Sylvia Plath is a name that is famously known in literature as one of the most distinguished female writers of America and the first to receive the prestigious Pulitzer Prize posthumously. Born in Massachusetts on October 27, 1932, she began to have an interest in writing at a very young age. In her whole lifetime, she was able to produce a lot of published works, including an impressive list of poems and stories. In her academic life, Plath has received a lot of prizes and awards including a scholarship to Smith College in 1950 and a Fulbright Scholarship to Cambridge University in 1955.
Plath was gifted with an amazing talent in writing, constantly “was at the top of her class and should logically have been very happy” (Welz). But this was not her case. In fact, Plath was constantly plagued by sufferings and depression. The awards and literary achievements did not always compensate for her feeling of disappointment in herself that is especially emphasized with even just one failure like her suicidal attempt in August of 1953 after she was not accepted to a writing course in Harvard.
And yet, people around her were not aware that such depression was forming inside of her because she always projected a happy, contented facade. In a lot of ways, Plath’s personality is always disturbed. She lacked confidence in herself and had a stressful way of viewing life. After he suicide attempt, she was hospitalized “at Maclean Hospital and was treated with insulin therapy and shock treatments” (Welz). But she continued pursuing her writing which served more than just her passion but as her solace and escape route. In 1956, she met and married her husband who is also a writer, Ted Hughes.
Their marriage had been good in the beginning and they produced two children. But in September of 1962, a few months after Plath learned of her husband’s extramarital affairs, the two separated. This is one of the most significant and painful experience in her life. It was evident “Sylvia had other needs that clashed with her literary ambitions” (Welz). But she did not project this outwardly in her life. As much as she was a very talented and creative writer that was recognized well in the literary society, she also had a lot of personal needs that are often unfulfilled.
At some point, Plath also served as an English teacher at Smith College, “an obvious favorite subject area” (Welz). But she also gave up because she felt dissatisfied and overwhelmed by her work. This led to an increase rate of withdrawal and loneliness, pushing her to write more but limiting her coping and social interaction skills. Most of this feeling was reflected in her poem Mirror that was first written and published in 1961. Mirror was one of the poems that signified a turning point in her style of writing, around the time when life was beginning to become the hardest chapters of her life.
The poem is an honest but sad piece of work of that tackles issues of women in the society and in there own selves. It talks about one’s contemplation of all that is hidden and kept, the dream of being accepted, the need to reflect the truth, and the struggle to find one’s importance and purpose in life. “In Mirror, however, the glass is both subject and speaker at once” (Freedman). It is a poem wherein the object and the author itself are identified as one and they reflect the same qualities and experiences. Plath began the poem by describing the object as something silver and exact.
Then, the poem branched out by using a description or characteristic that both the mirror and the author shared through the line “I have no preconceptions” (Plath line 1). The author’s personality is one that is not prejudiced compared to the others. Just like the mirror, she is truthful to others but remain dishonest to herself. The poem continues with a trait that both the author and the mirror, “Whatever you see, I swallow immediately” (Plath 2). The author’s personality is to let others dictate how she would feel.
There was constant pressure in her part to always do well, having been a model daughter and student her whole life. “It is the nature and occupation of the mirror self-effacingly to reflect the other” (Freedman). Both the author and the mirror were only passive objects, because they consume whatever is presented to them and reflect it as it is without offering personal beliefs and opinions. It is important to note that the poem was written during the time that Plath had a miscarriage and her marriage with Hughes was facing complications.
As a person, Plath was also maturing and becoming more afraid of her life that she feels was completely failing. The second stanza of the poem begins with the line “Now I am a lake” which reflects a transformation or an evolution that is happening both to the object and to the author (Plath 10). Despite these changes, the purpose they both served remained consistent and the same. The poem reflects that the woman is “searching my reaches for what she really is” (Plath 11). This indicates the groping for acceptance and importance that everyone is vying for. These are also part of the unfulfilled needs that Plath had her whole life.
With everything she had achieved, she still remained discontented because she was not able to embrace her true self and rather rely on other people’s opinions on her. Plath’s experiences, sufferings, frustrations, and dreams in life are definitely reflected in the poem Mirror. As a writer, she was very talented and deserving of her achievements. But as a person, she had a lot of needs that she wasn’t able to voice out and enjoy in her life. It is probably expected that she will take her life again in 1963, and finally succeed. Her unusual, creative, but sometimes overanalyzed perspective in life resulted to a poem as powerful as the Mirror.
And the poem’s lines were able to encapsulate the issue of every women seeking for individual identity, fulfillment, and happiness. Works Cited Freedman, William. “The Monster in Plath’s Mirror. ” Papers on Language and Literature. Vol. 108 (5). Oct. , 1993: 152-169. Gale Database: Contemporary Literary Criticism. 1999. Web. 15 July 2010. Retrieved from <http://www. sylviaplath. de/plath/freedman. html>. Plath, Sylvia. Mirror. Retrieved from <http://vmlinux. org/ilse/lit/plath. htm>. Welz, Joan. “Biography of Sylvia Plath. ” American Poems. 2009. Web. 15 July 2010. Retrieved from <http://www. americanpoems. com/poets/sylviaplath>.