Mushroom - San Juan

-by Sylvia Plath
A General understanding…
Written in 1960, "Mushrooms" is a striking social
commentary on the struggles of women to overcome the
restraints of the housewife image.
Plath parallels a mushroom's growth, determination, and
population expansion with women's fight for notability,
independence, and as she sees it, inevitable control of
the majority.
By using a metaphor likening mushrooms to women, an idea
which is not so far-fetched, she bites back at male
dominance and with brutal honesty displays the real position
of women in society.
Main Theme…
The main themes being that of the upcoming rise of
Woman’s rights with ‘We are shelves, we are
Tables,’ highlighting the view held by men in society
at that time of women as purely domestic objects
and it is also laced with echoes of the birth of her
first child.
Other notable observations…
The use of the Mushroom metaphor fits perfectly
with the image of a pregnant woman. ‘Nobody sees
us, Stops us’ remarks on the two things, the fact that
it is often not until late into the pregnancy that it
becomes obvious that one is pregnant and two,
babies have a habit of slipping past us unnoticed.
‘Soft fists’ is surely alluding to the kicks the mother
feels during pregnancy. ‘Earless and eyeless,
Perfectly voiceless,’ is another beautiful reference to
the growing fetus.
Structural observations…
“Mushrooms” is a masterfully structured poem, which looks to
follow the Octet Rule with three lines in each stanza and five
syllables in each line (3+5=8).
Plath uses alliteration ‘Soft fists insist’ (my personal
favourite) and assonance ‘very Whitely, discreetly, Very
quietly’ to great effect, causing the reader of the poem to
read it slowly and steadily. The use of this technique adds to
the quiet stealth-like feel of the poem. The repetition of
vowels gives the poem a ‘spongy’ feel ‘Our toes, our noses’,
whilst the use of consonants abruptly stops the sound with
the reader’s tongue ‘Nudgers and shovers’.
Devices to note in both poems…
Adverb Usage
Internal Rhyme
Reflection Assignment:
1. What is the poem about- briefly
2. What effect do you think the writer is intending
3. How is that intended effect achieved?
-by Sylvia Plath
A General understanding…
The mirror that played a key role in “Morning Song”
reappears as the title of this poem - where maternity
plays no part unless one wants to include it as a factor in
the aging process and the loss of maidenly beauty.
In "Mirror," we are addressed by an inanimate object,
which sets out to define itself and its function and does so
with the exactitude that is a part of its nature.
It has no preconceptions because it is without memory or
ability to reason.
 It is omnivorous, swallowing everything it confronts without
making judgments that might blur, mist or distort.
 It is god-like in its objectivity and lack of emotional response.
Most of the time it meditates on the opposite wall, faithfully
reproducing its colors and design, until darkness supervenes or
faces intrude. These happenstances recur with regularity.
Main Theme…
Simply stated, there are a few themes/motifs present in
this work.
Appearances, women/femininity, time, and transformation
More eloquently stated:
If you want to know the truth, be as objective and detached
as a mirror.
It reflects exactly what it sees without hiding flaws.
Whether you are evaluating an actor's performance, a
meatloaf recipe, a religion, a political system, a Miss
America candidate, a scientific theory, or yourself or
another person, you must be "unmisted by love or dislike"
(line 3).
Other Notable observations…
Certainly the poem's persona is Sylvia Plath.
However, she employs hyperbole in suggesting that
she is an aged crone looking into a mirror. Plath
committted suicide at the age of 31, still a beautiful
woman. The "terrible fish" of haggard age is still
deep down in the pool of the mirror.
Structural Observations…
Mirror is a lyric poem in free verse
 Free
verse is a type of poetry with rhythms based on
words patterns rather than meter
It is also written in the first person point of view
Fine Points of diction…
Line 1, I am silver and exact: The word silver here refers
to the coating on the back of a glass mirror. It can be
made with liquefied silver or aluminum applied to a
smooth glass plate. A mixture of silver nitrate and
ammonium hydroxide can also be used to make the
Line 3, unmisted: Not influenced; not prejudiced.
Line 5, eye: The reflecting surface.
Line 8, it flickers: The wall alternately disappears and
reappears as people pass in front of it.
Line 12, those liars, the candles or the moon: Because
candles and moonlight provide only dim illumination,
they "lie" about what they see.
Cynosure. 12 September 2011. Web. 21 August 2012.
Fernquist, Jessica. ‘Assessing Sylvia Plath’s Poetry’. Helium.
Created on: January 02, 2007 Last Updated: May 21, 2007.
Web. 16 June 2012.
Wood, Kerry Michael. ‘How Sylvia Plath Successfully uses
metaphors in her poetry”. Created on: 10 September
2008 Last Updated: 24 January 2009. Web. 16 August
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