What figures of speech are used in the poem "Mirror" by Silvia Plath?

Figures of speech used in the poem "Mirror" by Silvia Plath include personification, metaphor, extended metaphor, and simile. The mirror is personified, as are the wall and later the lake. Plath uses metaphor to compare the powerful mirror to a god. The lake serves as an extended metaphor for the mirror. Drowning is a metaphor for aging, and an old woman is compared to a "terrible fish" through simile.

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The main figures of speech used in Sylvia Plath's poem "Mirror" are personification and metaphor. There are also examples, however, of symbolism and color imagery.

The eponymous mirror of the poem is a symbol representing self-reflection. As people look into the mirror, they see what they have become and thus also remember what they once were. In the second stanza, the woman who looks into the mirrored surface of the lake sees in her reflection the "young girl" she has "drowned" and also "an old woman / Ris[ing] toward her day after day." The "young girl" is of course the woman's memory of herself when she was young, and the "old woman" is the ageing woman that this "young girl" has since become. The woman thus reflects sadly on how she has aged, and so the mirror symbolizes the dangers of superficial self-reflection.

There are also throughout the poem numerous references to color and light. In the first stanza, the mirror is "silver," and the wall it reflects is "pink." These colors connote preciousness and positivity. At the end of the first stanza, however, there is "darkness," and this darkness becomes more pronounced in the second stanza. The reference to "the moon" connotes the darkness of night, and towards the end of the second stanza, there is another direct reference to "the darkness." The darkness of the second half of the poem replacing the lightness and color of the first half of the poem mirrors the ageing process that so haunts the woman who looks into the lake. The darkness represents her old age replacing the brightness and vitality of her youth. The woman becomes so absorbed in her awareness of this ageing process as to become almost consumed by "the darkness." Color imagery is thus used in the poem to further emphasize the dangers of superficial self-reflection.

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“Mirror” by Sylvia Plath contains a few different figures of speech. The mirror itself is an example of personification. This inanimate object actually is the first-person speaker relating their ideas and feelings to the reader. The mirror is active in thought, motion, and personality:

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.

Plath uses a metaphor to emphasize how observant and all-knowing the supposedly square or rectangular mirror is. She equates it with the “eye of a little god, four-cornered.”

The wall facing the mirror also is personified, making both inanimate objects appear to be companions.

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.

The mirror seems enamored with and connected to the cute, freckled wall (as if it were a face) to the point where it becomes part of the mirror’s heart. The fact that the mirror even has a heart and that the wall “flickers” makes the situation seem like a flirtatious, romantic relationship.

The second stanza is an extended metaphor, where the mirror compares itself to a lake. Plath also labels sources of dim light—candles and the moon—as liars. Through this metaphor, she emphasizes how they are distorting and deceptive, in contrast to the clear and honest mirror/lake.

The lake is an example of not only extended metaphor but also personification. It actively sees and reflects a woman's face and even considers itself “important to her.” The lake declares,

In me she has drowned a young girl, and in me an old woman
Rises toward her day after day, like a terrible fish.

Drowning is a metaphor for aging; the young girl dies and returns as a hag. Plath ends the poem with the simile “like a terrible fish” to emphasize how repulsive the old woman has become. Ironically, the woman morphs into a nonhuman entity (e.g., the fish) in a reverse form of personification.

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A figure of speech in poetry is also known as literary devices or poetic devices. The main figure of speech used in the poem is one of personification.

Personification according to the eNotes site is:

a figure of speech in which abstractions, animals, ideas, and inanimate objects are endowed with human form, character, traits, or sensibilities.

What this means is that non-human things are given traits that only humans typically have. An example of personification would be "the wind is laughing" or "the clouds are screaming". Wind cannot laugh and clouds cannot scream. Only people can laugh and scream.

The entire poem "Mirror", by Sylvia Plath" is a personification poem. The personification is denoted by the title of the poem. Without the title, one could justifiably assume that the poem is about a person given the human characteristics depicted in the poem itself.

Whatever I see, I swallow immediately.

Here, the line refers to a mirror swallowing the reflection seen in the glass. Mirrors cannot swallow anything, but people can. Therefore, this examples the personification used in the poem.

Another figure of speech that exists in the poem is one of hyperbolic language. A hyperbole, as defined by eNotes, is:

obvious and deliberate exaggeration or an extravagant statement.

Basically, a hyperbole is an over-exaggeration of the truth. Here, an example of hyperbolic language is:

Now I am a lake.

The mirror is stating (personification- mirrors cannot state anything) that it is a lake. This qualifies as a hyperbole because a mirror is nothing like a lake- it is small and has no depth (physically). The hyperbole exists because the mirror is describing how deeply one can look into a mirror and it would seem that the mirror is endless and deep.

The last example of figurative speech in the poem is one of a simile. A simile is a comparison between two things using the words "like" or "as".

Rises toward her day after day, like a terrible fish.

The comparison is the image of the woman reflected in the mirror to that of a fish.

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