Mirror

Mirror – Sylvia Plath

Background

  • Wrote just before Plath had her son.
  • Many issues looked at here:
    • Aging
    • Image
    • Reflection
    • Search for the self

Title

The word ‘Mirror’ suggests reflection.

Stanza One

We begin with a description of the mirror. The word ‘exact’ shows that the mirror tells the truth but can also look at the idea that the mirrors exacts a type of payment for its use, taking of youth. This is enhanced further by the use of ‘I swallow immediately’. Here again is the idea that the mirror swallows our youth. The honesty of the mirror is further enhanced by ‘I am not cruel, only truthful’. By referring to itself ‘as a little god’ we have to ask if Plath is suggesting that we show a lot of devotion to a mirror and maybe too obsessed with our appearance. The mirror goes on to explain what it sees all day when no one is in front of it. The use of ‘over and over’ at the end of the stanza again suggests that we are obsessed with our image.

Stanza Two

Switching from mirror to lake still gives the idea of reflection. Lakes however are associated with deepness and this could be the woman searching not just her physical appearance but also her soul. The idea of the woman searching looks at a couple of ideas; the speaker is searching for their true self; a feeling of losing who you are as you become what people expect. By referring to the ‘candles’ and ‘moon’ as liars does two things; one it shows an element of jealousy on the mirrors behalf; two it looks at the woman being in a constant state of reflection and turning to those that will give only the half truth of her situation (candles and the moon suggest dim light that can flatter a person and not show a true/clear picture). The ‘tears’ and ‘agitation’ shown by the woman shows how distressed she currently is with her situation. The phrase ‘comes and goes’ again shows the need to look a certain way. The last two lines look at the loss of youth and we are given a harsh view of the aging process perhaps to show us the difficulty the woman has with losing her youth. ‘Terrible fish’ looks at the idea that aging is monstrous.

Points to note:

  • Fear of aging/losing yourself
  • Sense of pain and loneliness from the woman
  • Strong use of punctuation to make us pause and reflect and add to the depressing content
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