In Victorian England superstitions were developed out of the curious nature of reflected images. Dangerous powers were sometimes attributed to mirrors, and these fears and suspicions were "mirrored" in the fiction of the day. This article examines a number of scientific and phenomenological paradoxes of mirror images, such as the fact that these reflections are virtual images—their status in reality is only a visible one; they literally disappear when no eye or camera stares at them. When a person looks into a mirror they see a face that they will never see directly in all their life. As Richard Gregory says, we all have two faces, one that we only see indirectly, and the other is "an insubstantial ghost. . . . One's own mirror reflection is un-dead." So, in fiction and in the real world, mirrors not only provoke narcissism, vanity, lust, and eventually disgust but also fear. No surprise that ghastly (equals ghostly) mirror images play significant roles in the fiction of the day. This article briefly discusses a number of Victorian novels and poems, and focuses primarily on Charlotte Brontë's Jane Eyre and Villette, and on Lewis Carroll's Through the Looking-Glass.


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pp. 273-297
Launched on MUSE
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