In Sylvia Plath’s poem, “Mirrors”, what at first seems to be a clever riddle is later revealed as far more significant through Plath’s effective utilization of an inanimate object (a mirror, none the less) to offer inciteful commentary on appearance, time, and overall change. This commentary is masterfully established through use of repetitive phrases, symbols, imagery, and perhaps most importantly, overarching personification that begins even in the first line of the poem. Throughout the poem, the brutal honesty of the mirror is revealed through Plath’s purposeful word choices, which aids in indicating, as Mafe said, that the despair brought upon the woman (who introduces conflict into the poem) was a product of her own thoughts and belief and not of the mirror’s. The mirror is unbiased, described in the very beginning of the poem as “silver and exact”, and later on in the first stanza as “not cruel, only truthful”. This truthfulness of the mirror helps Plath to indicate that the mirror is far removed from the struggle of the woman as she goes through her life and her appearance withers away, providing commentary on the effect of appearance on assumed selfworth and identity. The woman in the poem, only truly introduced in the second stanza, uses the mirror (who takes on the form of a reflective lake in the second stanza) to search its “reaches for who she really is”, as she is thoroughly convinced of the importance of appearance, and as a result extremely distressed about the unfavorable effect of aging on her appearance. She rewards the mirror with “tears and an agitation of hands”, as in the mirror she “has drowned a young girl”, and is able to see her identity as an old woman rise “toward her day after day”. She even attempts to combat this dreadful concept, turning “to those liars, the candles or the moon”, but the mirror still faithfully reflects what is set before it, and eventually the woman once again confronts reality. This true instability in the woman is supported by (as Mafe mentioned) Plath’s use of diction in including words like “agitation”, “drowned”, “darkness”, and at the very end “terrible”.
While certainly showing how ingrained the idea of a favorable outward appearance is in the mind of the woman as she goes through her life, this struggle hints at the overall focus on change and transformation in the poem. While the mirror is unchanging (albeit a jumbled transformation from a wall mirror into a lake), its vision is met with constant change. The wall that it stares at continuously in the first stanza is “over and over” obscured by “faces and darkness”, and later the mirror’s vision changes continuously from a view of the sky and darkness to a view of the woman (indicated in the mirror’s statement that “each morning it is her face that replaces the darkness”). When recognizing