Being Helpless and Powerless to Others

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Power and Influence in "The Red Convertible" and "Mirror"

Power is interpreted differently by different people, and it all depends on the condition and situations in which people find themselves. Power is delegated to specific items and contexts that have the potential to compel individuals to partake in those actions. Most people's actions and attitudes are heavily affected by the force of others around them or circumstances in which they have no other alternative. The subject of influence is explored in Lyman Lamartine's book "The Red Convertible" and Sylvia Plath's poem "Mirror." Power has changed the behaviors of the characters in both the short story and the poem and forced them to act in entirely different manners. Lyman from "The Red Convertible" and the mirror from "Mirror" both illustrate powerlessness and how that lack of power makes them act and feel.

"The Red Convertible"

"The Red Convertible" is about two brothers, Henry and Lyman, who enjoyed a cordial relationship since childhood. Both Henry and Lyman contributed towards the purchase of the red car (Erdrich, 378). However, the warm relationship previously enjoyed changed suddenly after Henry returned home after the war. Lyman was in a weak position trying to help his brother back to how he used to be before going to war. Lyman was hardworking and was to create his personal wealth regardless of the conditions. "My talent was I could always make money" (Erdrich, 407), Lyman explains. He becomes stressed by who his brother has turned out. Arguably, Henry’s characters changed, and this made Lyman wonder what became of his brother whom he had a good relationship with before he went to war. Henry had become silent, barely smiled, became explosive and even disconnected from his brother and the whole family in general. Notably, Henry could avoid close association with his family members as he always preferred keeping to himself as if he did not intend to be interrupted. Just like Lyman, the other family members also could not understand Henry’s motive as he always avoided other family members.

To help his brother, Lyman became so helpless and powerless and ended up damaging the car that they bought together so that Henry’s spirit would return (Erdrich, 365). Henry did not recognize the much power he had over his brother who had changed his behavior to try and help him. At one point, when Henry was watching the television, he bit his lip to the point of bleeding, and he even did not notice. According to a passage in the short story, Erdrich declares, “every time he took a bite of his bread his blood fell onto it until he was eating his blood mixed in with the food” (Erdrich, 410). While they were having dinner, Lyman saw his brother’s bleeding lip, and this terrifies him so much since he could not take away the person his brother had become. The power of brotherhood is the main reason as to why Lyman cares a lot about his brother. Arguably, Lyman still recognized the good relationship that existed between him and his brother in the past and for this reason, he still cared for the brother (Erdrich, 400). According to Lyman’s behaviors, he still wished they could have a good relationship with the brother.

"Mirror"

In the poem "Mirror" by Plath, the mirror is the narrator of the story. The mirror describes the existence of itself and that of its owner. The mirror formed no judgment, but rather absorbed everything that it reflected, and gave back the same results without making any alterations (Plath 1-4). It gave out the exact image of the user because it was not within its powers to interfere with the image. Its main function was to reflect the image of the woman without deciding on how the image should look like. The mirror considered itself as the four-cornered eye of god which saw everything as it was (Plath stanza 5). The woman, the owner of the mirror, would gaze into the mirror trying to discern her true self by looking at her reflection (Plath stanza one).

At times, she tried to look at herself in the moonlight or candlelight, but all these reflections were a lie, and her only real appearance was that given by the mirror (Plath 1-4). “Now I am a lake. A woman bends over me, searching my reaches for what she is. Then she turns to those liars, the candles or the moon, I see her back and reflect faithfully.” Arguably, the mirror could not refuse to reflect the woman’s image even if she went to another medium for instance the moon to reflect her image. The mirror refers to moonlight and candlelight as liars to show that it trusted in itself. The mirror believed that it reflected better images than the moonlight and candlelight. The quote indicates that the mirror had no powers to dictate when to reflect the image of the woman. It suggests that it could not prevent the woman from seeing her reflection even after she sought to view her image from the moon.

Like a slave, the mirror just suspended fixed on the wall so powerless to help itself end the monotony it had been through. Monotony was only broken when the owner would come to look at herself every morning. Helpless and powerless, the mirror was in no position to offer moral judgment to the woman who agonizingly cried for the loss of her beauty and daily aging. Despite causing the woman an agitation of the hands and tears, the mirror understood its importance to the woman to faithfully provide her with pure self-reflection, and objective despite the discomfort it caused her.“She rewards me with tears and an agitation of hands” (Plath stanza fourteen).

In the poem "Mirror" by Plath and a short story "The Red Convertible" by Lyman, both the mirror and Lyman characters illustrate helplessness and powerlessness to help those they care about. Lyman was unable to help his brother Henry back to his real personality while the mirror only showed the woman her true nature but could not help her come to terms with the evidence. Both the mirror and Lyman are aware of their importance, but they lack the power to make things right for the two disturbed souls.

Works Cited

Erdrich,Louise. “The Red Convertible.”Literature and Writing Process. Ed. Elizabeth McMahan, Susan X. Day, Robert Funk, and Linda S. Coleman. 11th ed. Upper Saddle River. Prentice, 2017. 324-330.Print.

Plath, Sylvia. “Mirror.” Literature and the Writing Process. Ed. Elizabeth McMahan, Susan X. Day, and Roberth Funk. 8th ed. Upper Saddle River: Person, 2007. 656-657. Print.

December 21, 2022
Category:

Life Literature

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Hero Literary Genres

Subject area:

Power Understanding Poetry

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5

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1104

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