Critically analyze the uniqueness of Sylvia Plath in the poems "Mirror" and "Morning Song."

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mthiringer eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In the poems "Mirror" and "Morning Song," the most obvious sign of Sylvia Plath's uniqueness is found in her nearly uncomfortable level of honesty in portraying the inner life of a woman. "Mirror" was first published in the posthumous collection entitled Crossing the Water (1971) and a note in the front-matter indicates that it was likely written in 1960 or 1961. “Morning Song” was also published posthumously in Plath’s most famous poetry collection, Ariel, in 1965. 

“Mirror” is a first-person-voiced poem that describes what the mirror “sees” day in and day out without using very emotional terms. The mirror describes itself as “not cruel, only truthful,” and although the tone is one of fact-reporting without judgment, the mirror’s description of the woman who owns it warrants sympathy. The fact that the mirror offers none makes it seem cruel. Even though personification is a common literary tool, there is something about Plath’s creation of distance between the mirror’s observations and the mirror’s self-perception that is downright eerie. Plath also uses the personification of the mirror to subtly suggest some level of judgment (outside or societal, perhaps) cast upon women as they get older, or don’t “age well." The woman observing herself in the mirror is clearly distraught as she gets older. 

“Morning Song” is honestly the most unique poem I have ever encountered about childbirth and nursing a newborn and all of the emotions that go along with that. Plath’s expressions toward (presumably) her daughter Frieda are somewhat hostile, which is not how people expect a new mother to feel about her baby. She claims, “I’m no more your mother / Than the cloud that distills a mirror. . .” and describes herself as “cow-heavy and floral / In my Victorian nightgown.” These lines are admissions that many new mothers can probably relate to, but rarely dare to put words to. The fact that Plath was brave enough to do so in a time when talking about these things was only just becoming acceptable is extremely unique.