In 1963 Sylvia Plath wrote a poem called Mirror. The poem revolves around the truth of reflections in the life of an individual. It captures the frustration of people as they look at their reflection watching themselves age. Sylvia Plath uses a unique blend of symbolism, imagery, and repetition to tell a story from the point of view from the mirror. In our textbook, Journey into Literature, symbol is defined as something itself along with another meaning and is always abstract in nature. (Clugston, 2010). In her poem, Mirror, Sylvia Plath uses symbolism with darkness, water, the moon, and the light.
In the line “Faces and darkness separate us over and over”, darkness has two meanings. The first meaning is the actual darkness, opposite of the light. The second meaning is of fear or ignorance, but seems more likely to be fear. The fear could be from the person looking into the mirror, possibly that he or she is afraid to look at the true reflection. It can prove difficult for some people to see their reflection in the mirror because of how much they have aged. Another symbol is the water that is mentioned at the lake. Water is a symbol for a source of life. The moon is the next symbol Sylvia Plath incorporates into her poem.
The moon is a feminine symbol for patterned change. The symbol of the moon sets the undertone for the aging woman. The final symbol used in the poem is the light. Although it is not mentioned directly, it is implied the light is symbolic of the truth when the poem calls the candles and the moon liars. The candles and the moon are called liars because they do not reflect the full amount of light needed to see the truth. This stands out as a thought provoking symbol. It begs the question: an object such as the light from the moon, can it lie? This shows the unique ability of the writer to assign moralistic symbolism to inanimate objects.
Poems that contain “imaginative language” help the reader create an image. (Clugston, 2010). Within the poem, Mirror, the reader is able to create images of the wall mirror, time passing, and the woman at the lake. The wall mirror is pretty plain as the wall that it sits on each day reflecting the full truth of the person that looks into it. Even though the mirror is an inanimate object, it does not like or dislike what it sees. There is an image that created for the amount of time that passes in the repetition of, “day after day. ” This repetition seems to put an emphasis on the time that is passing as the woman ages.
The next image is the woman looking at her reflection in the waters of the lake. The mirror, which is the narrator, speaks of the lighting at the lake to be liars (false). There is not enough light from the candles or the moon to give back an honest reflection of the woman. The woman is having difficulty looking at her aged reflection in the water. The frustration of the woman is apparent in the line, “She rewards me with tears and an agitation of hands. ” (Plath, 1963). This leads the reader to believe the woman is upset enough with her reflection to shed tears into the water before agitating the water to distort her reflection.
There is no doubt that the reader of this poem will be moved with the feeling of sadness from the woman. The reader will be moved in ways that most poems of this period does not accomplish. The final imagery used is to capture how the woman views her current aged reflection. She feels the young girl inside her drowned in the water and every day that passes an old woman continues to rise out of the water towards her. (Plath, 1963). There are many that could, upon reflection, identify with this imagery. The meter of a poem is defined as a rhythm of the syllables and whether they are stressed or unstressed. Bedford St. Martin’s, n. d. ).
There is no apparent rhythm to this poem which classifies it as a free verse poem. No rhythm seems to exist, nor does it have any syllables that are stressed or unstressed. What Ms. Plath uses to great effect is the repetition of words in two places within the poem. The two repetitions she uses is “over and over” and “day after day. ” (Plath, 1963). Does the repetition create a rhythm for the poem? My answer is yes, though it may not be the conventional rhythm that is commonly heard in poems. The symbolism and imagery that were used in the poem drew me in.
The symbols used allowed me to understand a deeper context of life and in some aspects, myself. The forwardness of the imagery and symbolism allows the reader to identify with the mirror as the mirror struggles to put its reality into perspective. In many sections of the poem, the author uses repetition to great effect, again to allow the reader to gain a sense of rhythm though no rhythm exists in the poem. There are many poems of that time period that made a great impact on the literary world, yet this one best illustrates the aspects of poetry as it relates to the lesson from text book.
January 9, 2018
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