Friday, June 17, 2011


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Mirror by Sylvia Plath is a brilliant poem created out of the complexity of the various uses of figures of speech. Through the use of metaphorical and figurative language Plath develops a poem with a literal meaning as well as a figurative one. This is a poem about the qualities and functions of a mirror, and its lack of preconceptions concerning physical appearance and a pure reflection of ones inner self.

Plath uses personification throughout this poem in order to have a mirror describe its relationship with a woman. The narrator of the poem is a mirror. The mirror tells the reader, “...I mediate on the opposite wall...I think it is a part of my heart”. In this poem it is the mirror that possesses the ability to meditate, has a heart and secret reaches, all which are capabilities or characteristics of a living person. This is what personification is, the representation of an object as a person. Through this poem Plath is speaking to the reader as a mirror. This mirror possesses an innate ability to analyze a woman both physically and emotionally.

This poem has a very literal meaning dealing with the complexity of a woman who has aged physically. The mirror has reflected this woman’s physical image to her for many years. She comes and goes. Each morning it is her face that replaces the darkness. It is the mirror that has watched her grow just a little bit older every day of her life and through this process the mirror has witnessed “a young girl drown” and an old woman rise. This is where Plath uses a metaphor to emphasis the mirrors point. By having the mirror express itself as a lake, “now I am a lake”, the mirror is able to use a simile, “like a terrible fish”, in order to express how much this woman has literally aged. The mirror had to use the metaphor “now I am a lake” to describe itself in order to become multi-dimensional. A mirror is flat, solid and solely reflective, as has already been self-described in the first nine lines of this poem. Therefore, the only image that would be able to appear in a mirror would be one that is being reflected. A fish, would not be able to literally appear in a mirror in the context that is used in this poem and this is why the mirror uses a metaphor of a lake to further describe what the woman is seeing internally as well as physically. A lake is able to be both reflective and have objects appear in it that are not just being reflected but are actually in it with the ability to rise toward [someone] day after day, like a terrible fish.

The poem also has a figurative meaning describing the inner character or soul of the woman, more than likely Plath herself. The loss of innocence comes through aging. When this woman looks at her reflection in the lake, the mirror tells us that she is “searching my reaches for what she really is”. This figurative language implies a searching for the soul. The “terrible fish” is not simply the image of an aged woman but it is also representative of the woman’s darker side. The line “ [it] rises toward her day after day” is showing how this darker side is progressively taking control. This is very parallel with the events that were occurring in Plath’s actual life at the time she wrote this poem. This is very prescient of the side of Plath that was able to take her own life.

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Sylvia Plath incorporated figurative language in her poem, Mirror, in order to help create a literal and figurative meaning. Through the use of a metaphor, a simile and personification a mirror is able to describe a womans physical deterioration over time as well as the deterioration of her soul. The “terrible fish” in Plath’s poem is representative of both an aged, old woman and a monster within her. Through figurative language Plath is describing her personal struggles with her own “terrible fish” or monster in this poem. She emphasizes the struggles of woman as she ages as well as the struggle against one’s own personal demons.

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