Sylvia Plath Mirror

Topics: Confessional poetry, Sylvia Plath, Ted Hughes Pages: 6 (2147 words) Published: April 2, 2011

Truth or lie? What do we prefer to hear?


The paper analyzes the poem “Mirror“, written by Sylvia Plath. What it wants to show are the multiple meanings which depend on the different readers. The paper is intended to show the importance of the “mirror” and its reflection of the person looking into it. This paper also explains how a poem can serve a writer as an instrument to describe her/his life and feelings on a sheet of paper. Silvia Plath´s husband was abusive to her. She felt lost, she was empty and had no satisfying love in her life. But mess in her life was not caused only by her husband. The purpose of this paper is also to answer the hidden question if these personal things have something in common with the poem and if she was not in some way trying to find her own identity in that “Mirror”.

A short life summary

Sylvia Plath was an American poet from Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts. She lived a very short thirty-year life which was riddled with stress and depression. In much of her later poetry, Sylvia Plath sought to give birth to a creative or “deep” self hidden within her.[1] At the age of 20 she tried to commit a suicide. But this try was unsuccessful. She died at the age of 31 – after committing another (but this time successful for her) suicide in 1963. Before she did so, she had written a few confessional poems. The confessional poetry of the mid-twentieth century dealt with subject matter that previously had not been openly discussed in American poetry. Before then, the main issue of poetry implicitly included little of the poet´s private life, instead focusing upon public issues using a detached persona. The new “confessional” poems removed the mask that poets had been hiding behind and proved an insight into the private lives of the poets.[2] The poem “Mirror” is also one of the these poems, in which Sylvia exposes her private experiences, feelings and depression. That is why this poem is dark, full of unhappiness, and only picture the world from a pessimistic point of view. Nevertheless, it is not only about her life and feelings, there are many other people involved.

What or Who is the “Mirror”

“Something that truthfully reflects or gives a true picture of something else.”[3] That would be found as a definition of these things in any dictionary. There are many other things with the same function as a mirror. Windows, glasses, lakes and puddles are all means of showing ones reflection. A description used by Sylvia Plath is very similar: “I am silver and exact. I have no preconceptions. What ever I see I swallow immediately. Just as it is, unmisted by love or dislike.”[4] The “Mirror” states that whatever it sees it takes in automatically, meaning that it is objective in every way. Does not matter if it is a close friend or an enemy. It does not deal with any feelings, neither love nor hatred.“I am not cruel, only truthful. The eye of a little god, four-cornered.”[5] The mirror´s purpose is not to be cruel, but to be equal. As it relates itself to “a little god”, it is supposed to be fairly-minded. The function is not to satisfy the subject looking into the mirror by showing him/her the person they want to see , but to display that person the way he/she really is. However, hearing the truth is something very hard to deal with in this life. Would any human being dares to claim: “I have no preconceptions”? There is very few people whose answer to this question would be “yes”. Still, Sylvia Plath is one of them. As her life was mostly full of sadness and loneliness, slowly but surely, she had been losing her feelings and interest in the world and in the others. What is to be pointed in this paper is that Sylvia Plath actually represents the “Mirror”. That it is her, “…meditating on the opposite wall”[6]. Meditate is a human characteristic, so the mirror is taking in a human habit. “The opposite wall”...

Bibliography: Freedman, William. “The Monster in Plath´s Mirror.” Papers on Language and Literature Vol. 108, No: 5, October, 1993: pp. 152 – 169.
Ekmekcioglu, Neslihan. “Sylvia Plath´s Mirrors Reflecting Various Guises of Self.” World Literature in English, Vol. 5, No: II – July, 2009: pp. 92 – 100.
Plath, Sylvia. The Journals of Sylvia Plath. New York: Dial Press, 1982.
Plath, Sylvia. Collected Poems. Ed. Ted Hughes. New York: HarperPerennial, 1992: p. 154
Internet sources:
Hughes, Ted. "Sylvia Plath and her journals." Jstore. (accessed Spring, 1982).
Gould Axelrod, Steven. "The Mirror and the Shadow: Plath 's Poetics of Self-Doubt."Jstore. (accessed Autumn, 1985).
[1] Sylvia Plath, The Journals of Sylvia Plath (New York: Dial Press, 1982), p
[4] Sylvia Plath, “Collected Poems” (New York: HarperPerennial, 1992), p. 154.
[7] Neslihan Ekmekcioglu, „Sylvia Plath´s Mirrors Reflecting Various Guises of Self.“ (World Literature in English, 2009), p. 100
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