Mirror by Sylvia Plath- Another Look- CSEC English B


Sylvia Plath’s “Mirror'” is a poignant and introspective poem that explores themes of identity, ageing, and the passage of time. Through the perspective of a mirror, the poem delves into the complex relationship between appearance and reality, as well as the psychological impact of ageing and self-perception.

The poem is structured in two stanzas, with the first stanza describing the mirror as “silver and exact,” reflecting the truth without any bias or distortion. The mirror presents itself as a truthful observer, reflecting whatever it sees without judgment. This sets up a contrast between the mirror’s objective reflection and the subjective perceptions of the individuals who gaze into it.

In the second stanza, the focus shifts to the mirror’s interactions with a woman, who sees herself aging over time. The woman’s relationship with the mirror becomes one of conflict as she struggles with her changing appearance and the passage of time. The mirror, personified as a lake, becomes a symbol of the woman’s inner turmoil and self-awareness.

Plath uses vivid imagery to convey the woman’s emotional state, describing her as “searching [the mirror’s] reaches for what she really is.” This suggests a longing for self-understanding and acceptance in the face of ageing and mortality.

The final lines of the poem—”In me she has drowned a young girl, and in me an old woman / Rises toward her day after day, like a terrible fish”—emphasize the inevitability of ageing and the relentless march of time. The mirror becomes a metaphor for the passage of life, as the woman confronts her changing self-image with a mixture of fascination and fear.

Overall, “Mirror” by Sylvia Plath is a profound exploration of identity, self-perception, and the existential angst that accompanies the process of ageing. Through its evocative imagery and introspective tone, the poem invites readers to contemplate the nature of truth, beauty, and the relentless passage of time.


  1. Personification: The mirror is personified throughout the poem, giving it human-like qualities and agency. For example, it is described as having “the eye of a little god” and being “unmisted by love or dislike,” suggesting an almost sentient presence that observes and reflects without bias.
  2. Metaphor: The mirror serves as a metaphor for self-reflection and self-awareness. It reflects not only physical appearances but also inner truths and psychological states. Additionally, the mirror is metaphorically compared to a “lake” and a “terrible fish,” emphasizing the depth and complexity of the woman’s relationship with her own reflection.
  3. Symbolism: The mirror symbolizes the passage of time, ageing, and the search for identity. It reflects the woman’s changing appearance as she ages, serving as a constant reminder of mortality and the inevitability of change.
  4. Imagery: Plath uses vivid imagery to evoke the mirror’s reflective surface and the woman’s emotional state. Words such as “unmisted,” “swallow,” and “tears” create a rich sensory experience, allowing readers to visualize and empathize with the woman’s struggle.
  5. Allusion: The poem alludes to mythical and biblical themes, such as the story of Narcissus and the concept of a “lake” as a metaphor for the subconscious mind. These allusions add depth and resonance to the poem’s exploration of self-perception and vanity.

Possible Themes

  • Identity: The poem explores the theme of identity, particularly in relation to self-image and ageing. The woman in the poem grapples with her changing appearance as she ages, seeking validation and understanding from the mirror. The mirror becomes a symbol of self-reflection and the quest for self-awareness, highlighting the tension between external appearances and inner truths.

  • Perception vs. Reality: Another central theme in “Mirror” is the contrast between perception and reality. The mirror reflects an objective truth, yet the woman’s perception of herself is shaped by her subjective experience and emotional state. This disconnect between appearance and reality underscores the complexity of human perception and the elusive nature of truth.

  • Ageing and Mortality: The poem confronts the theme of ageing and mortality, portraying the passage of time as inevitable and relentless. The woman’s struggle with her changing reflection symbolizes the universal experience of growing older and coming to terms with one’s mortality. The mirror serves as a constant reminder of the fleeting nature of youth and beauty, highlighting the inevitability of ageing and the transience of life.

  • Self-Awareness and Acceptance: “Mirror” also explores the theme of self-awareness and acceptance. The woman’s interactions with the mirror reflect her search for understanding and validation, as she grapples with her changing self-image. Ultimately, the poem suggests that true self-acceptance comes from embracing one’s flaws and imperfections, rather than seeking validation from external sources.

  • Vanity and Narcissism: The poem touches upon themes of vanity and narcissism, particularly in the context of society’s obsession with physical appearance. The woman’s fixation on her reflection and her desire for eternal youth suggests a preoccupation with external beauty and societal ideals of perfection. However, the mirror’s impartial gaze serves as a reminder of the futility of vanity and the inevitability of ageing.

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