Sylvia Plath, Mirror, Poem Analysis Part I

June 6, 2017

Sylvia Plath, Mirror, Poem Analysis Part I

I am silver and exact. I have no preconceptions.

Whatever I see I swallow immediately

Just as it is, unmisted by love or dislike.

I am not cruel, only truthful ‚

The eye of a little god, four-cornered.

Most of the time I meditate on the opposite wall.

It is pink, with speckles. I have looked at it so long

I think it is part of my heart. But it flickers.

Faces and darkness separate us over and over.

Now I am a lake. A woman bends over me,

Searching my reaches for what she really is.

Then she turns to those liars, the candles or the moon.

I see her back, and reflect it faithfully.

She rewards me with tears and an agitation of hands.

I am important to her. She comes and goes.

Each morning it is her face that replaces the darkness.

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

Rises toward her day after day, like a terrible fish.

 

Summary

In this poem, a mirror describes its existence and its owner, who grows older as the mirror watches.

 

The mirror first describes itself as “silver and exact.” It forms no judgments, instead merely swallowing what it sees and reflecting that image back without any alteration. The mirror is not cruel, “only truthful.” It considers itself a four-cornered eye of a god, which sees everything for what it is.

 

Most of the time, the mirror looks across the empty room and meditates on the pink speckled wall across from it. It has looked at that wall for so long that it describes the wall as “part of my heart.” The image of the wall is interrupted only by people who enter to look at themselves and the darkness that comes with night.

 

The mirror imagines itself as a lake. A woman looks into it, trying to discern who she really is by gazing at her reflection. Sometimes, the woman prefers to look at herself in candlelight or moonlight, but these are “liars” because they mask her true appearance. Only the mirror (existing here as lake) gives her a faithful representation of herself.

 

Because of this honesty, the woman cries and wrings her hands. Nevertheless, she cannot refrain from visiting the mirror over and over again, every morning. Over the years, the woman has “drowned a young girl” in the mirror, and now sees in her reflection an old woman growing older by the day. This old woman rises toward her out of the mirror like “a terrible fish.”

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