The Lady in the Looking Glass:
1. Notice how the mirror in the first paragraph is set up as the frame for a kind of
The mirror framed Isabella’s personality. Through its reflection, we are able to see her true
colours, how she really is, though we found out that she was “perfectly empty”. She is
framed by society, so as the mirror. She is just a product of mankind. So we are able to
understand that Isabella, representing women in the 19th century, is limited by the
community as the author criticizes it.
2. The unnamed narrator attempts to construct a portrait of the Isabella Tyson
that consists of her outer self and her inner self. The portrait is reflected in the
objects inside and outside the house as they reflect in the mirror. Describe the
images reflected in the mirror.
The unnamed narrator is able to construct a portrait of Isabella consisting her outer self and
her inner self by describing the objects inside and outside the house reflected in the mirror.
On the one hand, the narrator shows the objects inside the home, that metaphorically
symbolize her mind. There are “nocturnal creatures”, “lights and shadows”, “badgers, otters
and kingfishers”, “curtains blowing”, “petals falling””stone chimney pieces”, “red and gold
lacquer cabinets”. We can see all those dark, decaying and obscure objects representing
chaos, movement. On the other hand, the author talks about the outside objects such as:
“white and violet blossoms”, “convolvulus”, “roses”, “flowers”. Through this words, the
narrator expresses happiness and shows how alive and full of light the garden is.
3. What kind of contrast is there between the objects inside the house and
outside the house, as they are reflected in the mirror?
The difference between the objects inside and outside of the house is that the objects which
are inside are in a complete chaos, “nothing stayed the same for two seconds together”,
meaning that through the use of obscure objects, the narrator expresses movement in a
sorrowful and depressive tone. Whereas the objects outside are organized and taken care
of. We can see this in a “perpetual sighing and ceasing sound, the voice of the transient and
the perishing, it seemed, coming and going like human breath” Through the previous
alliterative simile, the narrator is foreshadowing the fact that Isabella is dead alive as she
have no emotions or thoughts, but she stated the appearance Isabella portrays at the
looking glass reflection. This has a strong relationship with Isabella herself, since her person
is composed like this. On the outside she looks like an organized person, while on her
interior she's a mess. She is “superficial and perfectly empty”. The narrator portrays this
through the use of different objects in order to describe diverse personalities. “It was a
strange contrast -- all changing here, all stillness there”
4. Describe how the narrator attempts to compose the portrait through the mood
inside the room, through her own imagination, and through the presentation of
Isabella in the mirror
The narrator expresses the mood inside the house. As “nothing stayed the same for two
seconds”, it was a turmoilic and unrestful atmosphere. This is connected with Isabella’s mind
as it is as chaotic as her room. Her mind is the inside of her house. When she is reflected in
the mirror the readers have an epiphanic moment when they are able to see her “and there
was nothing. Isabella was perfectly empty”. Through this oxymoron we are able to
understand how superficial she is and this creates a disappointed mood, as we were anxious
to know the truth, but unfortunately it was not the one we expected.
5. What are the known facts about Isabella’s outer self?
The only fact known for sure from Isabella’s outer self is that she likes to take care of her
garden, her flowers: “Her own burning roses alight like lamps on the straight posts of their
rose trees”. Through this visual and tactile simile we are able to see how interested she is on
her flowers and how superficial she is as she only cares about material things such as her
secret letters locked in the cabinet, “in her determination to conceal what she did not wish to
be known”. Moreover, it is also said that she troubled a lot and that she is rich, as her objects
were bought in the “most obscure corners of the world”. However, we cannot assure all this
facts are truth because though the narrator seems to know Isabella, he actually doesn’t. In
fact, no one does. The furniture’s personification allows us to understand that “sometimes it
seemed as if they knew more about her than we, who sat on them, wrote t them, and trod on
them so carefully, were allowed to know”. So we just know that we don't know anything
about her and by saying that the furniture knows her more than we do explains how little we
grasp her. “Yet it was strange that after knowing her all these years one could not say what
the truth about Isabella was”.
6. What material objects inside and outside the house does the narrator use to
imagine Isabella’s life?
The narrator uses flowers to imagine Isabella’s life. He describes her life through her
appearance, “her trance of immortality”. “White and violet blossoms”, “sunflowers”, “burning
roses alight like lumps”. He describes how organized she is and how delightful her life is as
she gently picks flowers on her garden in her “thin summer dress”. Then the narrator says
she is rich and that she has travelled a lot because of all the objects that she may have
bought in “the most obscure corners of the world” such as “the rugs, the chairs, the cabinets
which now lived their nocturnal life before one's eyes”, maening that actually Isabella’s head
is so messed up that even the furniture is moving around at night.
7. What are Isabella’s letters supposed to conceal, according to the narrator?
What would one know if one could only read them?
At first, the sealed letters are supposed to be love letters from Isabella’s past and short
relationships. They were suppose to reveal information about her. “one would find the traces
of many agitations, of appointments to meet, of up braidings for not having met, long letters
of intimacy and affection, violent letters of jealousy and reproach, terrible final were love
letters. However, later it is revealed that these are actually bills, so we discover that there is
no love in Isabella’s life. she is determined to “conceal what she did not wish to be known”.
And apparently she did not wish people to realize the fact that she is dead alive as she has
no feelings or thoughts
8. At the end of the story, according to the narrator, is it possible to know
objectively one’s inner reality?
According to the story, one can know objectively one's inner self as the narrator is able to
describe her mind, claiming that “Isabella was perfectly empty. She had no thoughts. She
had no friends. She cared for nobody.”, while being a third person limited narrator.
Throughout all he story Isabella was described as a woman who does have friends, who
does trouble, who does have thoughts. But the appearance that she shows was not reality.
“There must be truth; there must be a wall”. At the epiphanic moment, when the wall is
broken, we believed she would have some thoughts, but apparently she is dead alive as has
cero feelings. Her appearance portrayed with the perfection of flowers was not going to last
forever, the wall was going to be broken, destroyed, dead; so as her flowers. Neither of them
9. In this story Woolf questions whether the inner self of an individual is finally
knowable. What do you think is her conclusion? Provide support for your
In my opinion, her question if one can know there inner self is finally answered when Isabella
sees her empty self in the mirror. “At once the looking-glass began to pour over her a light
that seemed to fix her; that seemed like some acid to bite off the unessential and superficial
and to leave only the truth”. However she suggests that one might not be pleased by the
answer one can find, therefore “one” should be careful in this quest. When looking at the
mirror, you will see your personality reflected, symbolizing the truth about you. So Virginia
advice not to “leave looking-glasses hanging in their rooms” since people can see reflected
your true colours and you may not want them to be known.
10. What do you think is the role of the mirror in the story? How has the mirror
been used as a metaphor in literature?
The mirror is used as a kind of metaphor in which it compares the mirror itself and Isabella
as they are very similar. The mirror is an object and so is Isabella. Isabella has been framed
by society ever since she was created, and the mirror too. The mirror in this story it's a motif
that symbolizes what you real personality is and Virginia which shows what you really are
and you may not like. The mirror is used to criticize society, as it has been framed by men
and Isabella too. Representing women in the 19th Century, Virginia illustrates how
thoughtless, careless and feelingless Isabella is and blamed society for it for having created
her that way.
11. Describe the characteristics of this story that resemble
stream-of-consciousness narrative technique.
We can recognize a technique called stream of consciousness in this story since the narrator
walks us through every step in which Isabella finds herself at. Words and thoughts that flow
are as disordered as the house, which symbolizes Isabella’s mind, as the writing itself.
By Juana Pérez Muñiz and Vignesh Manwani