Sylvia Plath MirrorI am silver and exact. I have no preconceptions.Whatever I see I swallow immediately.Just as it is, unmisted by love or dislike.I am not cruel, only truthful –The eye of the little god, four cornered.Most of the time I meditate on the opposite wall.It is pink, with speckles. I have looked at it so longI think it is a part of my heart. But it flickers.Faces and darkness separate us over and over.Now I am a lake. A woman bends over me.Searching my reaches for what she really is.Then she turns to those liars, the candles or the moon.I see her back, and reflect it faithfullyShe rewards me with tears and an agitation of hands.I am important to her. She comes and goes.Each morning it is her face that replaces the darkness.In me she has drowned a young girl, and in me an old womanRises toward her day after day, like a terrible fish.
“Literary devices” are the tools a critic uses to make it easier to talk about a poem, not
so different from the gadgetry Batman uses to fight crime! Poetry makes you like Batman.
“A hare paused amid the gorse and trembling bellflowers and said its prayer to the rainbow through the spider’s web.”
Arthur Rimbaud, “After the Flood”
“I have measured out my life with coffee spoons;”
T.S. Eliot “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock”
“My brain hurt like a warehouse, it had no room to spare.”
David Bowie, “Five Years”
Ex. The old house sighed.
The saxophone howled.
That bacon avocado sandwich really called out to me.
“He wore his love for his woman like a thorny crown.”
Paul Simon, “Slip Sliding Away”
-A point of thematic shift or division in a poem.
-Often denotes a transition from question to answer or from problem to solution.
In a group of two or three, revisit Plath’s “The Mirror” armed with these literary devices. Find three occurrences of any of the devices throughout the poem; be specific and find a line to quote. Additionally, take a stab at explaining why Plath might have chosen to employ the technique. How is she using it?
Take ten minutes or so.
Allusion (hint: think mythological)
What does this line say about appearance?
The mirror is still speaking, but does this apply to the woman?
If appearance changes, what happens to this “part of [the] heart?”
“Each morning it is her face that replaces the darkness.” (ln. 16)
“Over and over” suggests continuity
and perhaps even monotony.
The image of the woman’s face passing
by the mirror evokes a visual similar
to the movement of the moon, also
giving a reference point for the consistent
and unwavering passage of time.
Allusion to Narcissus: Young, gorgeous, and… DEAD!
SO taken with his own reflection that he could not leave. He starved to death.
Does the myth change how we might read:“In me she has drowned a young girl,” (17)?
Mirror Versus Lake:How are the two different?
The lake has volume and depth; things are obscured beneath the surface of the lake.
The reflective surface of the lake constantly shifts around, warping the image.
The shortcomings of the mirror reveal the reality of an internal self that is not visible.
How far through the poem does this shift occur?
Wait, she killed someone!?
Nah. Let’s summon one of our classroom friends to help us out:
“Plath writes from the perspective of a mirror. The old lady is constantly using the mirror to judge herself. The mirror may be able to judge someone’s aging by looks, but it can’t judge internal aging.
A mirror cannot judge someone’s character or feelings. While the old lady is suffering
over aging by staring at herself in the mirror, the
mirror realizes that, “In me…” […] The old lady
Is judging herself off what she looks like and not
by the way she acts or feels. Plath demonstrates
how easy it is to misjudge yourself.”
The drowning represents the death of living
under society’s construct of beauty, a norm.
The second half suggests an apprehension
towards the mystery and inevitably of what