Mirror Poem by Sylvia Plath Summary, Notes and Line by Line Explanation in English


Sylvia Plath’s dark and reflective poetry “Mirror” is one of her best. The poem is set up as a series of observations on the ways in which identity, aging, and mortality operate. Through vivid imagery and a striking use of metaphor, Plath investigates the ways in which our sense of self may be influenced and twisted by the world around us.

About the poet

American poet, novelist, and short-story writer Sylvia Plath (1932–1963). Her writings are noted for their passionate and very personal investigation of the topics of identity, mental illness, and the intricacies of the human experience. Plath battled depression and had many suicidal thoughts throughout her life, which finally resulted in her death by suicide at the age of 30.


Stanza 1

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.

The poem opens with the mirror giving its own self-description: “I am silver and exact.” The mirror states that it is apathetic about the subjects it encounters. It has no feelings or opinions regarding the things it reflects. The mirror’s absence of emotion does not indicate that it is cruel; rather, it only implies that it presents the world as it is: “I am not cruel, only truthful.” The mirror continues by saying that it typically “meditates” on the pink wall across from it. The mirror admits that because it spends so much time staring at the wall, it feels as though the wall is part of its own heart: “I have looked at it so long/I think it is part of my heart.” Sometimes, though, the mirror is isolated from viewing the wall either by lack of light or because a person is staring into the mirror.

Stanza 2

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.

In the second stanza, a lady stares into the mirror as she seeks to figure out who she is. Then the lady turns away from the mirror and looks instead at candles and moonlight, yet the mirror continues to display the woman her identical reflection. The woman tears as she sees herself in the mirror. For the lady, the mirror holds significance. Every morning, she comes back to the mirror. The mirror concludes by telling the story of how the woman spent her youth staring into it and that now all that is left of her is her aging reflection.