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Mirror - Sylvia Plath
Transcript of Mirror - Sylvia Plath
Literary Elements - Imagery
I am silver and exact. I have no preconceptions.
What ever you 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 a 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 towards her day after day, like a terrible fish.
The poem chronicles the "relationship", so to speak, between the speaker (the mirror) and a woman.
The mirror sees itself as nonjudgmental, revealing the truth in its reflection, but the woman is visibly upset by the mirror, and does not seem to appreciate the mirror's "faithfulness".
It is apparent that the mirror craves this time spent with the woman, but though the woman "comes and goes", she does not seem to have positive feelings towards what is reflected at her - viewing her aging, especially, is quite traumatic, yet she continues to fixate on her appearance.
The holding of two points of view (the mirror's, primarily, but also the woman's) provides a sense of clarity (on the mirror's part), but also pain and suffering (of the woman). Because of this, we are treated to almost a split view - the Woman and her reflection, or maybe even the mirror and its reflection.
Literary Elements - Shift
One of the main themes of Mirror is the inescapable reality of aging.
The Woman in the poem is obviously trying to avoid her fate - the "terrible fish" rising towards her day after day - her aging body.
Yet for all her suffering, the woman's obsession with her reflection still defines both the mirror's existence and her own.
Aging is also something unknown, which is what makes it so terrifying - when the mirror changes from "silver and exact" to "a lake", the abstract idea of aging is represented.
The line break (second stanza) acts as a shift - "Now I am a lake. A woman bends over me..."
The transformation of the woman is contrasted with the transformation of the mirror - from "silver" and "exact" to a lake, something fluid and changing, similar to "those liars, the candles or the moon".
Their intertwined relationship also brings to mind that of the Mirror in Snow White, or the myth of Narcissus, among others. It is representative of the dissolution of youth and how old age is corrupted and, above all, "evil" and bad.
The mirror is not a comforting fate - it brings "tears and an agitation of hands", regardless of how "faithfully" the reflection is.
First and foremost, the title, "Mirror", provides an easy and obvious explanation. "I am silver and exact", "I see her back, and reflect it faithfully", these descriptions follow the definition of a mirror. So our speaker here seems to be that mirror.
"In me she has drowned a young girl, and in me and old woman
Rises towards her day after day,
like a terrible fish
"The eye of a
"Now I am
. A woman bends over me, Searching my reaches for what she really is."
"Most of the time I meditate on the opposite wall.
pink, with speckles."
"I see her back, and reflect it faithfully.
rewards me with tears and an agitation of hands."
The final line of the poem emphasizes the predominant theme of aging. By comparing the Woman's change to "a terrible fish", Plath creates a visceral image that communicates to the reader the immense disturbance the transformation has been.
This passage creates the image of a clear lake with the Woman looking into in, evocative of the myth of Narcissus. But in this case, the Woman is not confident in her appearances, but the exact opposite. She is searching for who she really is, and hoping to find that answer within the mirror, in her own reflection, yet that will never be the answer.
This shows how upset the Woman is by her reflection. It emphasizes her feelings of lack of control and disintegration of her image, an idea that pervades the entire poem.
This section humanizes the mirror, also giving the reader an environment to imagine. By saying the wall is "a part of my heart", the mirror becomes a living, true 'character', which contributes to the contrast of judgement and non judgement, mortal and immortal.
The comparison of the mirror to a "little god" emphasizes the omniscient feeling of the mirror. It proclaims to "have no preconceptions" and reflect whatever it sees"faithfully" and "unmisted by love or dislike" . The mirror watches over everything, acting as our supposedly unbiased view into this world populated by "faces and darkness", only differentiated by the aging Woman.