An individual looks at a mirror, as it is the only source of reliable information about one’s physical selves when the words of others do not suffice. However what they see is a mirror image, a reversed and two-dimensional rendering on their three-dimensional selves.1
Based on Gogolian literature, the mirror is a principal metaphor for both sinful vanity and truthful introspection. The mirror also acts as a way to reflect demonic worlds on the other side of the mirror. Another feature of Gogol’s mirrors is its relationship to uncover truth.
There are several stories that have made references to mirrors in Evenings on a Farm near Dikan’ka; “Sorochintsy Fair”, “May Night”, ‘Christmas Eve” and “A Terrible Vengeance”. Gogol implements the motif of mirrors in two distinctive ways; he either describes rivers as mirrors or mirror-like and has female characters gaze into their own reflection.
The first instance occurs in the beginning of Sorochintsy Fair, which provides a description of the Ukrainian landscape. “…the sky with its pure mirror, the river in its green, proudly erect frame – how full of delight is the Little Russian summer?”2 Immediately following this description, the narrator introduces the female protagonist, Paraska, and her father and stepmother. With this introduction, Gogol provides a close association of the beauty of the river to the female beauty of Paraska.3 This association can be seen when Gogol provides a description of her stepmother. “…the expression of which betrayed something so unpleasant and savage that everyone hastened in alarm to turn from her to the bright face of her daughter.”4 Gogol then immediately goes on to describe Paraska in relation to the river. The passage then quickly moves from description to the main narrative; the cart carrying Paraska and her stepmother, which is led by her father, crosses the bridge, and the river no longer admires its own reflection, but reflects and inverts both nature and the characters introduced.
Another instance of a river being used as a mirror can be seen within The Terrible Vengeance, in which the Dniepr is described as an endless blue mirror. “…and like a blue road made of mirror, immeasurably broad, endlessly long, twining and twisting about the green world….and bending over look in and are never tired of gazing and admiring their bright reflection…”5 This passage is clearly referring to beautiful women peering over and admiring their own reflection within the river. However, the passage also continues, in which the narrator mentions that the center of the river-mirror is reserved for just the sun and the blue sky. This passage occurs right after Katerina learns of Danilo’s death and cries out, “my beauty is useless to me now!.” Taken together, these events in the text demonstrate a tragedy of sorts; Gogol provides the reader with an innate beauty of creation and though Katerina is a part of that creation, she sees no value in her beauty without a consumer of its delights (Danilo).6
Next, there are several instances in which Gogol depicts beautiful women watching themselves in the mirror. The first incident can be seen in Sorochintsy Fair. Within the final chapter of the story, Paraska is thinking about her upcoming marriage by gazing at herself in a mirror covered with red paper that she had bought at the fair. Within this passage, an association between Paraska and her stepmother is formed as Paraska carries her stepmother’s handkerchief and tries on her stepmother’s cap. It can be implied that her stepmother was once a maiden like Paraska and that Paraska is soon to become an incarnation of her stepmother; a married woman.7 This act of imagining herself as a wide introduces the devilish red that her stepmother carried into her persona. During the introduction, the stepmother mentions how she was also once ‘green’ like Paraska before red took over. The color red in Sorochintsy Fair carries a symbolic image of devilry and