Wednesday, July 14, 2004

Mirror

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 a 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.

--

"Mirror," written by Sylvia Plath in the mid-twentieth century, is a powerful poem that reveals the internal and external problems a woman faces.

The narrator of the poem is a mirror. In the first nine lines, the mirror describes itself and what it does. In the second half of the poem, the mirror is still talking, but now it is comparing itself to a lake. The woman in the poem peers into the "lake," searching for what she really is. But the mirror just does its job and reflects her image back to her. The woman rewards it "with tears and an agitation of hands." She comes and goes each morning. She grows a day older every time she looks in the mirror. In the lake, she has "drowned" a young girl, meaning that she has become a woman. Now "an old woman rises toward her day after day, like a terrible fish." Now she is old, and her reflection is like a terrible fish.

Our society is focused on looks. Overall, intelligence has become more important than appearance when it comes to hiring people, but prejudice is still a major problem for people who are obese, deformed, or "weird-looking". Until very recently, a woman's worth was based almost entirely on her looks. The woman in this poem, unlike Jane Eyre and Jo, who were ordinary-looking, but active and independent women, listened to society. She cried because she was frustrated with her appearance.
The "agitation of hands" referred to her efforts to hide the blemishes on her face with make-up.

Our society also has the misconception that as a person ages, he/she becomes uglier. The woman was also unhappy with her image because she saw herself getting older and older. One might also interpret the "agitation of hands" as her efforts to smooth out the wrinkles on her face. The mirror also saw the woman grow older with every passing day. When she was finally at an old age, the mirror compared her reflection to a "terrible fish."

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