Sylvia Plath - Mirror
From ZuluNotes - Free Leaving Cert Notes
|Sylvia Plath - Mirror|
|On syllabus||2007, 2008|
- I am silver and exact. I have no preconceptions.
- What ever 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 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 toward her day after day, like a terrible fish.
Mirror by Sylvia Plath is a poem about the terrible difficulty of the truth, especially the inexorable process of age and time.
Plath uses the technique of personification for the mirror. The mirror is the narrator. It says "I am silver and exact", "Whatever I see I swallow immediately / Just as it is". One of the interesting things here is that the mirror is admiring itself, praising itself, reflecting itself. The mirror is its own mirror.
The second stanza sees a change in the mirror. "I am a lake". The differences between a lake and a mirror are important here. The lake is not "silver and exact" like a mirror but it has more depth. A woman bends over the lake and looks in. "Searching my reaches for what she really is." The mirror now becomes a symbol for the private, hidden self.
The lake calls the candles and moon liars as they do not give enough light to give a true reflection. There is an ambiguity about who the woman in the poem is; is it the poet, whose narrative is being made for her her by her mirror - perhaps by her poem, which is also a mirror?
In me she has drowned a young girl, and in me an old woman
rises towards her day after day, like a terrible fish.'
This presents us with the image of the woman getting older and yet still searching for who she is. She is being lied to and she has been a victim of these lies. This final images suggests many insecurities. This terrible fish could represent both the inexorable approach of old age, and the death of what she feels is her socially accepted self. This fake exterior, of a woman who yearns to please and be loved, might, she fears, be destroyed by the emergence of her true self, by the realization of her true inner potential that she sees in the depths of the lake, and which she shuns. Therein lies the bitter sadness of this poem, the paradox in which she is stuck whereby she fears the emergence of her true self as a terrible process which may destroy her humanity. She is afraid that the mirror and the lake will someday soon both reflect the same image, yet also angry with herself that they haven't always done so.