“Blackberrying” and “Mirror” by Sylvia Plath
The poem “Blackberrying” starts of with rich sensuous description but has a depressed feeling. This is created from the very start of the poem as it begins with a very negative word, “Nobody”. The poem could be about a time when Sylvia Plath went blackberrying but I think that is about her life and her thoughts on life because the words used wouldn’t make clear sense unless there was a “hidden meaning”.
The use of alliteration in the first line, “Nobody and nothing”, gives the instant feel of being alone. She uses the word “blackberries” many times in the first few lines; this creates an atmosphere of ‘vastness’ and brings out the feeling of loneliness even more. The language isn’t straightforward and easy to understand, “Ebon in the hedges, fat”, you have to look into it to understand the meaning. The language that Plath uses is in a confused manner, the sentences seem to be quick and short which suggests that her life was hard.
Throughout the poem she creates an idea of not being able to control what’s happening and things are out of reach, “The high, green meadows”. This makes the atmosphere of being alone more stronger and suggests that there was no one to help her. Sylvia Plath sees small things in great detail, “bluegreen bellies”, which shows that she doesn’t miss much and that all small things in life are important to her. She describes many things in great detail that would otherwise not be mentioned, “With blue-red juices”.
In the second stanza she loses hope, “I do not think”. Sylvia Plath uses sea as a metaphor for the end of her journey. Using the sea as ‘the end of her life’ creates the idea that there is so much to be discovered but it is shown at the end that she doesn’t discover what she wants to. This has a good effect as it brings out the idea of being unable to control what going to happen. However at the end she realises that she can’t be near the sea, “These hills are too green and sweet to have tasted salt”, and the use of assonance at the end brings back the idea of being lonely again. The last couple of lines show the bleak end that Sylvia Plath came to (suicide), she says, “white and pewter lights”, at this point when life stops being one thing and is something else.
This poem doesn’t use rhyme but there is a sense of rhythm in it. The use of commas creates lots of breaks in the poem and this adds to the idea of uncertainty in her life (she has to think about what’s coming next). However towards the end there are fewer breaks when she understood her life better but it still came to a bleak end.
The poem Mirror also conveys the depression and pain that Sylvia Plath suffered, even though it doesn’t create a very strong feeling of loneliness “Blackberrying”. This poem uses the extended image of reflection and it also conveys the feeling of being trapped and not having any control (similar to Blackberrying).
The atmosphere that is created is loneliness like the first poem but there are points when people come, “faces and darkness separate us over and over”. Sylvia Plath seems to have a low self-esteem. This is shown towards the end of the poem, “In me she has drowned a young girl, and in me an old woman Rises towards her day after day, like a terrible fish”. She has grown up looking at the mirror and the mirror tells us how she has changed during her life.
In the second section she uses the image of reflection again and is looking into a lake. She wants to find out about what lies below the surface, “Searching my reaches”. The poem has a thoughtful, slow tone to it, which aids the atmosphere of, time passing and life ever changing. The language used in this poem is more subtle and flows better than the first. In this poem Sylvia Plath’s attitude towards life doesn’t seem to be much different from the first as she is not happy, “She rewards me with tears”. She is unhappy and both poems show the feeling of disappointment and unhappiness at the end.
The poem is split into two sections, in the first she is the mirror who just reflects truth. She can’t control what she sees even if it doesn’t please others, “I am not cruel, only truthful”. In the second section she is older and looks into a lake for what she really is. The second part tells us that she has been looking at the lake ever since she was “a young girl” and as she grows older she learns to hate the reflection.
Both poems talk about how the writer can’t control her life and that she doesn’t get what she wants. The first seem to show her in a large open space where she is surrounded by life but “Mirror” shows her trapped, and unable to think for herself, “I have no preconceptions”.
The subject matter in both poems is Sylvia Plath’s viewpoint on life. She uses ‘riddles’ in “Mirror”, “I am silver and exact”, to explain her feelings. In “Blackberrying” she uses lots of images of blackberries and vast, open space to show that she is lost. “Mirror” is more calm and relaxing than “Blackberrying and I think that even though both poems are describing Sylvia Plath’s view and struggles in life they have two different atmospheres.
When both the poems are looked at closely it is easy to see that they are about one thing, ‘Sylvia Plath’s life’ but are conveyed to us in two different ‘perspectives’.
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