Mirror Image - Lena Coakley Genre : Science fiction Mirror Image by Lena Coakley is a scientific allegorical tale that

depicts the internal quest to find ones true self. The story takes us through the experiences of a teenager named Alice who underwent a brain transplant into a new body as a result of a fatal accident. Alice struggled to find her true identity and what it was that made her Alice. The story also shows a striking resemblance to the children's tale Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll. Both stories are allegorical in nature and contain a similar theme. They each describe the protagonist on their journey within themselves. Alice in Mirror Image must discover what it is that defines her, and similarly Alice In Wonderland must find her way "home." This journey through Wonderland is symbolic of the internal quest Alice faces. The allegorical pursuit to find ones true self is developed in both stories by the protagonists own self-reflection, and symbolic elements throughout both stories. Science fiction: A short story/novel in which futuristic technology or otherwise altered scientific principles contribute in a significant way to the adventures. Often the short story novel assumes a set of rules or principles or facts and then traces their logical consequences in some form. For example, given that a man discovers how to make himself invisible, what might happen? Examples: • H. G. Wells, The Invisible Man • Aldous Huxley, Brave New World • Arthur C. Clarke, 2001: A Space Odyssey • Ray Bradbury, The Martian Chronicles • Too bad, Issac Asimov(Class XI-Reading and Literature) Allegory: A figurative work in which a surface narrative carries a secondary, symbolic or metaphorical meaning. The story is about self realization, the ability to form an opinion about one self through the eyes of mirror around you. The story written in a series of vignettes where the author presents us the first human brain cells transplant and the question that arises with it, unfolding the plot. How do scientists hope this procedure will benefit humans in the future? Would the person have difficulty in getting adjusted to the new body? Who would she belong to – to the parents of the body, or the parents of the brain? It focuses on the internal turmoil of the person living in a society which focuses so intently on physical appearance. Alice, the protagonist of the story goes through traumatic events that affect her life and the people around her. The story deals with family relationship, pride and media power. Nonetheless, the author also shows that out of the process of her struggle, Alice gains pride and grows as an individual and as a family member. The carefully chosen words in the story subtly bring out the possible consequences and the possible solutions to an advancement that can be done through modern science. Vignette: A short piece of writing, music, acting, etc. which clearly expresses the typical characteristics of something or someone. Theme: The ethics of modern medical science, change and family relationship. Change in Mirror Image Change is something that no one can escape from and throughout life, one experiences several transformations. According to www.dictionary.com - to change means "to make the form, nature, content, future course, etc., of (something) different from what it is or from what it would be if left alone." In the story the theme of change is revealed through the characters. Change is shown through the change in families and change in personalities. In "Mirror Image" there is a big change in two families. Alice's family thinks she has changed since her brain transplant and now the family feels different. Long after Alice's surgery, Jenny tells Alice what she thinks of her sisters' new way of acting. "You're a lot different…I don't know…Sometimes I think my sister is dead.” This change is very drastic; the fact that Alice's own twin sister feels like she is dead is a huge change for everyone in the family.

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Another family that is shown to have changed a great deal is the Jarred family. Their family has changed because they have lost a member of their family, their daughter. The Jarrod's feel like they have been cheated out of their daughter. Seen on an interview after the brain transplant, Mrs. Jarred explains her view on the situation. "She's our daughter…when we signed the release form donating her body; we didn't know they were going to bring her back to life with some new brain. Our Gail is alive and living somewhere in Toronto and I'm not even allowed to see her”. This change is very hard on the family because to lose a family member is very heartbreaking. Language: Contemporary and employs modern idiom. Point of view: Third person Narrator. Conflict: Man vs Man (internal & external) Setting: Alice’s residence, Hospital and Bedford Avenue Critical summary What is identity? Identity is the basic characteristics that determine a persons or things fact of being. The short story "Mirror Image" illiterates this best with its different conflicts pertaining not only to physical attributes but also mental, emotional, and even spiritual factors as well. In this short story Lena Coakley expresses ideas that these factors contribute to a person’s identity as a whole and not in a single attribute. Also a society or other people can have a certain image of a person's identity. They see these characteristics in there everyday actions, such as their speech, the way the move and the way they act. It can also be a way a person feels around someone else. These are all attributes other people can see in a person to make their identity different from everyone else's. ‘Mirror Image’ is about Alice, a fourteen year old girl who undergoes a brain transplant as a result of fatal accident. In the accident, she loses her father and her body becomes completely distorted with only her brain in working condition. Fortunately for her, the parents of a sixteen year old girl who died when Alice was in the hospital donated her body to Alice. Alice then gets a new body with her brain transplanted in the new body. At first, the world seemed very strange to Alice. Everything around her seemed different. She found it difficult when she tried to speak as her tongue seemed very large. Before they told her she had a new body, Alice knew something was different about her – her hands, her breath, her tone. Alice had to learn again like a small baby how to walk and talk. She had to spend about six months in the hospital before she was fit to go home. In order to help her cope up with the situation, her mother removed all the mirrors from the house that somehow when Alice chanced to see her reflection in the shop windows she would fail to recognize herself and say “excuse me”. To remind to herself that she did not have her old body she took to wearing sunglasses. The question of identity comes in here when Alice’s identical twin sister jenny had her reservations about Alice. When Alice wanted to read Jenny’s diary, she refused her. Before the accident they used to share each and every feeling with each other and one of the ways in which they shared was by reading each other’s diaries. When Alice told that they had always read each other’s diaries. Jenny said, “I have to get you know you better”. This meant that Jenny still couldn’t accept Alice as her sister. Alice is shocked to the point that she asked Jenny whether fourteen years was not enough to know her. But how much ever Alice tried to make Jenny see in her Old Alice, Jenny still had her reservations. But the new body has its own advantages to it. Alice likes her new body much better than the old one which had a lot of “cellulite”. She could now walk like a model which she could never do with her old body. She started having new friends around her as her confidence in her increased. Also she decides to join the cheer leading team because she is confident in her new body. All this is now more than one’s self image. Alice before the operation thought that she had a lot of “cellulite” in her body and thought her old body was less athletic than the one she has now. Mental attributes also plays an important factor in one’s identity. Alice can now drive a vehicle as she has a body of sixteen years old. Now she sees herself as being beautiful and athletic. Ultimately this gives her confidence to do things
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she really wanted to do but thought impossible because of her old physical status. Because of this she starts meeting new people and gaining new friends With new body many things change about her. She had a new athletic body and even her taste buds change. That’s why when on their birthday, their mother prepared cake for Alice and Jenny, Alice didn’t like the taste of the cake and she tried to hide it but Jenny noticed it. Jenny felt frustrated about the whole affair and said, “Sometimes I think my sister is dead” and left the dining room. Jenny still could not understand that the person behind the new body was still her sister with whom she used to share everything. Jenny found it difficult to adjust with the new person although Alice tried to persuade her that was the old Alice. Although her mother accepted her, still there were doubts in her mind and perhaps whenever she looked at Alice she tried to see the face of Alice in her, and finding it to be someone else the mother might have felt guilty about it. Therefore the mother was unable to meet Alice’s eyes directly. Alice then begins to question her identity. Who is he anyway and tries to find an answer to it. She doubts whether she herself is herself anymore. In the end we find out that Alice was feeling unsure if she was really herself anymore. Once while returning from school she finally gets the answer to the question about her identity when she meets Mr. Jarred (who donated his daughter’s body) and talks to him. Mr. Jarred showed this when he saw Alice in down town. Mr. Jarred told her that she was not his daughter as his daughter was different in the way she stood and talked from Alice. When Alice asked what he would tell his wife, her replied, “I’ll tell her I looked into your eyes and that I didn’t see my daughter.” At this Alice felt elated and very much excited that she finally found her identity. If a person believes that he/she is attractive they will have more confidence and will follow different path in their life than a person who is overweight who has less confidence to do things they really want to do. If you believe you are beautiful then you are. Alice feels different, yet confident. She feels something is missing, like there is a hole inside her that she had to fill. Physical, emotional, mental and spiritual elements are all factors of one’s identity. The author uses science fiction to alter readers about the future in “Mirror Image”. She uses Alice’s brain transplant incident as an indicator to see how far would today’s world stretch if science attempts to generate a sense of wonder. She explores the life of a girl, who appears to be searching for more answer about her and her life. Alice seems to be aware of the fact that the person to whom the Mirror is reflecting is not the old Alice but a new Alice, with another body. Through out the story, the author talks about how important it is to understand the basic characteristic that attributes to a person’s fact of being. The story exposes ideas that a person is not identified in a single attribute, but as a whole. We see ourselves and others different on their physicality, history, personality, psyche, habits, dress, intellect, etc. It is not only pertaining to the physical attributes that makes up a person’s identity, but mental, emotional and spiritual factors are also important. Character Sketch – Alice The character of Alice in Lena Coakley's "Mirror Image" is insecure and uncomfortable. Alice is going through a change; a change brought on by a devastating car crash which left her clinging to her life in an unresurectable body. Alice becomes the first patient to ever receive a brain transplant, giving her a completely new appearance. Although Alice is entirely aware of this, she is still extremely confused about the new changes, which seem to surround her new life. Alice feels that appearance and personality are two divided parts. "Mirror Image" does not reveal extensive information about Alice's appearance. Alice's eyes, large and dark brown, are mentioned on several occasions during the story. Besides her eyes, no direct information is revealed. Alice's body, however, is often imagined by the reader to be lean and athletic. This imagery is the result of the following quotes. "Alice grabbed a chunk of her thigh, ‘no cellulite!' “And "Now you’re going out for cheerleading, for goodness sake.". Alice radiates confidence regarding her new body. "Alice walked across the bedroom like a fashion model, wearing nothing but black bikini underwear." She believes that the change is a drastic improvement on her old body, "Actually, as bodies go, this one is a lot better." . Alice is clearly confused about her identity. Her confusion is best displayed in the following quote: "The eyes are the mirror of the soul, he used to say. Whose soul is that? Alice wondered. For a moment, she considered screaming, but it was too much trouble. Besides, it wouldn't be her scream anyway." Alice
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exhibits insecure behavior which is proven by her constant self-reassurance. "Just you, Alice, she would say to herself, looking the way you've always looked.” After Alice's encounter with Mr. Jarred, she reassured herself once more: "In a small corner of the sidewalk she wrote her initials, ACS, with the tip of the umbrella." Study questions:  What questions are raised in the reader’s mind by the end of the first two paragraphs? Why do you think the author chooses to begin the story this way? What is the effect?  What genre would this story best fit into? Explain.  Who is speaking?  Why does the narrator wish there were no mirrors?  Why does she express surprise when she looks in mirrors?  Why doe she feel disquieted when she encounters her reflection by accident?  Why is she wearing sun glasses? Why would the teachers be afraid of her?  How does Alice feel in the new body?  What are the changes we see in Alice after the operation?  How does Alice feel when someone mistakes her for Gail?  Who actually does Alice resemble? Explain.  This story does not follow a typical plot diagram. Discuss why the author chose to write the story non-linearly and decide whether it was an effective choice. Would the story be less or more effective if it was told in a linear fashion? Explain.  Identify the climax of the story and defend your choice.  In this story, Alice’s identical twin Jenny acts as a character foil to Alice. Explain.  What functions do the characters of Alice’s mom and the Jarred’s play in the story?  This story raises some interesting questions about what makes up a person’s personality. Is it what’s inside of us, the way we think and feel, or what’s on the outside, the way we look and present ourselves? In other words, is our personality made up of the ways in which we perceive the things around us or the ways in which we internalize and process the things we experience?  Should scientists consider the impact of their work on human beings before proceeding for such a task?

 Explain how the operation influenced the lives of Alice, Jenny, Alice’s mother and Mr. And Mrs.
Jarred?

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