The theme of identity is comprehensively explored in the poem ‘Mirror’, written in 1961 by American poet Sylvia Plath.
She was an admired individual of the 20th century who expressed her own mental anguish and difficulties in life through her autobiographical work.The two stanzas of the poem are set in two different scenes; the first describes a mirror that hangs opposite to a pink speckled wall and the other illustrates a woman that visits a lake every morning. The poem begins with an unidentified speaker describing itself, as if creating a riddle for the reader to figure out. ‘I am silver and exact’. Though it is obvious that the speaker is a personified mirror, as hinted by the title, it is unusual for an inanimate object to be given a starring role.
Perhaps Plath wanted to show us how powerful and influential this object was in her life. By staring into a mirror, you can see a reflection of yourself and every detail that exists in you, no matter the charming dimples or horrid wrinkles. Maybe it was a search for self; during that particular time, Plath had just had her first child and was in an unhappy relationship with her husband, whilst suffering with depression.
It was the idea of exploration of uncertain self that inspired her.Personification is used to endow the mirror with human traits, ‘Whatever I see I swallow immediately’. The verb ‘swallow’ gives the mirror creature-like qualities and portrays it in a sinister way. The determiner ‘whatever’ suggests that it will engulf anything, no matter who or what is in front of the mirror, emphasizing its monstrosity but also suggesting that it forms no judgement and treats everyone fairly as it is accepting with no questions asked. Plath accentuates this again when she tells us that the mirror is ‘not cruel, only truthful’.Unlike the people that tell you the beautiful lies in the real world, the mirror is not to be deluded by feelings and emotions as it is ‘unmisted by love or dislike’.
It will confront you truthfully even if the facts are frightening. Although it can be distressing and hurtful , it suggests that the mirror is reliable and can be