The Truth in Reflections

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In Sylvia Plath “Mirror” the author presents a distinct comparison between a woman’s reflection and herself worth. The use of metaphors for women as a mirror and a lake shows to different emotional tones. The mirror is very cold and precise in its reflection to society while the lake has emotional depth and meaning. In “Mirror” the author uses personification, imagery and symbolism to compare a woman’s surface reflection and self worth to that of a mirror and a lake illustrating the irony of a perceived image and a woman’s true image.

Submitted: August 04, 2012

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Submitted: August 04, 2012

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The Truth in Reflections

In Sylvia Plath “Mirror” the author presents a distinct comparison between a woman’s reflection and herself worth.  The use of metaphors for women as a mirror and a lake shows to different emotional tones.  The mirror is very cold and precise in its reflection to society while the lake has emotional depth and meaning.  In “Mirror” the author uses personification, imagery and symbolism to compare a woman’s surface reflection and self worth to that of a mirror and a lake illustrating the irony of a perceived image and a woman’s true image.

 Plath’s usage of personification helps to define the speaker of the poem, and with this technique gives “an inanimate object… the human capacity for speech” (Jeannine Johnson).  Although the mirror possesses some human qualities it illustrates that it has no hidden motives when it states, “I have no preconceptions” (1).  Through the careful use of diction the author shows that the mirror is “not affected by feelings that might… compel it to change” the reflection it shows (Johnson).  The speaker makes a clear understanding to the truth of its reflections in line 4 and 5 of the poem by saying, “unmisted by love or dislike. /I am not cruel, only truthful”.  This play on words begins to develop the irony of the poem between the manmade reflections of the mirror, and the unnatural image of women “in man’s eyes” (William Freedman).

In the second stanza of Plath’s poem the speaker announces the transition from a mirror to a lake.  This allows for the comparisons between the differences in their reflections.  Unlike the “well-lit” mirror the lake gives back an obscure reflection (Johnson).  The “candles or the moon” is to blame for this misrepresentation of truth reflected by the lake due to “the partial light they provide” (12; Johnson). This illustrates the irony of the unnatural reflection of the lake and “flattering distortion of herself… image” (Freedman).

With the use of metaphors the author symbolically uses a mirror and a lake to represent the images of women.  As women “can only reflect male ideals” and expectations the mirror shows only the “passive images caught on its surface” (Freedmen).  In contrast with to the mirrors “depersonalized” reflection in the first stanza (Freedmen).  The change of tone in the “second stanza displays a great deal of emotion” (Johnson).  The lake, “unlike a mirror, has depth” and as the women looks into it she is “pursuing more profound information about her basic identity” (Johnson).  The speaker describes this by saying the woman is “Searching my reaches for what she really is” (11).  The author uses this figure of speech proving that the woman “hopes that it holds deeper knowledge” about herself worth then it actually does (Johnson). 

In “Mirror” the author uses the literary tools of personification, imagery and symbolism to create a message in the comparison of a woman, mirror and a lake.  The personification helps to define the speaker and gives a first person view to develop the meaning of the poem.  This first person view illustrates how a mirror reflects only surface images without feeling. In the second stanza the speaker transitions from the mirror to a lake.  This change parallels a change in tome of the poem to one with more depth and emotion.  These comparisons shows the irony of mans idea and natures reflections.


 

Work Cited

Freedman, William. “The Monster in Plath’s ‘Mirror,’.” Papers on Language and Literature 108.5 (Oct. 1993): 152-169. Rpt. In Contemporary Literary Criticism. Ed. Jeffrey W. Hunter and Deborah A. Schmitt. Vol. 111 Detroit: Gale Group, 1999. Literature Resource Center. Web. 13 Nov. 2011.

Johnson, Jeanine. “An overview of “Mirror”.” Poetry for Students. Detroit: Gale. Literature Resource Center. Web. 13 Nov. 2011.

Plath, Sylvia. “Mirror” The Bedford Introduction to Literature. Ed. Michael Meyer. 9th ed. Boston: Bedford / St. Martin’s, 2011. 879-880. Print.

 

 


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