Figurative Speech in Mirror by Sylvia Plath, Literary Essay Example

Published: 2022-02-18 02:55:58
Figurative Speech in Mirror by Sylvia Plath, Literary Essay Example
Type of paper:  Essay
Categories: Poem Sylvia Plath
Pages: 5
Wordcount: 1362 words
12 min read

One of the most popular poems of Sylvia Plath is the one with the title Mirror, as it mainly focuses on the perspective that one has with regards to reality and vanity. In the poem, Plath mainly implies the fact that most people, especially women tend to focus more on virtual life more than the reality of life. The interesting bit from the poem is that it offers a platform for one to reflect on a personal level with regards to facing the truth or going for what is not real. The poem was more or less about her life as she went through personal struggles which heightened when she looked herself in front of a mirror. Plath uses metaphor and personification to depict the manner in which the lady in the poem views herself with regards to reality and lies in life.

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In the first stanza, Plath uses personification more than she does with other forms of figurative speech. The entire poem is about a mirror and how truthful it always with regards to depicting everything and anything that is within its view. Therefore, the mirror is an object that is truthful and does not lie as it cannot show anything that is different from what is in its line of view. There is the use of personification where the mirror seems to be like a person who is honest in all that they do (Collecott 450). Line four states that "I am not cruel, only truthful" (Plath 4), as it does not show anything that is different from what is in its view, no matter how bad it may appear to be. The first line supports this view considering that the mirror also informs the reader that "I have no preconceptions" (Plath 1), meaning that it does not have any prior thoughts or assumptions regarding anything that it views. The mirror fulfills its duty and task by reflecting anything that it sees without making any judgments, and it is for that reason the second and third lines mention the fact that the mirror takes in all that it sees without including any feelings of love or hate (Collecott 451).

The second form of personification in the first stanza is in the sixth and seventh lines, where Plath states that "Most of the time I meditate on the opposite wall" (Plath 6) in the same way as a human being. In the eighth line, Plath mentions that the mirror has a heart as she says "I think it is part of my heart" (Plath 8), as the mirror does not have any option but to view all that is in its front, and that is why it has become something that its part of its 'heart.' Besides that, the fact that the mirror 'thinks' of it being part of its heart is also a concept of personifying the mirror (Collecott 452).

There is more personification in the second stanza where personification is used when likening the lake to the mirror, "Now I am a lake" (Plath 10). The lake also offers a truthful reflection of anyone who looks into it. From the poem, there is a woman who is looking to find true self from the lake, and when she views her image she does not like what she sees, considering that it shows the truth about her. She is fearful of what she may see in the lake as deep inside she is aware that it is the truth. She knows that she is coming of age and as days pass she knows she is not getting any younger. Despite the fact that she is aware of this she lacks the courage to admit the same. In fact, she almost denies what she sees of herself. However, she is happy when she looks back at the candles and the moon which offer her a reflection that she likes and is happy about (Collecott 454). The truth is that they are lying to her as they state how beautiful and young she is, which is not true. When she looks back at the lake she sees her true self and cries.


Plath incorporates the use of metaphors in the poem when referring to the mirror and the lake and what they depict. Metaphors liken two things by having one stated to be exact of the other. In the first line, Plath indicates that the mirror is "silver and exact" (Plath 1). This line implies that the mirror is precious and lovable in the same manner that silver is, and that it does not give reflections that are not truthful. The line also states that it is exact, to mean that it gives the exact thing that appears in front of it. The same sentiments appear in line four in the form of a metaphor, where Plath indicates that the mirror is "not cruel, only truthful" (Plath 4). All these lines are metaphorical for the fact that the mirror does not reflect anything less than the truth (Collecott 456).

There is more metaphor in the fifth line where Plath reiterates that the mirror is "the eye of a little god" (Plath 5) to mean that the mirror reflects everything exactly as it appears in front of it without any bias in the same way as to how a god does it. The fact that the mirror offers the truth about anything and anything in front of it is likened to the nature of the gods. Considering that the poem is mainly about the struggles that women go through with regards to facing the truth about how they appear (Collecott 457). The mirror does not spare anything about them in the same way that a god would not.

The second metaphor is in the second stanza in the tenth line which states that "Now I am a lake" (Plath 10) that the lady uses as a mirror to see her reflection on the surface of the water. Just like a mirror, when one stands over the water in a lake they can see their reflection in the same manner as they do when they stand in front of a mirror. The lake does not lie to her as it shows how she is clearly aging and becoming something that is not as beautiful as her own young self. The third metaphor is in the twelfth line where Plath indicates that "Then she turns to those liars, the candles or the moon" (Plath 12). When the lady sees her reflection in the lake, she is not happy and does not like what she sees (Collecott 457). She prefers hearing what she sees of herself from the candles and the moon, and that is why she turns to them. The moon and the candles represent the people who lie to her for the sake of making her feel better about herself. They prefer being less hurtful and honest and as such, they do not speak the truth. They depict the false hope and beauty they represent, yet they have something which does not last for long (Collecott 458).

In conclusion, the poem Mirror is one of her most famous poems which talks about the perspective that people choose about themselves. She points to the fact that most people, especially women, tend to forget the truth about life and always want to dwell on what they want to hear from others that may be soothing. Plath successfully integrates various forms of figurative language to describe the mirror and the lake as truthful objects, while the moon and the candles as objects of giving false hope. The mirror and the lake are like a person or a god who does not tell lies through their reflection, while the candles and the moon are people who lie. Plath uses these devices perfectly to give life and meaning to objects that are not human.

Works Cited

Collecott, Diana. "Mirror-Images: Images Of Mirrors... In Poems By Sylvia Plath, Adrienne Rich, Denise Levertov And H.D. >>". Revue Francaise D'etudes Americaines, vol 30, no. 1, 1986, pp. 449-460. PERSEE Program, doi:10.3406/rfea.1986.1248.

Plath, Sylvia. "Sylvia Plath - Mirror". Genius, 2019,

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