Comment 7 of 285, added on August 31st, 2011 at 9:59 PM.
The major themes in The Hand Mirror
The poem “The Hand Mirror” is written by Walt Whitman. In this poem,
Whitman talks about some facts of life. Whitman spends most of the poem
telling the reader how ugly the insides of someone can be and left one or
two lines describing the outside appearance of that someone. Whitman gave
very good examples that showed the readers the major themes of this
poem—the theme of appearance versus reality and arguably the theme of youth
versus old age. The author used imagery, a good use of questions and some
contrast to prove the existence of these two themes.
First of all, one of the main themes of this poem is appearance versus
reality. The author Whitman begins this poem with a question. The question
asks the reader looks inside a mirror, whether or not the person inside the
mirror is really you. This question touches on the main theme of the essay,
appearance versus reality. It questions the credibility of the appearance
of people and indirectly warns the readers to be careful of this kind of
person. The next line of the poem further proves this point. The quote
“Outside fair costume—within ashes and filth” again emphasizes the main
theme of appearance versus reality. Using these techniques, Whitman is
trying to tell the readers that we should not judge a book by its cover.
Whitman indirectly suggests that the readers take a look at the inner
emotions of someone before actually judging them. Then Whitman emphasizes
the resulting emotions using detailed imagery. For example, in the third to
last line, the blood of the person was described to be “dark and poisonous”
streams. This adds to the effects created by the poem since it emphasizes
the contrast between the appearance and the reality. The author offers the
two “extremes” by first making the outside appearance of the person seem
very good,” outside fair costume”, and then contrasting that by giving the
imagery of the insides of that person making him/her seem evil. By using
the two extremes in a comparison, Whitman is reemphasizing his main theme,
which is appearance versus reality.
Secondly, another major theme in the poem was youth versus old age. The
question that was mentioned in the last paragraph can be also interpreted
as questioning the reality of the aging body. The entire poem can also be
interpreted with the theme of youth versus old age rather than appearance
versus reality. For example, in line 3, Whitman wrote, “no more a flashing
eye—no more a sonorous voice or springy step.” This quote clearly shows
that the person is aging. Since flashing eye, sonorous voice and springy
step are usually used to describe someone young. By excluding that from a
person, it is usually assumed that he or she is very old. Another sign of
old age is shown in lines 6-8, “Lungs rotting away piecemeal, stomach sour
and cankerous,/ Joints rheumatic, bowels clogged with abomination, Blood
circulating dark and poisonous streams”. These three lines make the body of
the person seem very diseased and unhealthy. Even though diseases are very
common, when it is mentioned, they are usually associated with older
people. The overall imagery of the poem gives a feeling of an older person.
The last line of the poem makes this theme even more evident. “Such a
result so soon—and from such a beginning!” gives the readers the impression
that life is too short.
In conclusion, Whitman used very good examples to show the major themes of
the poem. He used imagery very well in order to emphasize the effect that
the poem has on the readers. The major themes of the poem are well shown
through the language that Whitman uses.