Till We Have Faces

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The Mirror Symbol Icon

A mirror is conventionally an instrument with which one examines one’s face. Thus, in this book mirrors act as instruments of self-understanding, since faces represent one’s true self. Orual sees the face of Ungit on herself when the King forces her to look in a mirror in a dream, thus confirming Ansit’s accusation that she has devoured people’s lives with her love as Ungit devours them. This vision in the mirror helps Orual on her way to understanding her cruel nature.

However, the mirror also functions as a symbol of Orual’s supposed inability to attract love. When she proposes that she can be sacrificed instead of Psyche, the King leads her to his giant mirror and tells her that the gods want only the best, implying that her ugliness disqualifies her. When Orual becomes Queen, she gets rid of the mirror for obvious reasons—it reminds her of the King’s rejection of her. This action also helps to sever her ties with the old Orual, who was dominated by the King and depressed by her ugliness. Thus, when the King makes her look in the mirror a second time, it also forces her to acknowledge the wrongs she has tried to bury deep inside her memory, which in turn have contributed to Ungit becoming so present within her that Ungit’s face appears in the mirror.

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The Mirror Symbol Timeline in Till We Have Faces

The timeline below shows where the symbol The Mirror appears in Till We Have Faces. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Part 1: Chapter 6
Love and Devouring Theme Icon
Beauty vs. Ugliness Theme Icon
...that she be sacrificed in Psyche’s place. The King then leads her to a huge mirror on the other side of the room. It’s much clearer than any other mirror in... (full context)
Part 2: Chapter 2
Self-understanding Theme Icon
...veil off and come to the Pillar Room. Once there he looks around for the mirror that used to hang there, but the Queen has given it to Redival. He produces... (full context)
Love and Devouring Theme Icon
Self-understanding Theme Icon
Earthly vs. Divine Theme Icon
Beauty vs. Ugliness Theme Icon
The King asks who Ungit is, and drags Orual to the mirror that used to hang in the palace. She tries to get away, but fails. In... (full context)