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Class 10 English Literature Reader Chapter 8 Mirror

Chapter 8 Mirror

This poem is written in free verse and does not depend on any rhythm to convey the message. It is a poem describing a woman’s struggle against the falsity of lies and the truthful harshness of her own image from the perspective of an unsympathetic mirror. ‘I’ in the poem represents the mirror as Sylvia Plath is trying to see the mirror’s view of herself. The poem is written in the style of a monologue. Sylvia Plath was suffering from severe depression and she had very little compassion for herself.
This poem shows how she is really scared of the truth the mirror is reflecting. Unlike other people, the mirror is free from any preoccupations or prejudices. Unlike human beings, it is free from any likes and dislikes and reflects only the truth. It is omniscient like the God, and sees everywhere. The mirror has God-like powers over the woman. The mirror constantly gazes at the wall opposite to it and the wall has pink spots of age, or discoloration on it. The view in the mirror is interrupted by the ‘to and fro’ movements of the woman. This refers to the passing of time and the young girl ageing into an old woman.
The image of the sea and water is a foreboding motif in many poems of Syliva Plath. In this poem also the mirror is compared to a lake. The mirror is able to ‘swallow’ like a lake and the lake gives a seemingly crystal clear image like a mirror. The lake can also refer to the creatures, who exist in the lake because time flies too soon. The mirror of the lake unemotionally observes how the woman is shaken by its reflection. Not everyone is ready to accept the reality depicted by the mirror, so people prefer to live in a world of illusions, in the dim light of candles or moonlight, which hides their flaws.
The mirror is unsympathetic, it is unmindful of the tension of people and continues to reflect their true selves. The mirror is supposed to be cruel but the woman cannot do without it. Repeated viewing of the mirror and seeing her own reflection leads to self-loathing as Sylvia Plath sees less and less of the young girl and more of the old woman. The old woman reflected in the mirror is reminded of her past youth and she feels herself trapped in the cruel jaws of time like a fish. In the last lines, the poetess has incorporated mythology into her poem. ‘Drowned’ apparently, refers to the Greek prince Narcissus who was very handsome. He kept gazing at his reflection in the lake for so long that he drowned. So the poem is about a woman who is torn between the true picture of herself and the distorted image that others see of her. She wants to escape from the reality of harsh ugliness that time inflicts upon her.


  • preconceptions : pre-conceived notions or ideas
  • swallow : absorb
  • unmisted : not affected
  • meditate : contemplate
  • speckles : some blemishes or spots
  • flickers : hazy
Mirror Summary & Study Material NCERT Class 10th

Question 1.
In pairs discuss the following questions :
(a) When do you generally use a mirror ?
(b) Is a mirror essential for us ?
(c) Given below is a list of possible reasons why a person uses a mirror. Tick (✓) the ones you agree with :
  1. to check one’s appearance
  2. to look beautiful
  3. to make sure one is neat and tidy before going out.
  4. to check for a pimple or a grey hair
  5. to apply make-up
  6. to make a phone call
  7. as a decorative item at home.
(a) I use a mirror when I have to go outside or to school or when I comb my hair. In fact, looking into a mirror has become a kind of habit when I go out. I do so as I feel that I should look proper, formal and presentable.
(b) It is not possible to do without a mirror. It is because one should look neat and tidy, and of course, presentable. To be so means one is civil and civilized.
(c) (i) ✓ (ii) × (iii) ✓ (iv) × (v) ✓ (vi) × (vii) ×
Question 2.
The teacher will now play a recording of the poem, hasten carefully and answer the questions that follow :
Classroom activity.
Question 3.
On the basis of your understanding of the poem, answer the following questions by ticking the correct choice.
(a) When the mirror is being described as being ‘unmisted by love or dislike’ we understand that the mirror is
  1. not misted
  2. not prejudiced
  3. has four angles
  4. is silver in colour.
(b) The other word for ‘contemplation’ is……..
  1. contempt
  2. meditation
  3. mediation
  4. thoughtful.
(c) When the mirror says ‘it has no preconceptions’ it means that :
  1. it reflects back an image objectively
  2. it modifies an image as it reflects it
  3. it beautifies an image as it reflects it
  4. it gives a biased view of a person/object.
(d) The mirror has been called ‘a four-cornered god’ because :
  1. it is square shaped
  2. like God it watches you unbiased and fair from all four angles
  3. it reflects back all that it sees
  4. it never stops reflecting.
(e) The ‘speckles’ refer to :
  1. a pink object
  2. the opposite wall which has spots on it
  3. a person with pink pimples
  4. pink spots in general.
(f) The phrase ‘agitation of the hand’ suggests that the person is :
  1. very ill
  2. very upset
  3. very angry
  4. very happy.
(g) By saying ‘Now I am a lake’ the narrator wants to show that
  1. the poem is not only about external beauty but also the inside of a person
  2. the lake can also reflect surfaces
  3. the depth of the lake is important
  4. the lake does not show as exact an image as a mirror.
(a) → (ii) not prejudiced
(b) → (ii) meditation
(c) → (i) it reflects back an image objectively
(d) → (ii) like God it watches you unbiased and fair from all four angles
(e) → (iv) pink spots in general
(f) → (ii) very upset
(g) → (i) the poem is not only about external beauty but also the inside of a person
Question 4.
Answer the following questions briefly
(a) What is the poetic device used when the mirror says ‘I swallow’ ?
(b) How does the mirror usually pass its time ? (V. Imp.)
How, according to the poet, does the mirror pass its time ? (CBSE 2015)
(c) What disturbs the mirror’s contemplation of the opposite wall ?
(d) Why does the mirror appear to be a lake in the second stanza ? What aspect of the mirror do you think is being referred to here ? (V. Imp.)
(e) What is the woman searching for in the depths of the lake ? (CBSE 2014)
(f) How does the narrator convey the fact that the woman looking at her reflection in the lake is deeply distressed ? (CBSE 2015)
(g) What makes the woman start crying ? (V. Imp.) (CBSE 2015)
Why does the woman start crying ? (CBSE 2014)
(h) What do you think the ‘terrible fish’ in the last line symbolizes ? What is the poetic device used here ? (V. Imp.)
What does the phrase “terrible fish” symbolize in the poem “Mirror” ? (CBSE 2014)
(a) The poetic device used in it is ‘personification.’ The mirror is shown as a human being which it is not. ‘Swallow’ shows the use of ‘metaphor’ in it.
(b) It usually passes its time ‘meditating’, or ‘contemplating’.
(c) What disturbs the mirror is the opposite wall that seems freckled and is like a painted one.
(d) The mirror appears to be a lake in the second stanza because like the lake it reflects back the images objectively and hides things. The dispassionate and objective reflecting capacity of the mirror is referred in it.
(e) The woman is searching for the beauty of her face in the depths of the lake. Once she was beautiful. But now she has grown old and is not what she was earlier. Now she doesn’t want to see her old and wrinkled face. So she searches for her old face of her youthful days.
(f) The narrator conveys the fact that the woman looks at her reflection in the lake. She is deeply distressed which is seen in her agitating hands. Secondly, she weeps and behaves like ‘a terrible fish’ over the loss of her beauty.
(g) The wrinkled old face without beauty makes the woman start crying. She wanted to see her face always youthful. But now it is not so as she has grown old.
(h) The ‘terrible fish’ symbolizes the woman agitating at the loss of her youthful beauty. She is now old and behaves like ‘a terrible fish’ at the loss of her youth. The poetic device used here is ‘simile’.
Question 5.
Read the poem silently and answer the following questions :
(a) List out the adjectives that have been used to describe the mirror. Add a few more adjectives to the list.
(b) In the second stanza why has the narrator replaced the mirror with a lake ? What is he/she trying to focus on ?
(a) The adjectives are : silver and exact, cruel, truthful, four-cornered, important. Adjectives from our side: dispassionate, unshaken, appropriate, objective, impersonal, unmoved.
(b) In the second stanza the narrator has replaced the mirror with a lake. Like the mirror the lake reflects the things objectively. It also shows the objects objectified or reflected back like the mirror does.
Now the narrator is trying to give a different meaning to the woman’s looking in the mirror searching for the depths of her face. The lake does so when one looks into it. When the woman looks at her reflection a little closer she agitates. It is because now she sees her wrinkled face and not the youthful beauty that she once had. So she agitates at the loss of her youthful face. She is trying to focus on the loss of her beauty.
Question 6.
Find the various instances of personification used in this poem.
Various instances of personification :
  1. I am silver—as a human being
  2. I am the eye of a little god—as a god
  3. I am ‘a part’ of the wall—now a wall
  4. ‘Now I am a lake’—as a lake.
Question 7.
Read the given lines and answer the questions that follow by ticking the correct choice :
A woman bends over me,
Searching my reaches for what she really is.
Then she turns to those liars, the candles or the moon.
(a) What is the woman bending over ?
  1. the mirror
  2. the lake
  3. the opposite wall
  4. the moon and the candles.
(b) Why have the candles and the moon been called ‘liars’ ?
  1. because they make people beautiful
  2. they hide the blemishes of people with their soft light
  3. they hide the blemishes and make people look beautiful in their soft glow
  4. they can’t talk.
(c) Why does she turn to them in spite of calling them ‘liars’ ?
  1. the reality is too harsh for her to bear
  2. she is desperately looking for someone to comfort her
  3. she wants to be told that she is still beautiful
  4. she can hide her signs of graying in their light.
(a) → (i) the mirror
(b) → (ii) they hide the blemishes and make people look beautiful in their soft glow
(c) → (iii) she wants to be told that she is still beautiful
Question 8.
Imagine you are the mirror. Write a speech that you would like to deliver to the humans who come to see their reflection in you. You could begin like this ……
Good Morning dear humans
I feel honoured to have been given the opportunity to express my feelings and share my thoughts with you. As you know, all my life is spent in faithfully reflecting all that comes before my eyes …..
… I reflect exactly what comes before me. I do not act false. I am always truthful. I do not help any human being in romanticising about him or her. I have grown old seeing many human beings growing old. Some speckles have come out on my exterior. These are like the wrinkles grown over the bodies of young men and women. Many women have come before me. They have behaved very strangely. They have tried to see in their faces what they had had once. Not finding them beautiful they have sadly shed tears many times over this loss. I have been in deep sympathy with them. However, I have always wanted them to be truthful like me. Times are powerful. Human beings at physical levels undergo changes with the passage of time in their bodies. They must be aware of this change and compromise with these physical changes. When they don’t compromise, I feel pity for them. Then truth must be accepted in every way. Going away from it is always painful.
Question 9.
Here is another poem on mirror. The narrator calls the mirror a ‘fibber’. How is this poem different from the poem by Sylvia Plath ? Have a class discussion on the comparison in terms of the theme, the tone and the language used.
NCERT Solutions for Class 10 English Literature Chapter 8 Mirror 1
For classroom activity
Class 10 English Footprints Without Feet

  1. Chapter 1- A Triumph of Surgery
  2. Chapter 2- The Thief's Story
  3. Chapter 3- The Midnight Visitor
  4. Chapter 4- A Question of Trust
  5. Chapter 5- Footprints without Feet
  6. Chapter 6- The Making of a Scientist
  7. Chapter 7- The Necklace
  8. Chapter 8- The Hack Driver
  9. Chapter 9- Bholi
  10. Chapter 10- The Book That Saved the Earth

Class 10 English First Flight
  1. NCERT Solutions for Class 10 English Chapter 1- A Letter to God
  2. NCERT Solutions for Class 10 English Chapter 2- Long Walk to Freedom
  3. NCERT Solutions for Class 10 English Chapter 3- Two Stories About Flying
  4. NCERT Solutions for Class 10 English Chapter 4- From the Diary of Anne Frank
  5. NCERT Solutions for Class 10 English Chapter 5-The Hundred Dresses - I
  6. NCERT Solutions for Class 10 English Chapter 6- The Hundred Dresses - II
  7. NCERT Solutions for Class 10 English Chapter 7- Glimpses of India
  8. NCERT Solutions for Class 10 English Chapter 8- Mijbil the Otter
  9. NCERT Solutions for Class 10 English Chapter 9- Madam Rides the Bus
  10. NCERT Solutions for Class 10 English Chapter 10- The Sermon at Benares
  11. NCERT Solutions for Class 10 English Chapter 11- The Proposal

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