CBSE Class X: English Communicative Poetry – Mirror

– SLYVIA PLATH

The poem ‘Mirror’ is an autobiographical account of mirror, highlighting its qualities. It reflects how a woman is disappointed and frustrated to see her gradually fading beauty and youth. It symbolizes the eternal truth of old age and loss of beauty in the course of life. The mirror is real and shining. It is unbiased. It shows what comes to it. It is a monologue of the protagonist Mirror who is free of any preconceptions and prejudice. It is not distorted by emotions of love or hatred as human beings do.

GIST OF THE POEM:

(Lines 1-4)

The mirror in the poem symbolizes the eternal truth of life. It is real and shining. It is silver in colour and appears perfectly smooth. It does not judge others with pre-conceived ideas like human beings. It does not have any pre-decided ideas and doesn’t get affected by love or dislike. It has no feelings, emotions and preferences. It reflects exact what comes to it. It shows the person’s accurate image from any kind of distortion. Since mirror is exact, truthful and objective, it may appear as unfeeling and cruel, though it is not so.

(Lines 5-9)

The mirror says that it is above any kind of personal feeling. It is like God, who sees the truth and views everything from all corners of the world. It is something mystic and divine, above the ordinary and the worldly. So, like God, the mirror looks at everything with equal eye. Most of the time, it keeps thinking about the opposite wall which is pink and has on it. It has grown passionate about it and now it has begun to think of the wall as a part of its heart, here it means that it has become an integral part of its being, consciousness and existence. The wall flickers i.e. its view shakes and dims with changes in the shades of light. The mirror’s view of the wall is interrupted by the people’s faces and the darkness when they stand between the mirror and the wall.

(Line 10-13)

The mirror says that sometimes it is in the form of a lake, and when the woman looks into the mirror, the memories of life flash across her mind as both deeply (lake and mirror) reveal her true identity as a person. She attempts to see her flaws behind the darkness. The illusion created by the reflection of candles and the moon makes her appear beautiful and different from what she really is (old and ugly). But the mirror reflects her image truthfully without any bias.

(Lines 14-18)

The true (ugly and old) image as reflected by the mirror makes the woman ‘frustrated and depressed. She cries and throws her hands in agitation and despair. She is ageing but it is difficult for her to accept the natural process of ageing. She comes and stands in front of the mirror every morning; it is her face that replaces the darkness. She misses her youth and beauty. She is no longer charming as she was in her youth. She feels insecure and insignificant. She feels, she has become very ugly. The loss of her youth and beauty makes her behave like a fish out of water or a terrible fish trapped in the pond of time.

SIGNIFICANCE OF THE TITLE

The poem deals with the varied qualities of mirror – exactness, truthfulness and its relationship with the human beings (here the old woman) for years together. The whole poem revolves around the mirror. Hence, the title is quite apt and appropriate. The poem conveys strong message to humans- rather than living in the world of illusion, we need to change our thinking and attitude. We need to learn to face and accept the reality of life without indulging in too much of self-pity.

Question1: Read the extracts given below and answer the questions by choosing the correct option—-

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.

1) The mirror is a lake as ……………
(a) both have reflective surfaces.
(b) both are without preconceptions.
(c) the mirror is truthful.
(d) the lake is truthful.

2) Candles and moon are called liars because………………
(a) of their flickering light
(b) their light adds to the beauty of people
(c) their dim light hides the blemishes of one’s face
(d) they reflect misleading images

3) Which figure of speech has been used in ‘Now I am a lake’?
(a) simile
(b) irony
(c) metaphor
(d) alliteration

Question2. Answer the following questions in about 30-40 words.

A) How the wall has become a part of the mirror’s heart? What separates them?
Ans: Wall has become a part of the mirror’s heart because wall is always there and its reflection is on the mirror is also permanent. They are separated only either by the faces or the darkness.

B) How do you think the old woman rises day by day?
Ans: The old woman once was a young and beautiful lady. As each day passes that woman grows older and older.

C) Why does the mirror appear to be lake in the second stanza? What aspect of the mirror do you think is being referred to here?
Ans: In the second stanza mirror is compared to lake. It is highly suggestive. Lake cannot reflect exactly as a mirror. The lake also suggests the flow of time and age, hence the beauty being drowned in the lake.

UNSOLVED

Question I: Read the extract given below and answer the questions by choosing the correct option:

A) 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 towards her day after day like a Terrible fish

1)In the above lines ‘I’ refers to …………..
a)the mirror
b)the poet
c)the young lady
d)the old lady

2)What replaces darkness each morning?
a)the lake
b)the front wall
c)the woman’s face
d)the moon

3)An old woman is compared to …………….
a) burning candle
b) terrible fish
c) mirror
d)truthful God

(B) I am silver and exact, I have no preconceptions. Whatever I see I swallow
immediately just as it is unmisted by love or hatred. I am not cruel, onlytruthful ______

(a) “Silver and exact’ in the extract mean
(i) Made of unalloyed silver
(ii)Very expensive and decorative
(iii)Absolutely silver colored
(iv)Clear and accurate

(b) “I have no preconcepts” means mirror
(i)has no state and outdated ideas
(ii) is very imperfect
(iii)has no preconceived ideas
(iv) reflects the image with a bias

(c) “Unmisted by love or dislike’ refers
(i) to mirror’s love and dislike for the old lady
(ii) to impartial reflection of the old lady
(iii) to love and dislike towards the lady
(iv) partial reflection of the old lady’s image

(C) The eye of a little God, four-cornered. Most of the time I meditate on the
opposite all.
It is pink, with speckles; I have looked at it long I think it is a part of my heart.

(a) The literal meaning of the expression ‘four cornered’ as used in the poem is:
(i) in the eyes of God everybody is equal
(ii) mirror is unbiased
(iii) it is impartial
(iv) the mirror is rectangular and it has four corners

(b) The expression: ‘pink speckles’ refers to
(i) a lady with a healthy pink face and freckles
(ii) spots made on the mirror with pink paint
(iii) the mirror
(iv) the opposite wall that is pink

(c) The expression: ‘I meditate on the opposite wall’ mean
(i) the mirror keeps looking at the wall
(ii) the woman keeps viewing herself in the mirror
(iii)the mirror is in love with the wall
(iv)the image of the wall is reflected in the mirror

(D) Searching my reaches for what she really is, than she turns to those liars, the candles or the moon. I see her back, and reflect it faithfully.

(a) The lady is reaching for ___
(i) her lost ring
(ii) her lost youth and beauty
(iii)her lost friend
(iv)her strength and vitality

(b) What she really is ___
(i) She is very beautiful and charming
(ii) The truth that she is no more young and charming
(iii) She has become extremely old and ugly
(iv) She cannot hold her youth anymore.

(c) The speaker is different from those liars
(i) It does not show false images
(ii) It does not tell lies
(iii) It is faithful
(iv) It does not mislead the woman

(E) I have looked at it so long I think it is a part of my heart but it flickers faces and darkness separate as over and over.

(i) ‘I’ and ‘it’ ‘in the above extract are___
(a) the young girls ………. the lake
(b) the mirror ……… the wall
(c) the woman ……… the mirror
(d) the wall ….. the light

(ii) The expression: ‘a part of my heart’ means
(a) It lives in her heart
(b) It is a part of her existence
(c) It is very dear to her
(d) It is a part of her body.

(iii) The expression: ‘But it flickers’ means
(a) The light flickers because of the wind
(b) The image in the mirror flickers because of the light
(c) The candle flame flickers because of the lives
(d) The girl’s image flickers in the lake water

(II) Short Answer Questions in about 30-40 Words (2 marks each)

Based on your reading of the poem, answer the following questions briefly. Each question carries 2 marks.

(a) What is the significance of the expression ‘unmisted’ in the first stage of the poem?
(b) How does the ‘mirror’ swallow? What is the poetic device used here?
(c) The expression – ‘I have no pre-concepts’ has a deeper meaning in context to human beings. Explain.
(d) What is the other name the mirror calls itself by? Why do you’ think this comparison has been made?
(e) What are the different qualities of mirror highlighted by the poet?
(f) How is the mirror typically different from most of the human beings?
(g) Explain- The mirror like a four cornered god and a lake.
(h) Why do you think the poet refers to the fish in the last line?
(i) It is not the mirror but the woman herself who is responsible for the pain that she experiences, comment.
(j) What is personification? Quote some examples of personification from the poem – ‘Mirror’.
k) What two distinctive features of mirror are pointed out by Sylvia Plath in the poem Mirror?
l) Give two examples of personification used in the poem
m) “In me she has drowned a young girl.” Explain.
n) Why has the mirror been described as ‘unmisted’? What is the image it is trying to convey about the nature of the mirror?
o) How does the mirror perform its functions dispassionately?
p) What is the woman searching for in the depth of the lake?

III) Long Answer Question in about 100-150 words:

Q1. Give the characteristics of the mirror as conceived by Slyvia Plath in her poem “Mirror”.
Q2. Why does the poetess refer to the woman as a “terrible fish” in the poem ‘Mirror’?
Q3. What kind of relationship does the woman share with the mirror?
Q4. The woman in the poem searches for something in the depth of the mirror. What is it?
Q5. Why has been the mirror called ‘a four-cornered God’ – What are its qualities?

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