Analysis of the Mirror by Sylvia Plath


Analysisof the Mirror by Sylvia Plath

Analysisof the Mirror by Sylvia Plath

SylviaPlath was an American Poet whose life inspired most of her writing.She suffered anxiety, depression and suicidal thoughts. Plath wrotemany of her poems during the later days of her life. The “Mirror”illustrates tension between the inner and the outer self of atroubled woman. The mirror reflects uncompromised truth perceptionsof women about their outer appearance. Women believe that they arerelevant when young and become worthless in old age.

Thepoem highlights the consciousness of a woman who has to face the maledominated society of artists and the struggles of a woman againsttruth and deceits from the mirror’s perspective. The poemhighlights the pressure of inner and outside conscious that arisesfrom aging and loss of beauty.

Thepoem commences with the mirror telling its attributes “I am silverand exact. I have no preconceptions” (“Mirror”1). The mirrorsymbolizes honesty and truth and introduces the theme of conflictsbetween truth and deceit. The mirror does not deceive instead, itreflects what it sees without alterations. The poem highlights womenwho associate beauty with age. The mirror personifies a person whosees and reports things the way they are without compromise (Iryanti,2010). “Iam not cruel, only truthful—/the eye of a little god, four-cornered(4-5). The mirror compares itself to God who is fair andnon-judgmental. However, it gets rewarded with tears for its honestyand feels that the woman does not value its importance. “Sherewards me with tears and an agitation of hands. /Iam important to her… (14-15). The mirror represents self-reflectionby offering honest views on what it sees. The woman’s physicalappearance depicts inner turmoil forcing her to engage in deeperself-inspection by seeking opinions from another source which is theriver. “Most of the time I meditate on the opposite wall. /Itis pink, with speckles. I have looked at it so long /I think it is apart of my heart. But it flickers (6-8). By looking at the pink wallfor a long, time, the mirror highlights aging, which is alsomanifested through the speckles that represent dirt or spots. Themirror has looked at the wall for a long time and the reflection hasbecome part of its life. “Faces and darkness separate us over andover”(9).Thereare times when obstacles obstruct the mirror from looking at thewall, this may be caused by darkness at night or when someone comesto view themselves in the mirror.

Inthe second part of the poem, the turns to the lake which like themirror, reveals images that depict her internal psychological traumaarising from aging. The lake has drowned all the youthful beauty thewoman admired during her visits to the mirror. “NowI am a lake. A woman bends over me, /Searchingmy reaches for what she really is (10-11). Themirror personifies a lake which the woman searches for her physicalidentity from the lake, which reflects it to her without alterations.The woman searches below the surface for answers because she knowsshe is old but does not want to accept that she is aging. The womandenies her aging look and appearance and shifts her attention to themoon and the candles which symbolize the people who were not truthfulto her. “Thenshe turns to those liars, the candles or the moon. /Isee her back, and reflect it faithfully” (12-13). The Woman’syouthful body is disappearing and is gradually replaced by an oldimage symbolized by the drowned woman. “She rewards me with tearsand an agitation of hands. /Iam important to her. She comes and goes. /Eachmorning it is her face that replaces the darkness (14-16). The womanvisits the lake every day to look at her image and cries bitterlybecause of aging look. The woman mourns the loss of her youthfulappearance and looks at her old age with fear. The mirror says that“In me she has drowned a young girl, and in me an old woman/Risestoward her day after day, like a terrible fish (17-18).Thepoem metaphorically illustrates that the young girl that lookedbeautiful in the mirror has drowned and a terrible fish symbolizingan old woman rises towards her. The fish symbolizes theundifferentiated symbol of the woman’s self. The fish highlightsthe woman’s destiny of aging which she cannot run from but has todeal with it. Although the woman is afraid to accept the truth, sheopens up her mind and accepts that she is growing old.

.Themirror symbolizes the subjugation through a powerless female seekingto know if she still has her youthful beauty.The mirror symbolizes time’s inevitability and that people grow andage with time. The woman perceives aging as unacceptable because ofher attitude when she looks at herself in the mirror. The womanstruggles with aging and wastes a lot of time consulting the mirroron her image. In addition, the mirror connects the woman’s innerand outer consciousness because it has the capacity to reveal thedifferent layers of reality and highlights what lies beyond the outerskin. The mirror depicts the woman as unsuccessful in her bid toretain her youthful look and evade aging (Conway, 2010). The poemdepicts women in the society who feel insecure and afraid to embraceaging with confidence.


Conway,C. (2010). Through the Looking Glass: A Discussion of Doubling inSylvia Plath’s ‘Mirror’.&nbsp PlathProfiles:3, 39-45.

Iryanti,F. (2010). A figurative language analysis on Sylvia Plath poems.State Islamic University

Plath,S. (n.d.) Mirror