True Relfections: A look at Sylvia Plath's poem "Mirror"
"The Eye of a Little God"
A mirror never lies. It will never reflect what you want to see; instead it shows you the cold hard truth. Truths that most aren't willing to accept. Women look in mirrors to find beauty and perfection; however, a mirror won't unveil a beauty queen. Being a woman living in a society that is consumed by perfection and beauty, it's hard to be content with who you see in the mirror. In our society today women are consumed with size and appearance, and when you have super models that seem to get skinnier with every magazine they are in it's hard to find that confidence when you aren't that 'perfect' image. Some women have difficulty in dealing with the person gazing back at them because of this very reason. In almost every magazine you see women being portrayed as goddess like, containing a type of beauty that men melt over. They have no flaws and are the perfect model size. This causes problems for us regular women who are flawed. We then become obsessed with being perfect and this could lead to a multitude of problems from eating disorders to self mutilation. Sylvia Plath's poem "Mirror" shows how women consume themselves in mirrors to try to retain this perfect kind of beauty that only exists in a fantasy world.
"Mirror" by Sylvia Plath
The mirror in the poem symbolizes a woman who knows truth; when the mirror states that she is "silver and exact" in line 1, she is saying that she is truthful and comfortable with portraying real raw images. The woman in the poem who is looking in the mirror doesn't see that truth the mirror is conveying instead she only see's her flaws and someone who she isn't comfortable with and instead she runs from her reflection because she is afraid to face truth: "A woman bends over me, / Searching my reaches for what she really is. / Then she turns to those liars, the candles or the moon" (lines 10-12). This shows that the woman is searching the mirror for a reflection, but one that she wishes to see and when she see's what she deems imperfection she runs to the liars. The ones who will hide her true reflection and show her in a more gracious light. When you see yourself under the moonlight or in the light of a candle the light is dimmed and therefore all of your flaws become cloaked, but when you are under bright lights and looking in the mirror every flaw is brought to the surface for all to see. This also illustrates how some women can't handle their reflection in the mirror because they don't look like what they are expecting. A mirror will only show beauty if the person looking in feels beautiful on the inside. In order to see perfection you have to be willing to accept your imperfections.
Some women look in a mirror and dread every second; either they are too fat or too skinny, their face is covered in blemishes, their nose isn't symmetrical, their eyes are too big, the list goes on and on. Women will find every flaw when they look in a mirror, even internal flaws. Then they believe the mirror is cruel for not reflecting what they want to see, an image of perfection. What they don't understand is that a mirror is the only truth and has "no preconceptions" of the person looking in (line 1). Instead a mirror "swallows" an image and reflects it honestly: "Whatever I see I swallow immediately / Just as it is, unmisted by love or dislike. / I am not cruel, only truthful-" (lines 2-4). This shows how a mirror will accept all images, but it won't reflect what you want to see. In this way the mirror is sort of cruel because it displays a woman's flaws. Women don't want to see flaws, they want to see the vixen in Maxium or Playboy. They want to see the truth they have conjured up in their minds, not what's on the canvas.
In the poem years pass and the mirror watches the woman transform with every gaze. Her youth slowly withers away and before she knows it, she becomes an old woman. The woman has wasted her youth because she became obsessed with her looks: "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." (lines 15-18). The image "In me she has drowned a young girl" suggests that the woman didn't enjoy her youth because she was too consumed with finding perfection. Now every time she looks in the mirror she is reminded of her lost youth. When people become consumed with beauty and perfection they sometimes forget to live life and their obsession becomes their life. Then there is the image of the fish which is ugly and suggests that if we become too consumed with vanity then inside we become ugly.
Everyone has issues with body image and finding perfection. The mirror in the poem represents the truth in life, that some people can't handle. The woman's view of herself and how she rejects her natural beauty, shows how everyone has trouble accepting themselves. The mirror, or "the eye of the little god", shows us who we truly are. With this poem Plath is suggesting that in order to be beautiful on the outside you have to feel beautiful on the inside. Those models you see in magazines are fantasized images of how society believes women should look, instead of highlighting natural beauty. This poem would be an excellent message for all young girls of today because so many of them struggle with body issues, it could show them how beautiful they are. If our society wasn't so focused on an image of divine beauty, then maybe girls wouldn't have eating disorders and body issues. Maybe they wouldn't commit suicide of self mutilate because they become depressed by not living up to a false image. In the end everyone has to face the facts about themselves, and accept it before vanity consumes them.
Interview with Sylvia Plath
Interview with Sylvia Plath
The interview was conducted in 1962 and discusses her life and work.