Sylvia Plath's Poem 'Mirror'

Topics: Old age, Gerontology, Ageing Pages: 5 (1993 words) Published: October 28, 2013
In today’s day and age, it seems that some would do anything to erase a crease in their forehead, or a crinkle on the outskirts of an eye. Because time is something that we can never get back, growing older is an idea that many try to deny, especially in today’s society. Told from a mirror’s point of view, the mirror in the poem witnesses the truth of what it means to age. Sylvia Plath’s poem, Mirror, is a poem that deals with the truths and lies in the struggle a woman goes through when grasping the reality of aging. The poem is appealing due to the ways in which Plath successfully uses personification, figurative language, and diction in her writing to emphasize this idea, as well how the concept of keeping up appearances and aging are relevant topics for many women in modern day culture.

One of the many literary devices Plath utilizes in the poem is the reoccurring use of personification to a mirror. The entire poem is told in the perspective of a mirror and what is has been like for this mirror to watch a woman age. It is a great way to capture the reader's interest and in addition, focus on the truth of the physical aspect of aging. Beginning in the third line of the poem, the mirror says “What ever I see I swallow immediately / just as it is, unmisted by love or dislike” (2-3). The mirror is personified by saying it swallows what it sees, meaning that it takes everything in because mirrors reflect all the things surrounding them. The mirror is again personified because it is given the feeling of not loving or disliking something. This line effectively demonstrates how the mirrors personality is untainted by looks or pre judgments. This quality of the mirror should be greatly appreciated by the woman of the poem because as we go on to read, the mirror only sees the woman superficially, whether that is good or bad, the mirror passes no judgment, it only sees what is right in front of it. Unlike in today’s society, people often are inclined to base a considerable amount of their opinions on outward appearance. Take movie stars for example, the hours and hours that go into hair, make up, or outfit choice. It seems that the stunning actors and actresses of Hollywood constantly battle it out for ‘who wore it best’ or which actress really does have the most flawless skin? In the end, they are all either glorified or scrutinized by the general public based on his or her appearance. It’s refreshing that the mirror of the poem lacks the desire to even judge the woman outwardly, and instead, focuses on the honest truth of what it sees. The idea of truth is again seen when the mirror says, “I see her back, and reflect it faithfully” (13). Plath gives the mirror a characteristic of loyalty to the woman it reflects. One may argue that although the mirror is said to be faithful, how is it a reliable confidante for the woman if it offers no advice when she searches the mirror for who she has become on the inside. From another standpoint however, this allows for individual soul searching and forces the woman to come to conclusions on her own. The technique of personification in Mirror is successful in showing how the mirror is not critical of what is in its’ reflection in any way, and views the woman in her most honest form.

Not only is personification used to reflect the truth of aging in the elderly woman’s image in the mirror, but Plath uses figurative language to confront the lies of aging as well. The usage of figurative language in the poem demonstrates how false deceptions are created and growing old is rejected. In line 10, the mirror says, “Now I am a lake. A woman bends over me / Searching my reaches for what she really is” (10-11). The metaphor of a lake is perfect for defining the truth and lies of aging. A lake has many different levels. The surface of a lake it what is seen initially. The sun’s reflection bounces off the surface, and swimmers relish in the warm water on a hot summer day. What is not...

Cited: Plath, Sylvia. “Mirrors.” Poetry: An Introduction by Michael Meyer. 5th ed. Boston: Bedford / St p. 145-146
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