Mirror by Sylvia Plath —Explanation
by Sylvia Plath
I am silver and exact. I have no preconceptions.
Whatever I see I swallow immediately
Just 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 long
I think it is part of my heart. But it flickers.
Faces and darkness separate us over and over.
Explanation … Here the speaker is the mirror. Through its voice, the speaker chooses to express her inner feelings. The opening line, ‘I am silver and exact,’ makes it abundantly clear. The mirror describes itself as an un-biased observer. It absorbs whatever image is incident on it, and reflects it very truly with no distortion or manipulation. It has no particular fondness or rancor towards anyone or any object. That enables it to reflect the images so faithfully and so correctly.
The mirror affirms that it has no feeling of vengeance or bias against anyone. Its commitment is only for truthful reflection of all that it sees. Such unwavering resolve for neutrality in observation can only be expected from God, not from any human being. So the mirror with its four corners feels that it is the eye of a ‘little’ God.
The mirror is hung on a wall. It stares at the pink, speckled wall opposite to it endlessly. It has no respite from looking at the same dreary wall. So, it is condemned to ‘meditate’ on the wall with no leeway to look elsewhere for a change. The image of the opposite wall has got embedded in the mirror’s heart. However, at times, the opposite wall’s image vanishes giving place to faces who peer into it. Also, the night’s darkness interrupts the gazing at the opposite wall.
Now I am a lake. A woman bends over me,
Searching my reaches for what she really is.
Then she turns to those liars, the candles 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.
Explanation …. The mirror conjures the vision of a lake and sees itself as one. A woman looks into the lake to see her reflection. She watches herself very keenly to asses her looks. Apparently dissatisfied with what she sees, she turns back to see herself in candle light and under moonlight. Obviously, her age-related deterioration in her face get fudged and concealed. The moonlight and the candle help her to see herself in a more pleasant and charming way. But such façade is deceptive. The mirror scathingly remarks that both the candle light and the moon resort to lies. It calls the two ‘liars’.
The woman pines for her look that is irreversibly dented by the passage of time. A sense of loss overwhelms her. She breaks down in sorrow. She gesticulates to the lake to appreciate her act for showing everything the way they are.
The woman develops a bond of trust with the lake (mirror). She often returns to the lake to see herself in her ‘true’ way. Every morning, the woman comes to the mirror to see her face slowing falling to the ravages of time. From a young maiden’s youthful face, the appearance had deteriorated to one of a old woman. That is a very hurtful feeling. The ruthless symptoms of aging jump menacingly towards the woman remorselessly day after day.
[Detailed question – answer and notes will soon be posted with the Value Pack.]