Mirror by Sylvia Plath, Analysis
In the Poem ‘Mirror’ by Sylvia Plath, there is a continuing theme of change. In the beginning the changes are simple, like the acts of day turning to night, but at the end we see the life changes of a woman in particular. Through the use of metaphor and personification in the poem, Plath creates images of water, reflections, and colors as having human characteristics to emphasize the strong theme of change throughout the poem.
From the beginning of the poem, we see that it revolves around water. We find out that the mirror is “unmisted” and “swallows” everything.
We see that by the end of the poem, a girl is drowning and a fish is rising to take over her. In the poem water is both a reflecting surface and an actual lake. So, water, in this poem, is both clear and mysterious. In line 2 the word “swallow” is used as a metaphor for reflecting. The word makes us think of water, which can itself swallow things, taking them beneath its surface. In lines 10-11 we find out that the mirror is a lake, shifting from the silver of a mirror to the silver of clear water. After that we see that a woman is searching the reaches of the water for who she really is.
Later on in line 14, the tears of the woman are another form of water, and she is physically interacting with the water of the lake by stirring it up in her hands. In lines 17-18 the young girl is drowning, and the old woman is rising. It seems most likely that the water is a metaphor for time, or aging. (Shmoop Editorial Team) From silver to pink to moonlight, this poem uses colors and light to give the reader images as they read about a mirror. In line 1 the color gives the major clue that 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. In lines 7-8 the mirror is silver, but now we get the image of the pink wall, that the mirror most often reflects. Later in line 8, we find out that this speckled pink wall is like part of the mirror’s heart, which leads us to think of the color red. In line 9 we get our first glimpse of darkness, which separates the mirror from the pink wall. The mirror also mentions that faces play a part in this separation.
Later in the poem we hear that, the candles and the moon are liars, and that the light that they provide is false. The mirror’s declaration personifies the candles and the moons, giving them human qualities, like the ability to lie. (Shmoop Editorial Team) 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. The emphasis on reflections in this poem shows the importance of appearance to the woman in the poem.
Line 2 is also an example of personification because 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. In line 6 the metaphor is that the mirror is reflecting the opposite wall, not “meditating on” it and the personification is that mirrors don’t meditate, but people do. In lines 7-8 we have another example of personification used to create a metaphor for reflection because mirrors don’t see and they don’t look.
In line 11 the mirror is a lake, and a woman is searching its waters to learn something about herself. The woman is treating her reflection in the water as if it could reveal something about herself, and not just her appearance. (Shmoop Editorial Team) In line 13 Plath used the word reflect but not without some personification. 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 that is constantly looking at herself.
In lines 18-19 we see reflections physical power; however this power is only a figurative. There is a young girl and a figurative old woman in the waters of the lake. 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. By this evidence through the poem in its entirety, the theme clearly stands out in the poem; and the use of metaphor and personification give abundant evidence that the poem is directed toward a theme of change.