English literature reader
CBSE Class X (www.parishkritj.blogspot.com)
– Sylvia Plath.
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I am silver and exact. 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 -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 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.
preconceptions – an idea or opinion that is formed before you have enough information or experience unmisted – not mixed four-cornered – mirror watches unbiased and fair from all the four angles pink, with speckles – a person with a healthy pink face with freckles flickers – to keep going on and off agitation of hands – the person is very upset
Sylvia Plath through her poem ‘Mirror’ tries to reveal how human prefer the world of illusions. In this poem, the protagonist mirror monologuically narrates its character. The mirror says it is silver in colour and exact in appearance and has no prejudices about the objects that come before it. It says whatever appears before it, is suddenly swallowed without any alteration. In comparison to human the mirror does not have any emotions like love or hatred. The mirror says though its truthfulness does not please the onlooker, it does not have any intention to be cruel and it only likes to be truthful. The mirror metaphorically compares itself with eye of omnipresent God that sees an object from all the angles. It says it always contemplate looking into the opposite pink wall with speckles as it (wall) is always with the mirror, it considers the wall as its indispensable part. The wall remains with it except when darkness and object flickers (disturbs) them. The mirror metaphorically compares lake, which has the quality to reflect the object as a mirror does, with itself. When a woman bends over the lake and searches her real appearance in it, she is not satisfied with the reflection seen. So she shows agitation of hands and her tears to show her resentment and hatred towards the mirror. Then she runs behind those liars, the candles and moonlight, which give dim light unlike the mirror which sees her reality and reflect it faithfully. The mirror says though the woman dislikes mirror’s character but she cannot have an existence without it. So each morning she comes before it to replace the darkness. The woman when she was in her youthful glory used the mirror to access her appearance but now that beauty has been drowned (lost) in it and now when she looks into it she feels as if she has grown terribly old wherefrom she cannot have an escape. So she feels like a terrible fish out of water that struggles for its existence. The significance of using symbolic fish is insensitiveness, lack of romantic appeal, unattractiveness and helplessness.
ABOUT THE POET
It is indeed very interesting to know about the life of the poet ‘Sylvia Plath.’ Sylvia Plath (October 27, 1932–February 11, 1963) was an American poet, novelist and short story writer. Born in Massachusetts, she studied at Smith College and Newnham College Cambridge before receiving acclaim as a professional poet and writer. She married fellow poet Ted Hughes in 1956 and they lived together first in the United States and then England, having two children together: Frieda and Nicholas. Following a long struggle with depression and a marital separation, Plath committed suicide in 1963. Controversy continues to surround the events of her life and death, as well as her writing and legacy. She killed herself by placing her head inside an oven! She wrote many poems and novels. One of his famous novels is The Bell Jar.
P R A C T I S E
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What is the significance of personifying the mirror by the poet? What are the characters of the mirror narrated in the poem? Explain: ‘swallow’ and ‘preconceptions’. Why the mirror is compared with God’s eye? Explain: “opposite pink walls with speckles”. Why the mirror thinks the opposite wall is its heart? Why has the mirror been described as ‘unmisted’? What is the image that the poet is trying to convey about the mirror? What is the significance of comparing the mirror with lake? What is the woman searching for and what is her response after the search? How does the mirror spend its time? What is the woman searching for in the depths of the pool? What is the significance of using the symbolic words fish with relation to mirror? What is the woman’s response after her search? Why? How does the woman show her hatred towards the image seen in the mirror? What disturbs mirror’s contemplation on the opposite wall? Why is the mirror compared with a lake? Where does the woman find solace to get away from her frustration and why? How does the mirror swallow? What is the poetic device used here? Name the literary term which is used by the poet throughout the poem. How the woman drowned her youth? Mention the role of mirror in drowning her. What is the irony in the relationship between the mirror and the woman? What is the importance of the imagery implied through the use of the words ‘drowned’ and ‘rises’? Read the extract given below and answer the questions that follow. Write the answers in your answer sheet in one or two lines only. Number the answers correctly. I am silver and exact. 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 The eye of a little god, four-cornered. (a) What does the expression ‘I swallow immediately’ mean? (b) Why is the mirror compared to a four-cornered god? (c) What other qualities does the mirror boast of? (AI 2007) Read the extract given below and answer the questions that follow. Write the answers in your answer sheet in one or two lines only. Number the answers correctly. 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. (a) Name the poem and the poet. (b) How does the speaker spend his time? (c) What does ‘pink, with speckles’ mean? (Foreign 2010) Read the extract given below and answer the questions that follow. Write the answers in your answer sheet in one or two lines only. Number the answers correctly. 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. (a) Why is the mirror important to “her”? (b) Why does ‘she’ cry? (c) What does “agitation of hands” mean? (Delhi 2010)