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Mirror
Mirror

I. Pre-reading Task

  1. When do you generally use a mirror?

    Answer: When we are ready for an outing we check our appearance; we are pleased to see ourselves with make-up; we see if anything is wrong with our attire or hair or make-up.


  2. Is it possible to do without a mirror?
    Answer: Generally speaking it is not possible to do all these things without a mirror.

  3. Here is a list of possible reasons why one uses a mirror. Tick the one you agree with:
    (a) To check one's appearance
    (b) To look beautiful
    (c) To make sure that one is neat and tidy before going out.
    (d) To check the face for a pimple or a gray hair
    (e) To apply make-up
    (f) To make a phone call
    (g) As a decorative item at home

    Answer: Among the above possible reasons, (a), (c), (d), and (e) are the reasons why one uses the mirror.


II. Summary
It is said that literature is the mirror of society. But a mirror reflects the physical life of every human being — a reflection of truth. This is hard to accept, but a mirror always reflects the truth. In the poem Mirror, written by Sylvia Plath, the narration is about the reflection of a woman’s life. The poem elaborates the difficulties, sorrows and sufferings of a woman’s life. It also focuses on the stages of a woman’s life. The poetess has also defined that the path of life is not an easy-going process. It is mingled with hardship and emotion.

The poem is also about the life of the poetess. She has expressed her experiences in life. The reader gets a touch of the real-life experiences she has gained in her life. Her creative thought has a good and effective impact on the mind of the reader. She has also used personification. The important theme of the poem is the consequence of old-age on a woman’s life. When a woman is growing old, she goes through a tough life-period. Then her life is filled with agony and pain. Life becomes miserable for her. But she still tries to live along with these feelings. All these situations are true and the poetess has beautifully expressed these thoughts in a simple manner.

The poetess has significantly compared the differences between truth and falsehood. In the poem she compares the mirror with a candle and the moon. She has used personification for this comparison. The mirror is not like the human being having emotion. It has no emotion. It makes clear that where emotion is not attached nothing is biased. Only truth can be seen in the mirror. It is always true to the reflection of a human being. The human body is reflected on the mirror purely as it is. But the candle makes a difference. It flavours life. Even the moon also makes life more beautiful than the real life. Both the candle and the moon add something than one really possesses. This is the basic difference. The mirror always gives a photocopy of one’s life. So it indicates that a candle and the moon are not true to life like the mirror, they are not free from bias.

Again the poetess has used personification. She has depicted the very similarity between water and mirror. Both the water and mirror reflect an image. Water, like mirror, gives a true reflection of the possession of an image. There is no emotion, no bias, and no partiality. It is only based on truth.
The meaning of the last part of the poem bears something different from the previous stanzas. It just supports the fact that there is a change in everyone’s life, even the life of a woman. Since childhood till death, a woman comes through various phases. Each phase of life has a different experience. The woman realizes this fact. And all these stages are also reflected in the mirror. In old age, a woman cannot get back her youthful looks. A mirror is an eye-witness of the life tenure of a woman. It becomes her partner during the panicky situation from youth to old age.

The most important fact that we can learn from the poem is that though it is difficult to accept truth, we should realize and accept it. Another aspect of learning is that life goes through many changes. We have to challenge it and enjoy every phase of life.


III. Answer the following questions

  1. When the poet says that the mirror has no preconceptions it means:
    (i) it reflects back your image objectively
    (ii) it gives a biased view of the person
    (iii) it is emotionally involved with the person whose image it is trying to convey about the nature of the mirror.

    Answer: When the poet says that the mirror has no preconceptions it means that it is free from bias and it reflects back your image objectively.

  2. Why has the mirror been described as being ‘unmisted’? What is the image it is trying to convey about the nature of the mirror?

    Answer: The mirror doesn’t have emotion, love, like or dislike. It gives a reflection of an object as is it really is. So it is described as being ‘unmisted’. It tries to convey that is in favour of the hard reality of life, i.e. truth.

  3. How does the mirror ‘swallow’?  What is the poetic device used here?

    Answer: The mirror reflects an object as it is. Therefore, the poetess says that it swallows an object as it is; in other words, it accepts anything in its real form, without any flavouring or discolouration. The poetic device or figure of speech used here is a transferred epithet.

  4. From the poem find out the words that have been used to describe the mirror, e.g. exact, ... ...

    Answer: The other words used to describe the mirror are silver, exact, unmisted, truthful and lake.

  5. The mirror has been called a four-cornered god because
    (a) it is square shaped
    (b) like God it watches you unbiased and fair from all the four angles
    (c) it reflects back faithfully all that it sees

    Answer: The mirror has been called a four-cornered god because like God it watches you unbiased and fair from all the four angles.

  6. How does the mirror spend its time?

    Answer: Most of the time the mirror looks at the opposite wall. When it is dark, the mirror too is enveloped in darkness. At intervals, people come and look at themselves in the mirror.

  7. What disturbs its contemplation of the opposite wall?

    Answer: The faces of people who come to see their reflection and darkness after sunset disturb the mirror in its contemplation of the opposite wall.

  8. The ‘pink speckles’ refer to:
    a. the opposite wall that has been painted pink
    b. a person with a healthy pink face with freckles
    c. spots made on the mirror with red pain

    Answer: The ‘pink speckles’ refer to the opposite wall that has been painted pink.

  9. In the second stanza the mirror is compared to another object. What is it? Why do you think this comparison has been made?

    Answer: In the second stanza the mirror is compared to lake. There is similarity between a mirror and water. Because both can reflect the object as it is.

  10. What is the woman searching for in the depths of the pool?

    Answer: In the depths of the pool the woman searches for the reality of her appearance. She is unable to come to terms with her ageing appearance and keeps searching for a perfect, beautiful face. She also searches for her true identity and tries to find out what she really is. But she is not able to accept the reality and turns her back to the mirror to face candles and the moon (whom the mirror refers to as liars) who flatter and compliment her rather than showing her the reality.

  11. The phase ‘agitation of the hands’ means:
    a. the person is very upset
    b. the person’s hands are cold
    c. the person is worried

    Answer: The phase ‘agitation of the hands’ means a movement of the hands in a way that conveys that the person is very upset.

  12. Why does ‘she’ start crying?

    Answer: The woman is deeply depressed at seeing her true reflection. This depression paralyses and upsets her and she begins to cry.

  13. Why does the poet refer to the fish in the last line? Why has it been described as being ‘terrible’?

    Answer: ‘Terrible fish’ is the name given to a family of ancient, meat-eating fish. They were extremely big and ugly. The mirror says that the woman’s youth is over (has drowned) and now she is old and ugly like a terrible fish. The simile has been used to convey the frustration of an ageing woman who is forced to rise and face everyday, even though she resents the reality of her life. 


IV. There are a number of examples of personification in this poem. Can you find them?
Answer: In this poem first of all, a mirror is personified. A lake, candle, the moon and terrible fish are also examples of personification used in the poem.

V. Read the given lines and answer the questions that follow:
“A woman bends over me,
Searching my reaches for what she really is.
Then she turns to those liars, the candles or the moon.”

  1. What is the woman bending over?

    Answer: The woman is bending over the mirror and searching for the reality of her life.

  2. Why does the woman bend over?

    Answer: The woman wants to see her reflection at a close angle. She may be trying to convince herself that she is does not look old – she bends over, again and again to reassure herself and cross-check, almost as if that would change the reflection to a beautiful one.

  3. Is she satisfied what she observes? Give reasons for your answer.

    Answer: No she is not satisfied what she observes as she begins to cry, moves her hands in agitation and turns her back to the mirror.

  4. Why have the candles and the moon been called ‘liars’?

    Answer: The candles and the moon have been called liars because they are biased and not based on truth. They compliment the reflection of the woman and do not reflect the harsh reality.

  5. Why does she turn to these objects in spite of calling them liars?

    Answer: She turns to these objects in spite of calling them liars because the soft lighting that they give flatters and compliments her face and reflection.


VI. Imagine you are the mirror. Write a speech that you would like to deliver to the humans who came to see their reflections in your depths. You could begin like this ...

Good morning dear Humans
I feel honoured to have been given this opportunity to talk to all of you. All of you know I spend my lifetime reflecting all that comes before my all seeing eyes ... ... ...

It is my pleasure that I can reflect the face of anyone who comes to look at me. I have been observing the people and their appearances, their sorrows, sufferings, happiness and misery. I enjoy myself being with them. I reflect the truth but always it does not please the people who see their reflection. They are sometimes dejected because they cannot accept the truth. Of course, I do not deny that to accept the truth is a difficult task. I also share the real life experiences of human beings. I am happy if someone is happy in front of me, and sad if someone in front of me is sad. But I cannot share all these because I cannot talk. I analyse the human life span very closely. I am always the same. I am fixed. But I have seen people from their childhood to old age, from birth to death. I am not influenced by age. Young people may forget that they will age too; but I never forget that universal, harsh truth. I am unbiased for I know that human life is temporary. What is today beautiful, will be ugly tomorrow, and dead the day-after. Appearances, however beautiful, do not move me. I only wish that instead of simply reflecting back people’s external faces, I could show them their internal reality.

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