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Sylvia Plath


The key theme is the transitory (passing/ impermanent) nature of youth and the fear of growing old. The personification of the mirror gives the poem a sense of immediacy, enabling this inanimate object to speak directly to the reader. It is a very dark poem the womans world is dismal, cold and loveless. Startling imagery.

Key Points

Stanza 1
The inevitability of old age and death Our preoccupation with image The search for identity

Looking at her work in general, Plath regularly uses inanimate objects with human qualities. In this poem, the mirror speaks for itself, describing a relationship with a particular woman. Giving the mirror a voice gives the poem a sense of immediacy.

The mirror reflects things exactly as they are. It does not pre-judge. It is without bias, ensuring that the image it reflects is unmisted by any feelings, positive or negative. The mirror is cold and emotionless.

When the mirror states that it immediately swallows whatever it sees, we are reminded of the inexorable passage of time. The eye of a little god what is being implied here is our obsession with ourselves we worship at the mirror that reflects our image.

The mirror has been reflecting on the wall opposite it for so long that it feels the wall is part of itself. The phrase over and over suggests the passage of time.

Stanza 2
The second stanza is concerned with the mirrors relationship with the woman on whose bedroom wall it hangs. The lake metaphor is easily understood (surface is reflective like a mirror) However, the lake has hidden depths, so this metaphor also has connotations of danger.

The woman seems to be struggling to discover her identity and find her way in life. There is a suggestion here that the mirror reflects more than outer physical appearance, that it reveals deeper realities. The reference to tears and agitation of hands points to the womans inner torment. The fact that the mirror is important to her indicates her insecurity. It would seem that she is deeply troubled by the ageing process.

Comes and goes passage of time Each morning passage of time

The closing lines are particularly dramatic. The lake metaphor is developed. The girl has drowned while watching old age daily rise towards her like a terrible fish. Day by day the mirror has recorded the ageing of the woman, witnessing her anguish. The closing image is startling and a little disturbing in its depiction of old age as an ugly, monstrous creature waiting in the depths for us all.