Tone in “Mirror” by Sylvia Plath In “Mirror” by Sylvia Plath, the speaker is represented as a mirror that reflects the life and actions of another human being. The speaker develops a casually detached tone right from the beginning of the poem, but also portrays an accepting mood by the end of the work. These tones and moods are expressed through the use of diction, punctuation, metaphors, and imagery. The tone of this poem fluctuates and makes it difficult for the reader to grasp the emotions of the speaker due to the fact that it is a very short piece.
The first stanza of “Mirror” starts off extremely straightforward and detached from any emotion. The speaker says, ”I am silver and exact. ”(1) “I have no preconceptions”(1). These first two lines are stated extremely straightforward and casual as if the speaker is blunt and does not like unnecessary filler words. The speaker comes across as detached from emotion when she states, “I am not cruel, only truthful”(4). This statement portrays a person who does not care about others emotions or opinions, but only for the basic facts/truths of life.
The poetic device of diction plays an important role in expressing tone throughout “Mirror”. These casually detached first few lines help the reader realize the speaker is a mirror, “eye of a little god, four-cornered”(5), and may also help explain why this speaker lacks descriptive words and information. Diction is used in line 5 as stated above to describe the speaker, as well as in line 13 “and reflect it faithfully”. These two lines of straightforward diction confirm for readers that the speaker is a mirror.
The use of diction as a poetic device develops the casual tone of the poem and helps to keep the speaker detached from her emotions. The diction throughout the poem is dry, precise, and blunt enough to remain detached and casually stated. This speaker almost seems to use the lack of diction to create tone rather than filling it with descriptive/filler diction. This poem is formed by the lack of description and mystery. Punctuation is a key player in the poem’s tone of being casual and detached. The power of punctuation is most plainly seen throughout the first stanza.
The sentences come off short and are stopped in their tracks with periods. Reading this poem aloud while following its punctuation is sharp and down to business. The lines are short to emphasize the speaker’s mood and depict what emotion she has toward her statements. The lines that do not have deliberately short sentences carry lines that are dropped off such as line 2, “Whatever I see I swallow immediately…just as it is, unmisted by love or dislike”. This lack of punctuation keeps the poem moving swiftly representing the speaker’s want for quickness to avoid attachment or emotion.
The commas throughout the poem also contribute to the detachment tone by making the lines blunt. The use of commas in strategically put places causes the poem to briefly pause and then continue on to the speaker’s idea. In line 13 the speaker says, “I see her back, and reflect it faithfully”. This comma gives the reader a chance to absorb what actions are taking place as well as absorb the blunt diction used. The poem combines diction and punctuation in order to keep the speakers emotions unattached from emotion and give distinct meaning to the piece.
The second stanza in “Mirror” is created and supported mainly by the use of metaphors and imagery. The second stanza is where the accepting tone shows through the detachment tone more dominantly. In the second stanza the speaker is introduced as a lake, “Now I am a lake”(10). The speaker is not physically a lake, she only resembles a lake do to the description of the woman that “bends over [her]”(10). The women that bends over her comes to her daily, just as most humans use a mirror daily, and “[searches her] reaches for what she really is”(11).
The metaphor of a lake comes in when the speaker begins to describe the women’s actions through imagery. The women tends to cry, “rewards me with tears”(14) and use hand movement, “an agitation of hands”(14) most likely in rage or disapproval of herself in front of the mirror. Line 14 uses diction that many would connect with one looking at themselves in a lake/water reflection. The speaker reveals that the women comes back daily and sees in her “she has drowned a young girl”(17).
This description of action resembles the use of mirrors by people to find themselves and see in them what others do not. Many women use the mirror to help cover up flaws or to stand in front of and use as an accepting net while they cry or release emotion. In this piece the speaker is standing as an accepting item for this women and knows just what is behind this women’s life. The speaker states “ each morning it is her face that replaces darkness”(16). This use of imagery helps readers envision a women stepping into a mirror in the morning and facing what life has to offer that day.
The speaker metaphorically being a lake and describing events through the poetic device of imagery helps create a tone of acceptance by giving the speaker a sense of attachment to someone and makes the stanza more in depth with detail, unlike the first stanza. The tones and moods depicted in “Mirror” by Sylvia Plath were most definitely casually detached as well as accepting. The use of diction, punctuation, metaphors, and imagery developed the piece and helped the reader create a better understanding of the speaker’s emotional standing as well as her actual being.
The tones of this poem were made possible by the combination of all of these poetical devices. “Mirror” by Sylvia Plath is a piece of poetry that creates tone from the use of poetical devices as well as from the lack of poetical devices, such as the diction example stated above. After reading and dissecting this piece, I can clearly see the speaker’s standing point and the emotion behind her words. Work Cited Plath, Sylvia. “Mirror. ” The Oxford Book of American Poetry. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2006. 887. Print.