Updated: Apr 11, 2022
Mirror was a poem written by Sylvia Plath in her collection of poetry Crossing the Water which was published posthumously in 1971. Plath has written all the poems in it between 1961- 1962. In February 1961, Plath's second pregnancy ended in miscarriage; several of her poems, address this event. The poet personifies the mirror in this poem. Both the stanzas are spoken by an object that has the power of reflection, the first- mirror, and the second lake.
I am silver and exact. I have no preconceptions.
Whatever 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 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.
The mirror in the first stanza speaks its own qualities and jobs. It says that it is silver in color and exact i.e. shows what is shown. It does not have any assumptions or preconceived ideas on the things that appear on it. Whatever comes in front is projected as it is without any likes or dislikes (prejudices). For such actions it’s no cruel it’s just being truthful to everything. And so it calls itself “an eye of a little God” that has four corners. Now the mirror speaks about its job as it spoke of its qualities in the first 4 lines. Most of the time the mirror meditates looking at the opposite wall. It observes that the wall is pink in color with some patches and it says it has been looking at it for most of the time. It feels like its heart is a part of the wall but, unlike the wall, the mirror flickered because people come and go and separate them over and over.
In the second stanza, the mirror changes into a lake and is again personified by the poet. Here the lake registers an incident. A woman bends towards it in search of her own self, with no satisfaction she turns towards the moon and the candles whom the lake calls “liars”. Now the lake speaks out how honest it is towards anything. But for that faith and honesty, the reward it receives is an agitation. Now the lake changes into a common object that has a quality of reflecting things as it is and claims that it is an important object to the woman’s life (the woman who turned her back at it and went to the liars). Every day of her life is stored in it and each Morning she looks at it by replacing darkness in the morning. The object is the record of her life experiences, her youth, her present, and soon the future. “In me she drowned a young girl, and in me, an old woman rises towards her day after day, like a terrible fish”.
The poem speaks on neglecting true self-identity. How women are not ready to face their own true selves and are impressed by filters. This is not just applicable to the time period this was written but also now. Truth is cruel to the people who are weak. One should have the courage to face honesty, faith, and truth. Searching for individuality becomes meaningful only when the person is capable of imbibing the fact, uniqueness. This poem can be given a lot more interpretation. Though the poet has used free verse style, this poem has got intense meaning which may differ from person to person.