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What is the central idea of the poem "Mirror" by Sylvia Plath?

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rishabh050996 | Student, Grade 10 | (Level 1) Honors

Posted January 5, 2011 at 6:24 PM via web

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What is the central idea of the poem "Mirror" by Sylvia Plath?

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amarang9 | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted January 6, 2011 at 9:42 AM (Answer #1)

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“Mirror” is an objective perspective on time and mortality and particularly about beauty – or the ephemeral nature of beauty and the superficiality of beauty. Mirrors are unconscious, so they can’t be harsh. They are only truthful; unbiased in their reflection of the world. Nor do mirrors interfere in the world. The mirror then describes itself as a lake, with the woman looking older each time she resurfaces to reflection. The mirror says the woman drowned a young girl (the woman as a girl) in itself (the mirror). The mirror notes it is important to the woman. The woman needs the mirror as she defines herself according to her own beauty; perhaps trying to live up to superficial standards of her social world. The mirror says the woman searches “my reaches for what she really is.” The mirror is an unconscious thing, but as personified, the mirror can only ‘wonder’ who the woman really is. As far as the mirror ‘knows’ (again, personification), the woman is obsessed with image (her own). But if the woman is searching the mirror’s reaches for what she is beyond her superficial beauty, it seems the woman can’t get that far because she ‘rewards’ the mirror with tears. So, perhaps the implication is that the old woman resurfaces like a ‘terrible fish’ not because she is old and lost her beauty but because she only values herself for beauty. She is actually doomed to fail because you can’t probe a mirror for more profound significance of the meaning of her life. A mirror is, by its physical nature, a superficial reflection.

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