In a Glass Darkly is a short story, written by Agatha Christie which was first published in the U.S. in Collier's Weekly in July 1934. In the U.K. the story came out in Woman's Journal in December 1934. In 1939 the story was collected and published as part of the anthology The Regatta Mystery and Other Stories which was available in the U.S. only. The story was not collected in any anthology in the U.K. until 1979 as part of the posthumously published Miss Marple's Final Cases and Two Other Stories.
A man witnesses a murder of a young girl reflected in a bedroom mirror. Unsure whether it was real, he battles with himself about speaking out about this horrific crime. Will he be taken for a fool or save a life?
(may contain spoilers - click on expand to read)
The story centres around an unnamed narrator. He is invited by his best friend Neil Carslake to visit and meet his family who live in a rambling Victorian house named Badgeworthy. While dressing for dinner in front of his bedroom mirror, the narrator sees in the reflection an image of a young woman being strangled by a man with a scar down the left side of his face. He spins around quickly but there is nothing behind him except a wall and a wardrobe. Did he see ghosts?
Down at dinner, Neil introduces our narrator to his younger brother Alan and then his sister Sylvia. He is shocked. Sylvia is the girl in the mirror! Sylvia then introduces her fiance Charles Crawley and our narrator is doubly shocked. He has a scar on the left side of his face! The narrator struggles with his conscience. Should he tell Sylvia? He might be taken for a fool. The decision is complicated by the fact that he has himself fallen in love with her. Finally, just before leaving Badgeworthy he decides to tell Sylvia his vision in the mirror. Sylvia thanks him. She does not think he is a fool and tells him that she believes him.
The First World War begins and Neil is killed. Our narrator has to bring the news to Sylvia. He heard that Sylvia had broken off her engagement with Crawley but he does not declare his love for her as he thinks it would be unfair. Towards the end of the war, however, Crawley himself is killed. The narrator is wounded but survives. Free now of feelings of dishonour, he proposes to Sylvia. She tells him she did not break off her engagement with Crawley because of the vision he saw but because she herself had fallen in love with the narrator. She accepts his proposal and are happily married for a time.
However the narrator is consumed by strong and perhaps irrational feelings of jealousy and this causes him and Sylvia to drift apart. Things get worse when she meets another man Derek Wainwright whom the narrator thinks is so much better than him, exactly the kind of man Sylvia would need. Things come to a head when the narrator verbally abuses and accuses Sylvia unjustly. She goes off and leaves behind a note saying she as gone back to Badgeworthy and thereafter to someone who loves and needs her.
Our narrator storms to Badgeworthy to confront Sylvia. In his rage, he grabs her by the throat and tries to strangle her. Then he happens to look up and sees himself in the mirror. To his horror he realises that what he saw years ago was a vision of himself. From his war wounds he has a scar on his right side. In the mirror it looked like a scar on the left. He releases Sylvia and breaks down. Sylvia comforts him and explains that the person who loves and needs him is her brother Alan. She never had any intention of going off with Wainwright. The couple are reconciled and move on to a happy marriage.
- Unnamed narrator
- Neil Carslake
- Alan Carslake
- Sylvia Carslake
- Charles Crawley
- Major Oldam
- Mrs Oldam
- Derek Wainwright
Tropes and themes
The title alludes to the phrase "Through a glass darkly", used by the Apostle Paul to describe how we currently view the world in the Bible; 1 Corinthians 13:12.
Film, TV, theatrical or other media adaptations
The Agatha Christie Hour
B.B.C. Radio 4
A radio dramatisation was created for BBC Radio 4 and broadcast on 24 February 2003. The dramatisation was written by Mike Walker and directed by Ned Chaillet. Neil Dudgeon and Rebecca Egan played the lead roles.
B.B.C. "Short Story" Series
The Daily Mirror of 6 April 1934 stated that In a Glass Darkly was being read out by Christie on BBC Radio that night as part of the Short Story series. However, the programme billings on the same page stated the broadcast was by Dorothy L. Sayers with a story titled Dilemma and the Radio Times also states that this was the broadcast made.
- 1934: Collier's Weekly, Vol. 94 Number 4, 28 July 1934 - with an illustration by Harry Morse Meyers.
- 1934: Woman's Journal, Amalgamated Press (London), December 1934
- 1939: The Regatta Mystery and Other Stories, Dodd, Mead and Company
- 1970: Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine, vol. 55 no. 3, whole no. 316, Mar 1970.
- 1979: Miss Marple's Final Cases and Two Other Stories, Collins Crime Club (London), October 1979