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.

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.

Analysis, meaning and summary of Sylvia Plath's poem Mirror


  1. just sayin says:

    hey WHOA Ste UK, american’s can be pricks but i think it is time to get over this little grudge you have on america and not judge every single person you sunovabitch

  2. javier robles says:

    What is the meaning of the last two lines???

    I don’t want to know what they mean,
    I want to know why she put them last and how it effects the rest of the poem.

  3. Brittany says:

    i’m doing a presentation in my engligh 3 class and i have read so many outlooks on this poem. it totally stinks its really stupid but i do understand it and plath is absolutley crazy

  4. Lotti says:

    Is anyone else doing A Level English? If so, I just got the pre-release material and this is one of the texts! So basically I have till Tuesday to research and know all there is to know about it. I love it but it’s quite ambiguous.

  5. Ste Uk says:

    From what I have read so far all people from the US have failed to recognise that ‘like a terrible fish’ is not a reference to an illusion of a fish bowl as some clever person put it (Erin US) it refers to Narcissus and Echo. Narcissus was enthralled by his reflection so much from what he seen in the river that his mental state deteriorated and he eventually killed himself. And guess what Sylvia Plath done 3 days before valentines day? she killed herself would you believe, shocking or what. We Brits are glad to save you americans (as usual)

  6. David says:

    In my opinion, ‘Mirror’ seems to be focused upon a couple of key ideas:
    Firstly, Plath concentrates on the process of aging, which is catching up with her; however we must all remember that she was only 29/30 when the poem was first published (I think), so not old by any means. I take the idea of aging not just on a physical level, but also as a result of her concern over her achievements during her life; “In me she has drowned a young girl, and in me an old woman / Rises towar her day after day” – and she appears depressed as to what she has achieved (“Searching my reaches for what she really is.”) Plath wishes to be lied to by “the candles or the moon” as it seems as if the truth is unpalatable to her.
    Secondly, I believe that she is reacting at the way in which the world is centred upon materialstic designs, for instance for women to look good. Therefore, “each morning it is her face that replaces the darkness”; the protagonist continues to want to make herself look good, despite her advancing years, in order to fit in with society’s demands. The mirror is described as “a little god” which seems to support the idea of its importance to women as a whole. It can also be interpretated as self-condemnatory in this light, as Plath still feels the need to fit in with what the world wants, despite the fact she recognises how futile such actions are.
    A poem which shows a women who certainly seems to have been rather depressed upon its publication, an issue which seems to ring throughout, but a great poem nonetheless.

  7. elis says:

    mirror is exact,it swallows whatewer it sees,it is true,has no preconceptions;the mirror resembles itself to an eye of god from these respects.darknes and faces are hardships of life,problems,difficulties.they cut mirror’s wision.in the tenth line we see the word of lake and at the last line the symbol of fish.they are conected with each others.mirror is a lake and this girl searces herself in it but at the end she’s stunned,terrified,scared.this woman looking herself in the mirror prefers liers;candles or moon.we see our defects in the sun light because it showa realities.but when it is dark,and only a little light,we can see ourselves perfect,witout any defect.she does not want to accept the truths,the realities of herself,of life.however she pretends to deny the realities,she still goes to see them!this is a contras.she is old now,and not wanting to be old she prefers liers,just like us when want to see things only from our own windows.

  8. elis says:

    in this poem we see reflections of plath’s own.she was in depression while writing it.she must be confused,confused because of some realities maybe,or getting old makes her to think like that.there are a lot of metaphors in ‘mirror’.also we see mitological references from greek mits;a person who lowes himself so much that,while looking at his reflection on the lake he falls to the water and dies…i really like this poet,she is one of america’s best modern poet i think.

  9. Tina says:

    At first I was confused but, now I am not. I am taking my final exam on this poem and, I think it is the greatest thing I ever read and I am glad I chose Mirrow to do it on. I do believe it was a young girl not wanting to age but realizing she has no choice. I myself am a poem writer but, I write about others not myself. But Plath was my girl I love very much. Nice job

  10. Larkin says:

    I absolutly loved this poem…it is so sad that her suffering can suface so much interest, i love all of her poems and i wish she were here to write more…

  11. Dan says:

    I think Anne Sexton was on way too much drugs and smoked herself retarded. Talk about being half baked. She definitely is a sex addict!

  12. Ellie says:

    Just wanted to mention that in my lit class we compared this poem to a section in Margaret Atwood’s “Surfacing” and it made both even more powerful.

  13. jamilla says:

    i just read this poem in english to, i loved it so much i wrote a paper on it for my other class public speaking.

  14. Hannah says:

    I think that the beauty of all Plaths poetry comes from the fact that one, no matter what their personal experiences, can relate. There is a truthfulness that is undeniable. Each time i read this i fall in love a little bit more

  15. Jade says:

    It seems to me that there is always something lurking in the distance, something hidden beneath the surface wanting to escape. A supressed demon longing to appear in all her poems. It is in ‘Mirror’ we see the serpent inside her longing to escapy. The mirror in which she is referring to is, in my opinion, Plath herself. Strong, well presented, reflecting what she is meant to be in this world, well structured and refined. The woman in this poem is the mirrors own reflection of its self. Reflecting not the inside but scearch for something for something else. This ‘terrible fish’ featured at the end of the poem is th ‘mirror-woman’s’ suppressed demon beginning to surface. This ‘terrible fish’ may also be brought back to another one of Plath’s unknown poems, ‘Medusa’ where she talks about her mother. The un-naturalness of both these images are linked. Mirror is a very deep poem. The words are the surface but when you dive beneath the surface you begin to understand a totally different meaning.

  16. Erin says:

    When the mirror compares itself to a lake, i had this visual image of a lake until it speaks of the fish my mind shifts the image to a fish bowl and like when examining the tiny world inside one comes face to face with a fish, almost mirroring this unfathomable life staring back at you and u wonder what it is thinking at seeing u starting at it as it comes from the other side of the looking glass. Perhaps the terrible fish is a comparison to the girl looking into the mirror and not understanding the image behind the glass and wondering what that image sees even though it is only a reflection and not an actual person… and therefore the mirror even though it is completely unbias shows the reflection, the mirror sees a confused woman looking into it as if thinking the image is thinking something…just as humans are always judging themselves even when they are not being judged by the mirror

  17. y54thy says:

    cool poem

  18. victoria says:

    amazing poem. absolutely beautiful.

  19. Gino tiu says:

    Though different interpretations are very much valid, it is always essential to go back to the text as some of credibility check. As for me, I guess the beauty of the poem mainly emanates from its balatant simplicity that depicts the natural process of aging the search for one’s true self. Note that the poem is rife with such realization, which are further heightened by the use of personification and some relevant symbolisms (e.g. mirror, lake, candles, moon), which are very much suggestive as they are.

  20. Claire says:

    I’m not sure that she is looking at herself, she is the mirror (she is exact)that is to say that perhaps she has no identity. In the second stanza the woman she is in the present kills the child she was and the old woman she will be. She has no past and no future. I guess the poem reflets a deep pain, a despair. (No hopes, no remembrance).
    She is always looking at the others but whitout any feelings ans Plath even puts distance between her and them “faces and darkness seperate us over and over” . And at the very end, she is looking for a guide (“candles or the moon”) but they are ephemeral (candle=weak flame, moon= only the reflection of the sun). The comparison with the fish maybe means that she has only eyes to see but without any feelings (she is looking at herself, she, the artist is looking at herself, the weak woman.)
    I love this poem.

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