A brief overview of the poem "Mirror" by Sylvia Plath.

On Sylvia Plath’s “Mirror”

            Sylvia Plath’s poem, “Mirror”, creates a perfect view of society’s stress put on women for the women of the world to allow them to feel less stressed by society’s ever tightening constraints. “Mirror” shows deep metaphors, and tragic flaws in society, such as in beauty, and in perfection of a woman’s role, which bring stress to the women of the world today.

            “Mirror” has extremely deep metaphors pertaining to the beauty standard pushed on women. An example being, “Now I am a lake/ a woman bends over me/ searching my reaches for what she really is.”, which literally is a woman looking at her reflection in the glassy waters of a lake. However, metaphorically she is a woman searching desperately for the answers of deep questions about life’s purpose, and how she can escape society’s conformity. Later in the poem, it is stated, “In me she has drowned a young girl, and in me an old woman/ Rises towards her day after day” Every day this woman looks into the lake, and every day she is rewarded with a frailer, older self. It is pure symbolism of the classic human struggle versus death. A battle always fought, but never won. The human struggle versus ageing and eventually death is a key concept in the poem, “Mirror”.

            Since the beginning of time, women have always been prodded into being beautiful and perfect. This prodding is one of the main concepts in the poem. For example, the speaker says she is constantly pushed by the, “liars, the candles, or the moon”. The names are synonyms of society, even going so far to say how timeless society’s push is by comparing it to the grandeur and age of the moon. The candles signify the loss of time from being pushed into these “liars” perfectionist view.  Additionally on society’s perfectionist push, the speaker says, “The eye of a little god, four-cornered”. The eye of this little god is society’s harsh criticism of those who do not conform. The little god is society, however punitive in importance; it is still shown as a major role in women’s lives. Not only is social death shown, but physical death is shown as well. The last line is, “Rises towards her, like a terrible fish.” This means, metaphorically, death. This death could be physical or it could be the death of a woman’s beauty, thus causing her social death. However both are physical in their roots. Death, both physical and social, is a major force in “Mirror”.

            “Mirror” shows humanity very important lessons. Its metaphors about death show us that death is coming and we should not fear it, for we cannot win. Additionally, its metaphors showing society’s push on women for conformity to social standards, points out that a woman should not consume herself worrying about society’s view. “Mirror” shows that, whether physical death or social death is coming, we must be firm and unafraid until the very end.

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  • ceegirl on Mar 17, 2010

    The last line says it all.

  • sarah on Apr 14, 2010

    The woman never calls the candles or the moonlight liars, the mirror does. The entire poem is from the perspective of the personified mirror, not the woman. Also, she is not “pushed by” the candles or the moon, she turns to them. I think this implies that she is searching for her truth in places other than the mirror. Candle light and moon light are very flattering to a persons appearance, which may be why the mirror scorned them, because the mirror considered itself the only really honest one.

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