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Poetry Analysis Notes


by Sylvia Plath
interpreted by Asya Gyurjyan

I am silver and exact. I have no preconceptions.
What ever you 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 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 faithfully.
She 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 woman
Rises toward her day after day, like a terrible fish.

Poet: Sylvia Plath was born on October 27, 1932, in Boston, Massachusetts. Plath was a great student, and won a scholarship to Smith College, where she published her first short story, "Sunday at the Mintons". Wile still in college Plath won a summer job as a "guest managing editor" at the magazine. After the job ended, she suffered a nervous breakdown, tried to commit suicide, and was hospitalized. She later returned to school to finish her senior year and won a Fulbright to England, and went to Cambridge after graduation, where she met poet Ted Hughes in February 1956.They married four months later. Plath took a job teaching at Smith, which she stayed for a year before quitting to write full time. Plath and Hughes relationship did not go too well, after her second child in 1962, Plath discovered that her husband was having an affair. Hughes left the family to move in with his lover, and Plath desperately struggled against her own emotional depression. She moved to London and wrote dozens of her best poems in the winter of 1962. At that time Plath wrote a novel called "The Bell Jar" that was published in early 1963 but received mediocre reviews. With sick children and a depressed life, Plath took her own life in February 1963 at age 30. Hughes edited several volumes of Plath's poetry, which appeared after her death, including Ariel (1965), Crossing the Water (1971), and Collected Poems (1981), which won the Pulitzer Prize in 1982.

Vocabulary: Preconceptions - Prejudices; ideas or opinions formed in advance.

Type of poem:
Dramatic Poem - This poem meets the criteria for dramatic poetry even though it has no dialogue. When you read this poem it seems that the reader is speaking to you directly and that is what makes it a dramatic poem.

Speaker: A mirror

General audience, describing how a person can change depending to personal agony depression or old age.

Tone: The tone is very deep, sad, and creates a haunting felling.

In this version of Sylvia Plath’s poetry, a mirror describes itself and what its refection does. It’s as though the author, in her lonely agony and depression realizes herself in her reflection. The poem describes a changing stage through which a woman’s reflection changes from a young view to different look, a look of depression and suicide. Perhaps the author is truly describing herself and the changes she goes through, and how her looks and emotions are changed do to her agony and depression. The poem also shows that we uncover ourselves in the mirror, see the every day changes that come upon us. We see and discover ourselves in our own image and see what we have become through the hardship of life.

Structure of poem: Free verse

Examples of poetic techniques used in the poem:

"Whatever I see I swallow immediately" Personification
"I am not cruel, only truthful"
" Now I am a lake"
" Each morning it is her face that replaces the darkness"
"Rises toward her day after day, like a terrible fish"
"Most of the time I meditate on the opposite wall"

Connection between the poem and the poet's life and/or times: Sylvia Plath had a hard and depressed life after her husband’s betrayal. Having two sick children and a heavy life, Plath was pulled into depression and an agonizing life. In this time of her life Plath wrote poems expressing her feelings, thoughts and her life. Do to her hard life and suicidal thoughts, Plath was influenced to write a poem that described what was left of her in her midst of her depression. She shows in this poem her reflection changing with time influenced by her condition, told in the point of view of a mirror.

Most memorable quote from the poem:
"In me she has drowned a young girl, and in me an old woman"

© Smelli Notes 2001