Mirror by Sylvia Plath

Mirror a melancholic and thought provoking poem written by Sylvia Plath is a typical example of confessional poetry where a  lady who is the owner the mirror in the poem looks deep into her physical appearance over the years. It offers the reader a very good reading experience and it also leads one to contemplate on one’s life from womb to tomb. In the poem the mirror itself is the speaker. It says that it is silver and exact.  It has no misconceptions. The poet uses personification to expose the plight of a woman.

The mirror has no romantic preconceptions of love or dislike. Whoever or whatever looks at it, it absorbs within itself. The one who looks at it is absorbed within it. It also says that it is not cruel. It is only truthful. It is the very eye of a little god who is four cornered and omniscient. The mirror is neither cruel nor indifferent. The mirror meditates most of the time on the opposite wall. It is pink and has got speckles. It has looked the wall for long. It has become a part of its. heart. The wall seems moving. Faces and darkness separate the mirror and the wall. The mirror is a like a lake. When a woman looks into it, she searches for what she once had been in her youth. However, the mirror reflects back what she has become at present. She starts weeping over her lost youth. She sheds a few tears and moves her hands. She looks each morning into the mirror to see herself. The woman has drowned a young girl in the mirror. In the mirror the old woman reacts like a terrible fish and does her daily duties in that mood.

Mirror – A Melancholic Poem

     Mirror shows a pang to its very kind. As the poem deals with age and time, there is inevitability of the destruction of age in the hand of time. Here the woman is in tears as the reflected her lost youth beauty and above all her approaching end.

Mirror – An Embodiment of Time and Timelessness

     Sylvia Plath has presented here the eternal state of the mirror and ephemeral state of the woman. The mirror with its certain tenets will never change where as the woman subject to decay decline and death will lose her youth and beauty will meet the horns of death.

Mirror – A little God

     Indeed, a true reflection of the facets of mirror lead us to imagine the Godly characteristics it bears. The mirror is unchangeable, having no preconceptions, truthful, impartial and a true reflector. These qualities in real sense are impossible to be found in us, the humans.

Mirror – The woman As Terrible Fish

     By ‘Terrible Fish’ the poetess here skilfully presented the agony, and pang of the woman who realises her demise. A fish taken out of water fights to save itself in a futile way. The violent and wild effort of the fish is similarised with that of the woman. She could not take her loss of beauty, youth and her feeling of losing her life made her wild and violent.


    “I am silver and exact. I have no pre conceptions”

The poetess starts with the positive tenets of the mirror. The mirror is here delineated with some paramount virtues unimaginable to humans. The word “exact’ is impossible to us. We cannot achieve the state of ‘exact’ i.e. unchangeable. The mirror is said to have no pre-conception. The mirror is bereft of the human obligations of pre-thought. We tend to create an image about a person or things which bring partial and biased thinking. Whereas the mirror is free from these shortcomings and reflects flawlessly.

     “Whatever I see I swallow immediately

     Just as it is, unmisted by love or dislike.”

       The poetess talks about the quality of the mirror in reflecting everything without any change. It reflects with supreme delicacy. Like humans it does not get affected by the human limitations like love or dislike.

Poetic Device in use  – 1) Antithesis – love or dislike

     ” I am not cruel, only truthful

The eye of a little god, four cornered.”

Truth is often hated. Often the very truth makes people feel sore and distressed. The mirror is here truthful and never misguides you. If we notice carefully, we shall find the virtues endowed to mirror are beyond the reach humans. The virtues like ‘exact’, “no preconceptions”, ‘unimisted’, “swallow immediately”, and ‘truthful’ can never be the tenets of human but these the can relate to ‘God’. Perhaps for this reason the mirror is described as ‘little god’,

 “Most of the time I meditate on the opposite wall. It is pink with speckles.”

   The word meditation takes us to more people those who are conceived as great. The mirror does not falter in her meditation. She does it spontaneously almost without any break. She looks at the opposite wall without any pause. The wall is of pink colour and having some spots. Poetic Device in use –

  1. i)Alliteration – the time

“I have looked at it so long

     I think it is a part of my heart”

     These lines take us to the magic of power gaze. In power gaze we constantly look at something or any person and establish an invisible energy circuit between the two. You start to feel each other close and bearing the same tenets, feelings or emotion. The mirror gasing intently spontaneously enables it to possess the very characteristics of the wall.

     “………………But it flickers.

     Faces and darkness separate us over and over. The strong meditation of the mirror is often interrupted. Often faces of people and the darkness of night separate them.

     “Now I am a lake. A woman bends over me, searching my reaches for what she really is.”

Now the mirror is replaced by a lake. Lake has come perhaps to mean that both are having the same tenets. Only one possible addition can be made i.e. the lake has the depth. A woman bends over the lake to access her reflections. She is of the mind to check her true reflection. She expects herself look young and beautiful. But being truthful the mirror reflects the truth and reflects her with her lost beauty and youth.

“Then she turns to those liars, the candles as the moon I see her back, and reflect it faithfully.”

     As the reflection produced by the lake did not meet her expectation, she went to check the same to candles and the Moon. Candles and the moon are defined as liars as they are unable to provide any exact and true reflection. The candles and the moon provide the shadow or the dim light which does not affirm what she wanted. So the woman moves back to the lake and reacts with violent attitude. The woman cries and agitates as she discovers that she is no more young and beautiful and soon going to meet the horns of death.

     “I am important to her. She comes and goes. Each morning it is her face that replaces the darkness”.

     To the woman the mirror is important. The woman gets only true reflection from the mirror. She often comes and checks her reflections. Each morning after darkness her face is seen.

“In me she has drowned a young girl, and in me an old woman

Rises toward her day after like a terrible fish”

     Everything changes but the mirror does not change. The mirror is the witness of the changing of the woman. The memory of the woman is drowned (saved in the depth of time) in the mirror and the mirror is the witness of the woman’s turning into an old woman. The mirror watches the woman moving towards her end. And this makes the woman uneasy, wild and uncomfortable like the ‘terrible fish’. A fish taken out of water goes wild to save itself likewise the woman realising her lost beauty, youth and above all realising end near behaved like a terrible fish.  


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