her day after day, like a terrible fish” (As cited by Clugston, 2010, section 12.2, lines 15-18). The mirror has seen the woman age from a young girl to an old woman. The mirror sees the woman every morning as she looks with hope and despair. The reference to a fish is confusing. How does a fish relate to human reflection? As explained by Donna Richardson in her article Plath’s Mirror, the fish is a reflection of horrors within her. “A fish face is not only representative of physical ugliness in the woman’s appearance. The staring eyes and open mouth natural to a fish’s face convey, as a reflection of a human face, the woman’s moral state. The woman cannot close her eyes to what she is becoming.” Personification, metaphor and simile played a large role in holding my attention throughout the reading of this poem. I found it to be a sad and reflective piece indicative of the way women too often view themselves of being old and worthless.

References
Clugston, R.W. (2010). Journey into Literature, Section 12.2. Retrieved from https://content.ashford.edu
Richardson, D. (1991). Plath's mirror. The Explicator, 49(3), 193. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/216770614?accountid=32521

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