BACKGROUND OF THE POEM The poem was written by Sylvia Plath in 1961. It was published byFaber and Faber eight years after her death in 1971 as part of thecollection Crossing the Water.
FIRST STANZAI am silver and exact. I have no preconceptions.Whatever I see I swallow immediatelyJust 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 longI think it is part of my heart. But it flickers.Faces and darkness separate us over and over.
WHAT IT MEANS... In the opening line of the poem, the mirror proclaims “I am silver and exact. Ihave no preconceptions.” Throughout the entire poem, personification is the mostprominent element. While the outside world is critical, judgmental, and harsh, themirror points out that it is always and “only truthful.” It accepts both things andpeople for what they are without trying to change them. The mirror is “the eye of alittle god,” that has looked at the wall for so long opposite of it that it has become“part of my heart.” The only thing that separates the mirror from the wall are the“faces and darkness,” that pass by and “flicker.”
SECOND STANZANow I am a lake. A woman bends over me,Searching my reaches for what she really is.Then she turns to those liars, the candle 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.
WHAT IT MEANS… The mirror has changed identities and is now a lake. A woman is looking at herself,searching…for what she really.” As she ages, she does not like what she sees. It does notunderstand that the woman is not searching for her true self, but only demonstrating herobsession with her physical appearance. She relies cosmetics, such as candles or the moon, inorder to comfort herself and try to hide her aging. Instead of receiving the gratitude the mirrorthinks it deserves, it receives “tears and an agitation of hands.” The woman is not pleased withwhat she sees every day in the lake. The metaphor in the last two lines compares the woman to afish. Fish are generally very unattractive and ugly creatures and aging can make a woman feel thesame way. Her youth has passed and aging is gaining on her. The woman has come to the pointin her life where she has realized her youth is gone, and age has risen towards her “like a terriblefish.”
THEME Pain comes with losing ones innocence and youth because societyvalues beauty and youthfulness more than the truth.
ANALYSIS Point of View: First Person Speaker: The mirror/lake Type: Free Verse