I am 17 years old and currently taking a college English course. When we were asked to analyze one of the numerous poems we had studied this lesson, I was overjoyed to learn that Sylvia Plath's poem was one of them. I had analyzed this poem before on my own, and I must say that it is perhaps my favourite poem to date.
The last part of this poem changes the meaning of everything else in the previous lines. This poem is about the aging process and more specifically, the woman coming to the realization that, one day, she will die. Another interesting point to make about this poem is the aversion from the mirror to the lake. It is important to note the fact that Sylvia tried to drown herself. With that in mind, the water and the mirror have similarities (most notably the ability to reflect); but the lake can be skewed (i.e. ripples in the water).
Jeffery from Orlando (see comments above, near top, Sept 4th 2002) has the right idea with his comments this poem, I agree whole-heartedly with him. To me, the entire meaning of the poem is this: Sylvia is simply using the mirror as a symbol of her abject horror at old age and its ravages on her face. This is something which women all over the world can identify with. She is depressed that her youth is over, and the mirror has no sympathy, it simply reflects her pain.
Personally this poem is a great representation of the human will power just being treaded and treaded upon yet the poor soul just laughing in authority's face. This poem is almost reminiscent of Charlotte Perkins Gilman's In both works no one will believe the character is crazy or sick, and in the poem's case or let her die. Another work reminescent of "Lady Lazarus" is a song entitled "Trouble Breathing" by the indie-rock band Alkaline Trio. Maybe writers have been inspired by the open soul poem as this. I personally have become accustomed to reciting this poem everywhere.
In writing this poem, Plath is but 'old'. Thus, when she describes the reflection being that of 'an old woman', I begin to comprehend what Plath feels and appears to herself. Life was too disrupted by sadness, misfortune, and depression that she feels nothing remains for her to do or that any sense of esteem has wasted. hence, the concept of 'old'; used, weary, exhausted and no sense of renewal within her life.
Higginson, Meagan Calogeras (Editor)
Over 1000 poems by more than 600 poets living in 50 countries and writing in 25 languages, presented in both English and their original languages.
A type of poem characterized by brevity, compression, and the expression of feeling. Most of the poems in this book are lyrics. The anonymous "Western Wind" epitomizes the genre:
The mirror in the poem symbolizes truth. Truth is a powerful tool in the piece. The mirror is cold and sharp like its touch. When you look into a mirror you only see what is there, the phase "Whatever I see I swallow immediately" supports my statement. If a person has flaws a mirror will be straight forward and display them with no hesitation "Searching my reaches for what she really is." In the first stanza, the "I am not cruel, only truthful" phrase reveals the mirror's personality and charter. Unlike humans a mirror cannot judge her with opinions. Sylvia Plath uses onomatopoeia to give the mirror human characteristics. On line five she writes "The eye of a little god, four-cornered" which shows that the mirror is given God-like powers over the women. It becomes almost an obsessive relationship between the mirror and the women because she looks to the mirror for comfort only to confronted with the truth about your youth wasting away.
A concrete representation of a sense impression, a feeling, or an idea. Imagery refers to the pattern of related details in a work. In some works one image predominates either by recurring throughout the work or by appearing at a critical point in the plot. Often writers use multiple images throughout a work to suggest states of feeling and to convey implications of thought and action. Some modern poets, such as Ezra Pound and William Carlos Williams, write poems that lack discursive explanation entirely and include only images. Among the most famous examples is Pound's poem "In a Station of the Metro":
I believe that this poem has a hidden meaning and shouldn't just be taken at face value. I feel that Plath uses the mirror as a symbol of herself. Yet, in the second stanza she describes a woman who looks into the mirror/lake. I also believe that this is her. One refers to her sane state of mental health (the mirror) and the other refers to the insane person within Plath. She describeds herself as "silver"(I believe this is a play on Sylvia) "and exact" meaning that she is a normal being with no disturbed thoughts or uncontrolled emotions.
A figure of speech in which a writer or speaker says less than what he or she means; the opposite of exaggeration. The last line of Frost's "Birches" illustrates this literary device: "One could do worse than be a swinger of birches."
An interruption of a work's chronology to describe or present an incident that occurred prior to the main time frame of a work's action. Writers use flashbacks to complicate the sense of chronology in the plot of their works and to convey the richness of the experience of human time. Faulkner's story "A Rose for Emily" includes flashbacks.