Mirror is a poem written by Sylvia Plath in 1961, just two years before her suicide. It is a reflection of Plath’s difficult life. It gives us a point of view of the mirror that is exactly reflecting Plath. It is a free-verse poem with no rhyme pattern.
Beginning with the very first line of the first stanza. “I am silver and exact. I have no preconceptions.” A person cannot be “silver”. This makes us look back at the title and realize that what she is talking about is a mirror. Mirror has no “preconceptions”. Plath has used personification here. A mirror has no preconceptions as it only shows what it sees without making its own judgments.
The word “swallow” is used as a metaphor to show that a mirror does not change what it sees. It shows one’s true self.
“I am not cruel, only truthful- The eye of a little god, four-cornered” Here the mirror is trying to clarify that it is not cruel and does not show what it feels, but only reflects what it sees, whether it is good or bad. It is only being truthful. It is also comparing itself to god, thinking that it is powerful and does exactly what god does too by giving unchanged reflections.
It is further personifying by saying that it “meditates” on the opposite wall. Now, mirror is a not a living thing that it can meditate. So maybe it is trying to say that it is contemplating against the wall and trying to think.
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.
A pink-speckled wall gives it a feminine touch. So the setting is probably a bathroom since only bathroom walls are speckled. By the use of an enjambment the mirror tells us that it has looked at the wall for so long that now it has become a part of its heart. In the eighth line we see that the relationship between the mirror and the pink feminine wall is not constant as the wall “flickers”. After looking at the mirror, we switch off the lights and walk away. Hence, the reference to the word “darkness” could mean this.
Moving on to the second stanza, we realize that the mirror is no longer a mirror, but a lake. Also, now it does not talk about faces in general but the face of one particular woman.
Now I am a lake. A woman bends over me,
Searching my reaches for what she really is.
After looking for herself in the mirror, the woman is now bending over on to a lake to not only see her reflection but to find something more deeper, 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.
This woman is trying hard to find her actual self in the lake, something deeper than what is on the surface. Then she turns to the candles and the moonlight expecting different reflections from them. The light from candles and moon can warp sight. They can make anyone look beautiful and so they might not be that reliable in finding what you really are. “she comes and goes” indicates that the woman comes to the lake quite often in search of her inner depths but goes back home disappointed. Even though she is unable find her reflection, she still visits the lake each morning signifying its importance to her.
In me she has drowned a young girl, and in me an old woman.
Rises toward her day after day, like a terrible fish.
Now the water is not only calm, but terrifying, She refers to aging by mentioning the words “young girl” to “old woman” in the line. The young girl, looking at her reflections, has now turned into an old woman. Hence, comparing herself to a terrible fish! She is turning into something as ugly as a terrible fish.