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Symbol Analysis

In a poem about a mirror, we can expect a lot of reflections. Plath only uses the word "reflect" once, though. Instead of just repeating this word again and again, she uses personification and metaphor to get her point across. Moreover, the reflections in this poem aren't those of someone checking to make sure she doesn't have anything stuck in her teeth. The emphasis on reflections in this poem shows the importance of appearance to the woman in the poem, and, perhaps, to women in general.

  • Line 2: "Swallow" is a metaphor for reflecting. This line is also an example of personification – mirrors don't see or swallow anything – but Plath's poem makes this character so believable that we have to remind ourselves that mirrors don't have eyes or mouths.
  • Line 6: Again, we see personification and metaphor teaming up to mean reflection. The metaphor is that the mirror is reflecting the opposite wall, not "meditating on" (or thinking about) it, and the personification is that mirrors don't meditate, people do.
  • Lines 7-8: Mirrors don't see, and they don't look; hence we have another example of personification used to create a metaphor for reflection. This time, we find out that it's possible for the mirror to feel that whatever it reflects is a part of its heart, further personifying the mirror.
  • Line 11: Here we see the importance of reflections. Now, the mirror is a lake, and a woman is searching its waters to learn something about herself. This line is starting to dive into the wider function of reflection in this poem. The woman is treating her reflection in the water as if it could reveal something about herself, and not just her appearance.
  • Line 13: Ah ha! We caught you, Plath, you used the word reflect! But not without some personification, of course. The mirror is providing an accurate reflection, as if it takes pride in what it does, or as if it has some loyalty to this woman.
  • Lines 18-19: These two lines give reflections physical power. Of course, this power is abstract – only a figurative young girl and a figurative old woman are in the waters of the lake, but it's a very cool image nonetheless. This line takes reflections from being about present appearances and makes them about past and future appearances, all through the metaphor of drowning and rising in the waters of the lake.

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