Atwood's Tricks With Mirrors as a Declaration of Female Independence
Relationships are complex things, with ever-changing dynamics. Some traditional roles are always played in the constant search for balance between giving and taking in relationships. Women have historically and stereotypically played the role of "giver" in male-female romantic unions. In recent years the gender laws of relationships have been changing and evolving, but even as recently as the 1970s and 1980s women have been restricted to the role of complacent giver in their relationships. Their freedom of thought and even private speech have been impossible to repress, however, and through broadening that communication, things have been forced into change. A perfect example of this form of communication as an attempt to change the role-playing games of relationships is Margaret Atwood's 1974 poem, "Tricks With Mirrors." Through the use of poetic devices such as metaphor and tone in "Tricks with Mirrors," Atwood attempts to explain and break free from the restrictions of these traditional dynamics in relationships.
In Part I of the poem, Atwood uses a seemingly vague introduction to the subject matter, but gets straight to the point. Within five lines, she distinctly identifies her role as a mirror as she says, "I enter with you / and become a mirror," (lines 4-5). She gives the impression that she is merely an object in this relationship - she is a mirror through which her self-absorbed lover may view himself. "Mirrors / are the perfect lovers," she states (lines 6-7). They show a constant and loyal reflection to whoever may stand in front of them. She is objectifying herself as she tells her lover to carry her carefully up the stairs and to throw her on the bed with her "reflecting side up" (line 12). She then moves on to describe the patterns of their intimacy in an almost detached manner - her lover does not kiss her; he only kisses his own reflection. She is only a mirror, after all. The speaker tells us that her lover is blind - whether willingly or not is not identified - to the truth of their relationship when she says that, during their intimate moments, "your own eyes you find you / are up against closed closed," (lines 16-17). She speaks with a bitter tone, clearly showing that she is displeased with her situation and the constant expectations she must meet. At the same time, though, she writes with an open-handed honesty - she is simply a mirror telling her story, it seems. The introduction that Part I provides us with identifies the problem the speaker is facing - she is at once unhappy but has willingly placed herself in her role as mirror.
In the second part of Atwood's poem, the speaker describes the undeniable feelings that come from being a separate entity apart from her lover. Even as a mirror, there is more to her than there seems. As a woman hiding behind the metaphor of a mirror, the speaker seems to be telling her lover...