“Mirror” by Sylvia Plath is one of my favorite poems. Plath’s writing style is calm and matter of fact, but the poem is still filled with beautiful symbolism and imagery. Read it below!
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.
To me, this poem symbolizes a fear of aging and death. It is told from the perspective of a cold and objective mirror- whose owner looks into it constantly, and is constantly horrified by what she sees there. However, the mirror is not completely objective- it only reflects physicality, so the owner does not gain a true sense of themselves when looking into it. The poem beautifully describes the passage of time- the mirror details how it has witnessed the woman that is its owner pass through childhood and into adulthood, becoming more and more horrified by her age. Plath uses the descriptor “a terrible fish” to show how the idea of mortality horrifies the woman. Plath also tackles themes of feminism in this poem- youth and beauty are very valued in a patriarchal society, and women are expected to conform to very strict beauty standards.