“Mirror” by Sylvia Plath shows the shallowness and superficial concerns of women through the personification and the description of a mirror reflecting a woman’s life and her character. The poem is narrated by the mirror, which doesn’t provide an unbiased and impartial view on its character contrary to what the mirror claims. The poem has a balanced structure with two verses mirroring each other. This emphasizes the idea of the first stanza, which describes the mirror, reflecting the second stanza where the character of the woman is developed.
The statements made by the mirror are short, simple informative to convince the reader of the reliability and objectivity of the mirror. In the first stanza the mirror introduces itself. It claims to “have no preconceptions” and that it reflects whatever it sees “unmisted” by emotions such as “love or dislike” and “exact” without any distortions. However, later it talks about the wall being “part of my heart” and that it “meditates” on that wall. This suggests having emotion and being able think even though it claimed otherwise in the preceding lines.
This proves the unreliability of the narrative and the mirror’s hypocrisy because the mirror will have emotions and thoughts leading to preconceptions. Also, “I am silver” conveys a shiny, precious and attractive image of the mirror but this again is deceptive. The mirror is only a two-dimensional, “four-cornered” inanimate object that lacks any depth. The mirror also represents itself as “not cruel, only truthful”, “faithful”, honest and reliable.
This eventually becomes too honest and too blunt for the woman and “she turns to those liars, the candles or the moon” for a distorted image of herself in order to not let her see her ageing in the soft focus. This suggests that the mirror has no compassion and that it is cruel, emphasizing its hypocrisy. Throughout the poem the mirror is shown as an arrogant object in need of power and importance. The metaphor of mirror being “the eye of a little god” is sustained throughout the poem signifying the power it has. “I am important to her. She comes and goes. states the value of the mirror for the woman and indicates that the woman is addicted to the mirror to the point where she’s searching “for what she really is” in the mirror, despite the fact that the mirror is cruel and blunt. This again gives power to the mirror. The woman is introduced in the second stanza. She is “searching” the “reaches” of the mirror “for what she really is. ” implies that she’s looking for herself in a reflection. Even though a lake has more depth than a mirror it only reflects the physical appearance of the woman.
Her understanding of her true self is her physical appearance, which is her primary concern. But then “she turns to those liars, the candles or to the moon. ” because she wants to avoid the seeing her aged face, the old woman she has become and the unhappiness that brings. She reacts to her reflection with “tears and an agitation of hands”. This is seen as a reward by the mirror, which suggests that the mirror enjoys the woman’s state of unhappiness and agitation, and has no compassion. Her aging is also marked by four references to passage of time in the poem: “so long”, “over and over”, “each morning” and “day after day. A diction motif of “lake” is seen in the second stanza. A lake has more depth than a mirror because it’s a three-dimensional object but when it comes to reflecting whatever they see they’ll both reflect just a physical appearance. This implies that the mirror is trying to show the insignificance of a third dimension and putting itself on the same level as a lake. This motif is completed by the last two lines, “In me she has drowned a young girl, and in me an old woman / Rises towards here day after day, like a terrible fish. A contrast between a “young girl” which is now “drowned” in the “lake” and an “old woman” rising toward the woman from inside the mirror is created. Happiness and joy of life, which usually associated with being young, is now “drowned” and no longer exists. An unhappy ageing woman nearing her death replaces this. This idea of death is shown with the simile “ like a terrible fish” because fish rise to the surface when they die, as death will rise toward the old woman. So at the end of the stanza I believe that Sylvia herself becomes apparent and the mirror loses its completeness by showing preconceptions about faces and darkness.
I think that the poet is standing in the mirror in search for something looking at the wall occasionally being interrupted by darkness and shadows. So in the first stanza Plath is drawing a parrell between her and the mirror and speaks for her outer self. In the next stanza Plath uses a lake as a metaphor for herself, (A women bends over me, searching my reaches for what she really is,) which is again a reflecting surface. An old woman comes to look in the lake and although the image she is presented with upsets her she continues to come back.
This demonstrates that humans have a innate urge to try to see themselves as they really are, even if sometimes the image is not what they want it to be. Plath describes the moon and candlelight’s as liars, because they are able to hide people’s flaws. Which Plath now depends on the lights of liars, candles, and the moon. I believe this is a symbol of how people lie to themselves about who they truly are by covering up and hiding themselves with material things wealth etc. But it doesn’t help and because it talks about tears and agitation.
Which symbolizes the frustration of the women feels when she sees herself in the mirror. Each morning in her face replace the darkness, is referring to when she looks in the mirror every morning relieving the darkness from it. The last two lines describe how the old women s aging. The image of drowning a young girl is very powerful, the old women feels as though she has wasted her youth, and she is very scared about getting older. This also has to do with the preconception the society places on people on being perfect, young, and forever beautiful.
The reference to the fish is a metaphor for the youth that has slipped through her hands so quickly just like a fish would if you were to hold it. This poem has a sad flow about it, but it is all true. Sylvia is basically just explaining the process of getting older, but she is just making it personal, by referring to herself. This poem is written very well and I enjoyed reading and analyzing it. It is mostly self explanatory, but some lines I had to really think about.