By Sylvia Plath


Welcome to the enchanting and introspective world of Sylvia Plath’s poem “Mirror”! 🌟 Written by the acclaimed American poet Sylvia Plath, “Mirror” first appeared in 1961, just two years before Plath’s tragic suicide. This poem is often classified under the genre of confessional poetry, a style known for its intense personal and emotional examination of the self.

In “Mirror,” Plath uses the personification of a mirror to offer a profound commentary on the issues of self-identity and the way we perceive our own reflections. As we explore this poem, we will uncover how Plath’s personal struggles and her perception of self are intricately woven into this beautifully crafted work. So, let’s dive in and reflect on this mirror-like poem! 📜✨

Meaning of Mirror

Opening Section The poem begins with the lines:

I am silver and exact. I have no preconceptions.
Whatever I see I swallow immediately

Here, the mirror describes itself as unbiased and truthful, introducing its role as a reflective surface that merely shows what it sees without distortion. This sets the tone for the exploration of themes such as truth, perception, and the harsh realities of aging.

Mid Section In the middle of the poem, the mirror transitions into the reflection of a woman:

She rewards me with tears and an agitation of hands.
I am important to her. She comes and goes.

These lines depict the daily interaction between the woman and the mirror, highlighting the woman’s emotional dependency on the mirror for self-recognition and the painful truths it reveals.

Concluding Section The poem concludes with a poignant revelation:

In me she has drowned a young girl, and in me an old woman
Rises toward her day after day, like a terrible fish.

This section metaphorically represents the passage of time and the woman’s loss of youth, emphasizing the inevitability of aging and the mirror’s role in reflecting the stark, often unwelcome, truths about this process.

In-depth Analysis

First Stanza—

  • Literal description: The mirror introduces itself as “silver and exact,” claiming to reflect only what it sees without any alterations.
  • Literary techniques: Personification of the mirror, allowing it to become a narrator that speaks about its experiences and feelings.
  • Syntax and diction: Simple, clear language that emphasizes the mirror’s functionality and reliability.
  • Figurative language: Use of metaphors like “swallow immediately” which conveys the mirror’s capability to absorb and reflect exactly what it sees.

Second Stanza—

  • Literal description: The focus shifts from the mirror itself to the woman who uses it. She is depicted interacting with the mirror, searching for her identity and confronting her aging self.
  • Literary techniques: Continued personification of the mirror; symbolism of the lake, representing depth and introspection.
  • Syntax and diction: The sentences grow longer, mirroring the woman’s increasing contemplation and distress.
  • Figurative language: Metaphorical language intensifies, with the “terrible fish” symbolizing the woman’s fear of aging and her own mortality.


  • Self-Perception: The mirror, as the poem’s central object, reflects not just the physical appearance but also the inner turmoil and changing self-perceptions of the woman it observes.
  • Aging and Time: The poem poignantly addresses the passage of time as seen in the mirror, from the youthful girl to the aged woman, revealing society’s often harsh attitudes toward aging, especially for women.
  • Truth and Reality: Through the lens of the mirror, Plath explores the concept of unembellished truth. The mirror serves as a symbol of honesty, displaying only what is before it, regardless of the viewer’s feelings or desires.


  • The Mirror/Lake: Symbolizes introspection, truth, and a sometimes brutal reality that confronts the viewer. It also reflects the duality of being both a surface and a depth, showing the surface image and suggesting deeper truths beneath.
  • The Woman: Represents humanity’s anxiety over change and the fear of losing one’s youth and beauty, which society often values above other qualities.

Figurative Language—

  • The transformation of the mirror into a lake suggests a deeper, almost mythological form of reflection, providing a metaphorical space where the woman confronts her deeper self.

Literary Techniques—

  • Contrast: The stark, honest voice of the mirror contrasts with the emotional turmoil of the woman, highlighting the disconnect between how we see ourselves and how we are seen.
  • Repetition: The repetitive nature of the woman’s visits to the mirror underscores her obsession with self-image and the passage of time.

Diction and Syntax—

  • The choice of words like “exact” and “faithful” emphasizes the mirror’s function of precise reflection, devoid of any judgment or bias. This linguistic precision mirrors the clarity and sharpness of the reflections the mirror provides.

Poetic Devices used in Mirror

Personification“I am silver and exact.”
Metaphor“In me an old woman rises toward her day like a terrible fish.”
Alliteration“She rewards me with tears and an agitation of hands.”
Assonance“I see her back, and reflect it faithfully.”
Consonance“She has drowned a young girl, and in me an old woman”
Imagery“The eye of a little god, four-cornered.”
SymbolismThe mirror as a symbol of truth and self-perception.
IronyThe irony of the mirror being ‘cruel’ in its truthfulness.

Mirror – FAQs

Q: What is the main theme of Sylvia Plath’s poem “Mirror”? A: The main theme is the quest for self-identity and the unflinching truth reflected by the mirror, emphasizing themes of aging and self-perception.

Q: How does the structure of “Mirror” enhance its themes? A: The two-stanza structure of the poem mirrors the two phases of the woman’s life—youth and old age—and reflects the dual role of the mirror as both observer and reflector.

Q: What does the “terrible fish” symbolize in “Mirror”? A: The “terrible fish” symbolizes the fear and anxiety associated with aging and the loss of youth.

Mirror Study Guide

Verse provided:

In me she has drowned a young girl, and in me an old woman
Rises toward her day after day, like a terrible fish.

Exercise: List all the poetic devices used in this verse.


  • Metaphor: “an old woman rises toward her day like a terrible fish”
  • Personification: The mirror describing the reflection’s actions.
  • Imagery: The visual representation of an old woman and a terrible fish.

This guide should help students identify and understand the various poetic devices used by Plath to convey deep emotional and thematic elements in her poetry.