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Mirror I am silver and exact. I have no preconceptions.

Plath uses the technique of personification for the mirror. The mirror is the narrator. It says "I am silver and exact", and is without any preconceptions. It is like a blank state. Just like a new born baby. The mirror is describing its own life.

Whatever I see I swallow immediately

The mirror reflects what it sees objectively "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. substitution of "swallowing" for "reflecting" makes this mirror seem human the mirror also seems to suggest it is growing

Just as it is, unmisted by love or dislike.

Unmisted is yet another metaphor; here it means unchanged, but it gives us an image of an actual mist that could be but isn't clouding what the mirror sees. Even more interesting, love and dislike are the things that cause this mist. The mirror, even though it's not human, knows that when humans love something, it appears more beautiful, and when we dislike something, it seems uglier.

I am not cruel, only truthfulThe mirror wants to justify itself by saying that it is not cruel, only truthful , the dash alters us to a similie, like

5. The eye of the little god, four cornered.

Notice that the word "god" isn't capitalized in this line: it could refer to any god, even one in the guise of a mirror.

Finally, the note that the god's eye is "four-cornered" (square or rectangular) helps us complete in a concise and graceful way the image of the eye in the shape of a mirror.

Most of the time I meditate on the opposite wall.

This line tells us in a roundabout way what the mirror is facing: a wall. The line continues to personify the mirror instead of facing it, or reflecting it, the mirror "meditates on" (or contemplates) the opposite wall. This implies that the mirror, an inanimate object, thinks.

It is pink, with speckles. I have looked at it so long

The wall is speckled and pink. The color pink makes the wall seem feminine; this mirror is probably in a girl's bedroom or bathroom

I think it is a part of my heart. But it flickers.

Next, the mirror tells us about its connection to the wall. Using enjambment, a literary device where a thought is split between two lines, the mirror tells us that it has looked at this wall for so long that it feels like the wall is a part of its heart. At the end of the eighth line, we see that the relationship between the wall and the mirror isn't as constant as we thought: the wall flickers.

Faces and darkness separate us over and over.

Here we see why the wall flickers because of faces and darkness. The faces come to look in the mirror, and when they leave, they turn the light off, leaving the mirror to reflect nothing but the darkness. The way Plath has structured this line makes us think that the mirror must be sad at this separation

10. Now I am a lake. A woman bends over me,

The second stanza sees a change in the mirror. " Now 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. The mirror has grown into a lake. A woman bends over the lake/mirror and looks in..

Searching my reaches for what she really is.

"Searching my reaches for what she really is." The mirror now becomes a symbol for the private, hidden self

Then she turns to those liars, the candles or the

moon.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? The mirror is no longer a mirror, but a lake, which also shows reflections. And we get to see a whole new character: a woman. We saw faces in the first stanza, but now we focus on one face in particular. This woman, we find out, isn't very happy with her reflection in the lake, so she tries to find a kinder reflection under the light of a candle or the moon. When the lake reflects her faithfully anyway, she cries and gets upset.

I see her back, and reflect it faithfully.

When the woman is turned away, to look at the lying moon and candles, the lake is still there, reflecting her back, faithfully showing the truth. The woman has turned her back on the mirror, possibly because of what it shows.
But also, reverting the gaze. The mirror gazes back(I see her back)

She rewards me with tears and an agitation of hands. This line shows that the woman is anxious to find what she's looking for

as the lake told us earlier, she is searching for what she really is. She's not satisfied with the lake at first glance, but eventually turns back to it. But the mirror seems upset that the woman is rewarding it for its faithful reflection by becoming more distressed. She shows her distress by physically disturbing the mirror/ lake; her tears drop into it, and her hands stir up the water that shows her reflection.

15. I am important to her. She comes and goes.

This lake sure is proud, saying it's important to the woman it reflects. But remember, this speaker is supposed to be truthful and exact, so maybe it's right when it says that it's important to this woman. .

Each morning it is her face that replaces the darkness.

The lake even gives proof to back up how important it is it says the woman visits each morning, so that the lake then reflects the woman's face instead of the dark of the night. If this woman comes to look at the lake every morning, well then maybe it is important 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 becomes not just a calm mirror, but terrifying. In these two lines, drowning and rising in the lake metaphorically describe aging. The woman has "drowned" a young girl in the lake but we don't think she has actually drowned anyone. Instead, the young girl who used to look into the lake is gone, having grown into a woman. Why does the speaker say the woman "drowned" her own youth in these waters? Perhaps because the woman has spent so much time peering into the lake and fretting about her reflection, or perhaps simply because time is passing. Also in the lake, an old woman rises up but again, we don't think this is an actual old woman in the lake. Instead, the woman's reflection is changing and aging. She sees herself growing into an old woman.

This old woman is like a "terrible fish," which brings the lake metaphor full circle and gives us a ghastly image of what this young woman has turned into Fish- live in the lake, the woman also lives in the lake, in the mirror, because of what the mirror reflects

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.


Symbol Analysis

From the beginning of the poem, where we find out that the mirror is "unmisted" and "swallows" everything, to the end of the poem, where a girl is drowning and a fish is rising, this poem revolves around water. Here, water is both a reflecting surface and an actual lake. So, water, in this poem, is both clear and mysterious.

Line 2: While this line doesn't explicitly address water, it uses the word "swallow" as a metaphor for reflecting. The word makes us think of water, which can itself swallow things, taking them beneath its surface. Line 3: Again, a water-related term is used as a metaphor. "Unmisted" stands in here for "unchanged." Lines 10-11: Here we find out that the mirror is a lake. It's a cool image, shifting from the silver of a mirror to the silver of clear water. Then we hear that a woman is searching the reaches of the water for what she really is; if you've ever spent some time peering into water, you'll know that it can be mesmerizing like this. The mythical Greek figure Narcissus even died looking into his reflection in a pond. Line 14: The tears are another form of water, and the woman is physically interacting with the water of the lake by stirring it up with her hands. She's taking her frustration out on the water. Lines 17-18: This drowning and rising up is, yet again, a metaphor. With the young girl drowning, and the old woman rising, it seems most likely that the water is a metaphor for time, or aging. Also note that because the old woman rises up "like" a terrible fish, this part of the line is a simile.

Color, Light, and Darkness

Symbol Analysis

In talking about mirrors, the sense of sight is pretty important. So, of course, colors and darkness figure into this poem. From silver to pink to moonlight, this poem uses colors and light to give the reader images as they read about a mirror.

Line 1: The color in this line gives us the major clue that ah ha! the speaker is not a person, but a personified mirror. Since this is the first line, we think of the color silver throughout the poem whenever we think of the mirror. Lines 7-8: So the mirror is silver, but now we get the image of the pink, speckled wall, which the mirror reflects most of the time. This pink, speckled image is less exotic and exciting than the mirror's silvery surface. But then in line 8, we find out that this speckled pink wall is like part of the mirror's heart and hearts often make us think of the color red. Line 9: In this line, we get our first glimpse of darkness, which separates the mirror from the pink wall it believes is part of its heart. The mirror also mentions that faces play a part in this

separation. What does this mirror feel about human faces if it sees them on the same plane as darkness? Line 13: We hear a lot about darkness in this poem, but it is only appropriate, in a poem about reflections, that we'd see what is lighting up the reflection. However, we only hear that, when it comes to reflections, candles and the moon are liars, that the light they provide is false. The mirror's declaration personifies the candles and the moons, giving them human qualities, like the ability to lie. Line 16: Again, in this line, we see faces and darkness. But instead of the faces separating the mirror from the pink wall, faces replace the darkness. We'd expect the sky, in the morning, to replace the darkness, but instead, the woman's face is the first thing reflected in the lake.

Symbol Analysis

In a poem about a mirror, we can expect a lot of reflections. Plath only uses the word "reflect" once, though. Instead of just repeating this word again and again, she uses personification and metaphor to get her point across. Moreover, the reflections in this poem aren't those of someone checking to make sure she doesn't have anything stuck in her teeth. The emphasis on reflections in this poem shows the importance of appearance to the woman in the poem, and, perhaps, to women in general.

Line 2: "Swallow" is a metaphor for reflecting. This line is also an example of personification mirrors don't see or swallow anything but Plath's poem makes this character so believable that we have to remind ourselves that mirrors don't have eyes or mouths. Line 6: Again, we see personification and metaphor teaming up to mean reflection. The metaphor is that the mirror is reflecting the opposite wall, not "meditating on" (or thinking about) it, and the personification is that mirrors don't meditate, people do. Lines 7-8: Mirrors don't see, and they don't look; hence we have another example of personification used to create a metaphor for reflection. This time, we find out that it's possible for the mirror to feel that whatever it reflects is a part of its heart, further personifying the mirror. Line 11: Here we see the importance of reflections. Now, the mirror is a lake, and a woman is searching its waters to learn something about herself. This line is starting to dive into the wider function of reflection in this poem. The woman is treating her reflection in the water as if it could reveal something about herself, and not just her appearance. Line 13: Ah ha! We caught you, Plath, you used the word reflect! But not without some personification, of course. The mirror is providing an accurate reflection, as if it takes pride in what it does, or as if it has some loyalty to this woman. Lines 18-19: These two lines give reflections physical power. Of course, this power is abstract only a figurative young girl and a figurative old woman are in the waters of the lake, but it's a very cool image nonetheless. This line takes reflections from being about present appearances and makes them about past and future appearances, all through the metaphor of drowning and rising in the waters of the lake.

Mirror Theme of Appearances

A poem written from the point of view of a mirror is practically required to be, to some extent, about appearances. This mirror tells us repeatedly about how accurate and unbiased it is in showing appearances which doesn't work out so well for the aging woman in the

second stanza, who seems very concerned with the way that she looks. This poem explores the importance and transience of appearances.

Questions About Appearances

1. What effect does this poem's point of view have on the theme of appearances? 2. What are the differences, if any, between the reflections in the mirror and the reflections in the lake? 3. Why is the lake, or her reflection in the lake, important to the woman? 4. In this poem, what is the relation between appearances and what the woman is looking for what she really is?

Mirror Theme of Women and Femininity

The only other character in "Mirror" is a woman. While the speaker makes no explicit statement about what it means to be female, this poem looks at what is important to a female character from the point of view of a speaker claiming to be unbiased. Our speaker, a mirror, reveals a woman concerned about her appearance and aging.

Questions About Women and Femininity

1. If the mirror had a gender, would it be male or female? Would the lake be the same gender? 2. How would the poem be different if the character in the second stanza were a man and not a woman? 3. Why is the lake important to the woman in this poem? 4. What do you imagine the woman in this poem looks like?

Mirror Theme of Time

The mirror may change into a lake, but it doesn't seem to age as time passes, unlike the woman who sees herself aging in her reflection in its waters. We don't find out that youth and old age are involved in this poem until the last few lines, but throughout the poem we get hints that time is passing. In the second stanza, we see that the woman in the poem is distressed, but we don't know why until the last two lines, which show that the effects of passing time may be the source of her troubles.

Questions About Time

1. How much time elapses during the course of this poem? Weeks? Months? Years? Why do you think so? 2. How is the passing of time shown in this poem? 3. What does the passing of time mean for the woman? For the mirror? 4. How does the woman coming to the lake affect the passing of time in this poem?

Mirror Theme of Transformation

A transformation that takes place throughout "Mirror" is the personification of the mirror; through personification, the poem transforms a mirror into a speaking, feeling narrator. Then, in the jump between the first and second stanzas, the mirror transforms into a lake. Lastly, the woman in the poem sees herself transforming from a young girl to an old woman.

Questions About Transformation

1. How real does the mirror's personification feel for you? 2. What is the effect of the mirror's transformation into a lake? 3. What role does the passing of time play in the transformations that occur in this poem?

Free Verse
This poem is written in free verse, which means that it has no set pattern of rhythm or rhyme. Yet, Plath uses rhythm and rhyme deliberately. While her lines have no repeating pattern of stressed and unstressed syllables, they read gracefully and naturally. While none of these lines rhymes blatantly, Plath uses slant rhymes, or words that sound similar, but don't quite rhyme. An example of this is the lines ending in "darkness" and "fish" these two words sound similar, but the slant makes the rhyme surprising and fresh. Plath also uses repetitive phrases, like "over and over" and "day after day." These phrases, and Plath's attention to sound, help bring a little rhythm and rhyme into this poem's free verse.

Speaker Point of View

Who is the speaker, can she or he read minds, and, more importantly, can we trust her or him?

It might seem that a poem written from the point of view of a mirror would have a pretty boring speaker, but that's not true of this poem. This mirror has a lot of human-like qualities, which keep us interested. In addition, the speaker's voice remains the same throughout the poem, although it changes in form between the first and second stanza from a mirror to a lake. We can see the mirror clearly in the first stanza: it's silver, four-cornered, and situated across from a pink speckled wall. We can imagine the mirror hanging in a woman's bathroom, perhaps remaining there for years as different women move in and out of the house; we don't hear too much about the humans in the first stanza except that their faces separate the mirror from its beloved pink wall. We'd think a pink speckled wall would be a little suffocating to look at for the majority of your life, but the mirror feels as if the wall is a part of its own heart. This mirror is also proud of its reflecting skills, calling itself the "eye of a little god," reflecting truthfully exactly what it sees. We could imagine the mirror as an artist in the school of realism, bragging about how true to life it is. When the mirror switches into a lake, it holds onto these same characteristics, calling less exact reflections, like those influenced by the moon or candles, liars. It claims to be important to the woman it reflects, and she seems to be important to the lake it reflects her back

"faithfully" and seems upset when it sarcastically says she "rewards" it with tears. Yet this women isn't elevated to the status of the pink wall, which the mirror thinks is a part of its heart. In a poem spoken by an inanimate object, we can expect some partiality to other inanimate objects, right? While we still get a clear picture of the characteristics of the lake, unlike we did with the mirror, we don't really know what the lake looks like, though it must be still enough to show a reflection. We imagine this is a small lake, within a morning's walk from where the woman in the poem lives close enough that she can peer at her reflection there every morning.

Mirror Setting
Where It All Goes Down

This poem has two distinct settings. In the first stanza, the setting is probably a bathroom, because the wall is speckled pink, and there are a lot of faces and darkness in the room. If the room were bigger, we're guessing that the opposite wall would be a little more interesting, and the lights wouldn't be off so much. But the mirror could be anywhere a bedroom, a hallway? It's left up to our imagination. We do know that it's a four-cornered mirror, and not an oval one, so this mirror is probably just practical, and not super fancy. Also, the detail that the wall is pink might hint that there are women in the house, and that the mirror is in an area they use. We imagine this mirror in a bathroom, with perfume and hair gel right underneath it. Where do you picture the mirror hanging? In the second stanza, the setting changes. We know that our speaker is now a lake, but we don't know how big it is, or if it's in a field, by a forest, or even in the middle of a suburb. We're guessing it's a small, clear lake, somewhere mystical and moonlit, but close enough to a house that the woman who looks at her reflection can come and go easily and often.
Sound check Like a mirror, the sound of this poem is silver and exact; there isn't a syllable out of place. If this poem were a song, we think it would be slow and sad, a lament. The song would be performed with dark lighting, with the singer sitting at a classy black piano, but mostly singing a cappella. The song would be tied together not by a catchy rhyming chorus but by subtle repetitions of sounds, like the k-sounds in lines 7 and 8 "pink," "speckled," and "flickers," and the slant rhymes in "darkness" and "fish." After the song was over, listeners would probably have the chills, certain repeated words from the poem, like "over and over," and "day after day," echoing in their minds.

Whats Up With the Title?

The title, "Mirror," tells the reader who the speaker is in this poem, though we probably could have figured it out without the hint. The title keeps the poem from being gimmicky. We don't spend the whole poem trying to figure out who the speaker is like in a riddle, but we're still a little surprised, or at least intrigued, when we find out that the poem is not merely about, but spoken from the point of view of, a mirror. In addition to letting the reader know the identity of the speaker, the title "Mirror" has

something to say about this poem, and poems in general. All poems, in a way, are mirrors we look into them, and what we get back from them is, in a way, a reflection of ourselves. What kind of reflection does this poem show you?