Mirrors symbolize various characters’ struggles to accept their true identities. Mirrors first appear in the book when Cinder is at the letumosis research lab and sees her reflection in a giant mirror on the wall. While she often tries to hide her cyborg parts, they are exposed in the enormous mirror. This moment parallels Cinder’s eventual realization that her cyborg identity is an intrinsic part of her and something to be ashamed of. Her inability to hide from her own reflection—and thus from being a cyborg—also foreshadows the fact that others will learn the truth about her identity by the end of the novel.
Mirrors are also fraught objects for the Lunars: they do not like to see themselves in mirrors because their glamour (the Lunars’ ability to telepathically control others) doesn’t translate in them. Lunars like Queen Levana and Sybil Mira use their glamour to make themselves appear beautiful and charming, but this doesn’t apply to their reflections. As Dr. Erland mentions, “mirrors have an uncanny way of telling the truth”—and for people who rely on manipulation of their image and others’ perception of it, mirrors become a source of weakness and shame about who they are beneath their façade. This is why Prince Kai removes all mirrors from the palace when Queen Levana visits: she insists on keeping up her false image, showing her resistance to the truth. Then, when a servant unknowingly gives a mirror to Levana, she and Sybil Mira use this infraction to severely punish the servant by controlling the woman’s actions and almost forcing her put her own eye out. In this way, mirrors represent the characters’ inability to hide who they really are: even Levana and Sybil Mira, who refuse to look in the mirror, reveal their true colors when confronted with the possibility of self-reflection.
Mirrors Quotes in Cinder
“It is why Queen Levana is so striking to look at. Some talented Lunars, such as the queen, keep their glamour up all the time. But just as she cannot trick the netscreens, neither can she trick a mirror.”
“So they don’t like mirrors because they don’t want to see themselves?”
“Vanity is a factor but it is more a question of control. It is easier to trick others into perceiving you as beautiful if you can convince yourself you are beautiful. But mirrors have an uncanny way of telling the truth.”