‘The Guy in the Glass’ is a popular inspirational poem that was written in the early 1930s. The poem is also known, incorrectly, as ‘The Man in the Glass’ and ‘The Man in the Mirror’.The poet was known during his lifetime for his career in music and radio. In this poem, he explores themes of self-perception and the meaning of life.
Explore The Guy in the Glass
The Meaning of The Guy in the Glass
The poem is addressed to a general listener, anyone who is alive to read or hear it. The speaker asks this listener to remember throughout their life that they are the only ones whose judgment really matters. When things go right it is important to look in the mirror and try to understand how that “fellow” sees things. If one is right with their conscience then they can move through life freely and happily.
Structure of The Guy in the Glass
‘The Guy in the Glass’ by Peter Dale Wimbrow Sr. is a four stanza poem that is separated into sets of four lines, known as quatrains. These quatrains follow a simple rhyme scheme of ABAB CDCD, changing end sounds from stanza to stanza. The lines are fairly similar in length but there is no single metrical pattern that runs throughout all of them. Wimbrow uses simple language in this poem, meaning that it is accessible to a wide variety of readers.
Poetic Techniques in The Guy in the Glass
Wimbrow makes use of several poetic techniques in ‘The Guy in the Glass’. These include but are not limited to alliteration, caesura, sibilance, and personification. The first of these, alliteration, occurs when words are used in succession, or at least appear close together, and begin with the same sound. For example, “mirror” and “man” in lines three and four of the first stanza and “mother,” “must,” and “most” in stanza two.
Sibilance is similar to alliteration but it is concerned with soft vowel sounds such as “s” and “th”. This kind of repetition usually results in a prolonged hissing or rushing sound. It is often used to mimic another sound, like water, wind, or any kind of fluid movement. For instance, “struggle” and “self” in line one of the first stanza.
Caesura occurs when a line is split in half, sometimes with punctuation, sometimes not. The use of punctuation in these moments creates a very intentional pause in the text. A reader should consider how the pause influences the rhythm of one’s reading and how it might precede an important turn or transition in the text. There are several examples in this piece, for instance, line one of the third stanza which reads: “He’s the fellow to please – never mind all the rest”.
Personification occurs when a poet imbues a non-human creature or object with human characteristics. In this case, Wimbrow personifies one’s reflection. Giving it the ability to pass judgment on the onlooker and choose to be friendly or distant.
Analysis of The Guy in the Glass
When you get what you want in your struggle for self
And the world makes you king for a day
Just go to the mirror and look at yourself
And see what that man has to say.
In the first stanza of ‘The Guy in the Glass,’ the speaker begins by setting up a scenario. This particular scenario is directed at all readers, anyone who has had successes and become “king for a day”. The speaker asks that you, the successful person, go to the mirror and analyze with the “man has to say”. This is a poetic way of asking the reader to look at their own reflection and therefore into their heart and ask if everything is as it should be.
In this stanza there is an example of sibilance with “struggle” and “self” in line one and Wimbrow also sets up an extended metaphor that compares one’s reflection to their conscience.
For it isn’t your father, or mother, or wife
Whose judgment upon you must pass
The fellow whose verdict counts most in your life
Is the one staring back from the glass.
In the second stanza, the speaker explains that the person in the mirror is the only one whose judgment is really meaningful. The reader will need to depend on their reflection, as a gateway to their conscience, to know if they’re on the right path. You must “pass” the judgement of the “fellow” in the mirror.
In this stanza, Wimbrow uses words like “verdict” and “judgement,” all related to legal proceedings, in order to describe what it’s like to analyze one’s life.
He’s the fellow to please – never mind all the rest
For he’s with you, clear to the end
And you’ve passed your most difficult, dangerous test
If the man in the glass is your friend.
In the third stanza of ‘The Guy in the Glass,’ the speaker gives the “fellow” in the mirror further description. He is “with you, clear to the end”. There is an example of caesura in the first line. It emphasizes the importance of this man’s opinion in regards to the rest of one’s life.
The reader will know that they’ve succeeded with the “man in the glass is your friend”. This is an interesting use of personification that gives the reflection the ability to pass judgement on the reader/person staring into the mirror and even become friendly or turn less so.
You may fool the whole world down the pathway of years
And get pats on the back as you pass
But your final reward will be heartache and tears
If you’ve cheated the man in the glass.
In the fourth stanza of ‘The Guy in the Glass’ the speaker concludes by saying it is easy to “fool the whole world” but it’s impossible to get away with fooling oneself. There is always going to be the “man in the glass” to hold oneself responsible. The speaker is asking, implicitly, if it is worth it to glide through life and then realize at the end that you have “cheated” yourself.
There are examples of alliteration in this stanza with “whole world” and “pathway,” “pats,” and “pass”.