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Mirrors by Sylvia Plath

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Josephine Lee

on 7 October 2014

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Transcript of Mirrors by Sylvia Plath

Second Stanza
Now I am a lake. A woman bends over me,

(metaphor: transformation of mirror reflects transformation of the woman) (caesura, end-stopped)

Searching my reaches for what she really is.

Then she turns to those liars, the candles or the moon. (personification/metaphor shows she is not satisfied with her appearance)
I see her back, and reflect it faithfully.

She rewards me with tears and an agitation of hands.
I am important to her. She comes and goes. (caesura)

Each morning it is her face that replaces the darkness.

In me she has drowned a young girl, and in me an old woman

Rises toward her day after day, like a terrible fish.
First Stanza
Presentation by:
Bonnie H, Christina C, Gianna N, Isabel V

I 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 a 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 long

I think it is part of my heart. But it flickers.

Faces and darkness separate us over and over.

Mirror by Sylvia Plath
born October 27, 1932 in Boston, Massachusetts-February 11, 1963
published first poem at age eight
won many contests
kept a journal since 1944 (age 12)
Otto Plath, her dad, dies when she is eight
scholarship to Smith College in 1951
severe depression symptoms
after graduation form Smith, Fulbright scholarship to Cambridge University
married Ted Hughes, an English poet, in 1956
leaves her for Assia Gutmann Wevill in 1962
commits suicide months later by inhaling gas from the kitchen oven
wrote many poems during these months
known for intense, dark themes
first stanza: her childhood
second stanza: depression in later years
Historical Era
This poem was written in 1961
The American Feminist Movement took place between 1960-1970
The original focus of the movement was to create equal job opportunities for both men and women
Sylvia Plath was aging and starting to face struggles with her appearance
The poem is centered around feminism; woman looks in the mirror daily
She is upset with her appearance and that troubles her
Likewise before the movement, women felt insecure and troubled
The women's troubles with her appearance and age are similar to that of a woman's troubles with equality
Literary Era
Confessional Poetry/Postmodernism:
Origins in British Romantic poets of the 19th century
Reaction to academic poetry of the 1920s and 1930s
Emerged in the U.S. during the late 1950s and continued through the early 1960s
Poets include Robert Lowell (founder), Anne Sexton, Sylvia Plath
Often called poetry "of the personal" - deals with private experiences including trauma, suicide, and mental illness
Discusses topics that were previously unacceptable in American poetry
Usually written in the 1st person and free verse
Ex: Lowell's Life Studies is about his experience in a mental hospital
Mirror and Confessional Poetry
The woman is Sylvia, seeking her true self in the mirror - relates to "personal" aspect
Shows the darkness and insecurity she faced - this was a subject previously unspoken about
Speaker: The mirror
Occasion: The woman is unhappy with her appearance
Audience: Other insecure women
Purpose: Showing the insecurities of both women and Sylvia herself
Setting: Room and lake
Tone: Gloomy, melancholic, frank
(end stopped)
(Pink reminds us of a red heart)
(Extraordinarily perfect in reflecting)
I am a silver, unbiased mirror.
I take in everything I see exactly as it is.
I am truthful, like a god.
Usually, I stare at the pink opposite wall, which I think is part of my heart.
But we are sometimes separated by faces and darkness.

Now I am a lake. A woman looks at me, searching for her true self.
She refuses to face reality by trying to see herself in the light of the candles or the moon, but I show her her real appearance.
At this, she cries and splashes her hands in the water.
I am important to her as every morning I see her face.
I show her that she is no longer young, but old.
2 stanzas of 9 lines each
1st stanza is a description of the mirror
2nd stanza introduces the woman, shows what the woman thinks of herself through her actions
1st line of each stanza has caesura and is end-stopped
2nd stanza somewhat reflects the 1st, but it's not exact
Poem' s Effect
diction and personification of mirror: insecurities
Uses cacophony as a way to portray the mirror's candid style

May sound harsh, but only reveals the truth
Poem Quiz
1. How did Sylvia Plath die?
A. Contaminated seafood
B. By taking sleeping pills and hiding under her porch
C. Opening the gas and sticking her head in the oven
D. Slitting her throat
2. The poem is centered around which historical movement?

F. Confucianism
G. Feminist Movement
H. The Cold War
I. Civil Rights Movement
3. Which of the following best describes confessional poetry?
A. Spiritual
B. Personal
C. Literature
D. Sci-fi
4. What is a reoccurring theme in Plath's poems?
F. Love
G. Vengeance
H. Redemption
I. Death/Darkness
5. What is the rhyme scheme of the poem?

B. No rhyme scheme
6. "She rewards me with tears and an agitation of hands" is an example of what literary device?
F. Pun
G. Synechdoche
H. Irony
I. Oxymoron
7. Who is the main narrator of the poem?

A. the Fish
B. the Lake
C. the Mirror
D. the Woman
8. How does the woman in the poem feel about herself?
F. Young and beautiful
G. Overconfident and strong
H. Lazy and insane
I. Old and insecure
Five Other Poems by Sylvia Plath
Suicide off Egg Rock
Lady Lazarus
Mad Girl's Love Song
Based on :
bad family relations
mental pain
Harsh, forthright

Works Cited
Preconception: An idea formed before knowing if it is true

Agitation: The act of briskly stirring something, especially a liquid
Full transcript