Analyzing “The Guy in the Glass” by Dale Wimbrow

February 4, 2024 | by poemread.com

The Guy in the Glass_reflection

Welcome to our literary blog, where we intend to share tales of wisdom through poetry. Today, we embark on a journey through the poetic corridors of “The Guy in the Glass” by Dale Wimbrow. It is an inspirational poem that provides insights on self-integrity and authenticity. Join with us as we look forward to sharing the hidden meanings of the poem and exploring its poetic language. Our line-by-line analysis will surely make you awestruck at the beauty behind these simple words.

“The Guy in the Glass” by Dale Wimbrow
When you get what you want in your struggle for pelf,
And the world makes you King for a day,
Then go to the mirror and look at yourself,
And see what that guy has to say.

For it isn’t your Father, or Mother, or Wife,
Who judgement upon you must pass.
The feller whose verdict counts most in your life
Is the guy staring back from the glass.

He’s the feller to please, never mind all the rest,
For he’s with you clear up to the end,
And you’ve passed your most dangerous, difficult test
If the guy in the glass is your friend.

You may be like Jack Horner and “chisel” a plum,
And think you’re a wonderful guy,
But the man in the glass says you’re only a bum
If you can’t look him straight in the eye.

You can fool the whole world down the pathway of years,
And get pats on the back as you pass,
But your final reward will be heartaches and tears
If you’ve cheated the guy in the glass.


The Story of the Authorship

Interestingly, the authorship of “The Guy in the Glass”, or “The Man in the Glass” has a dynamic story.

Although it is currently known and accepted that Dale Wimbrow penned this poem, its authorship was initially a mystery. Circulated anonymously at first, the poem gained prominence in the 1930s during the tumultuous era of the Great Depression.  However, it wasn’t until later that Wimbrow stepped forward as the rightful author, reclaiming his creation.

More about the Author of “The Guy in the Glass”, Dale Wimbrow

Dale Wimbrow, a distinguished figure in American literature, left an indelible mark through his versatile contributions as a poet, musician, actor, and radio personality. Born on March 6, 1895, in Indiana, Wimbrow’s artistic journey unfolded against many socio-economic changes during his time.

As we explore Wimbrow’s life, we encounter not just a poet but a gentle guide, urging introspection and authenticity. His enduring impact on American literature serves as a testament to the timeless power of words. As such, Dale Wimbrow’s legacy continues to inspire, comfort, and provoke thought for generations to come.

The Context of “The Guy in the Glass” and the Inspiration

“The Guy in the Glass” by Dale Wimbrow is often considered a reflection on the importance of self-honesty. While the specific inspiration for the poem is not extensively documented, it is believed that this piece was written during the 1930s, a time marked by the Great Depression.

Thus, the socio-economic challenges of the Great Depression, for example, might have influenced the themes of the poem. Further, the inspiration behind the poem may have been drawn from Wimbrow’s observations of the human condition during the tumultuous era of the Great Depression. Moreover, the themes of introspection, resilience, and authenticity prevalent in this renowned poem could be related to these.

Subject of “The Guy in the Glass”

The poem centers around the idea of facing oneself in the mirror, both metaphorically and literally. Its inference is being true to one’s principles and values. It urges the reader to confront their reflections, emphasizing the importance of living with a clear conscience. In addition, it emphasizes making choices that align with one’s moral compass.

Persona and Narrative Style of “The Guy in the Glass”

The persona, or narrator, of the poem is the individual facing themselves in the mirror—the “guy in the glass.”

The narrative unfolds in the second person, directly addressing the reader. Therefore, this creates a more intimate and engaging connection, as the poem acts as a direct conversation with the audience.

Setting of “The Guy in the Glass”

The setting of the poem is not explicitly defined in terms of a physical location or time. Instead, the setting is internal, revolving around the moment when an individual confronts their own reflection in the mirror.

Recurring Themes of “The Guy in the Glass”

Personal Integrity and Honesty: The poem consistently addresses the theme of personal integrity and the importance of being honest with oneself. Here, the recurring idea is that true satisfaction and contentment come from facing one’s own reflection.

Accountability and Responsibility: Wimbrow emphasizes the theme of accountability, urging the reader to take responsibility for their actions and choices. The idea that one must answer to oneself and confront their decisions underscores the importance of personal responsibility.

Authenticity and Self-Reflection: Throughout the poem, the theme of authenticity is prevalent. The “guy in the glass” symbolizes the authentic self, and the verses encourage readers to reflect on their true nature. The recurring notion is that embracing one’s authentic identity leads to a more fulfilling and genuine life.

Resilience: Embedded in the poem is the theme of resilience, particularly relevant to the historical context of the Great Depression. Moreover, the idea that one can endure challenges and setbacks while maintaining personal integrity serves as a recurring motif.

Moral Reflection and Choices: This moral reflection in the poem urges readers to evaluate the ethical implications of their decisions. The recurring idea is that a life well lived involves making choices that align with one’s values and moral compass.

Appearances fade, but self-honesty endures. Explore Wimbrow's "The Guy in the Glass" and discover freedom in living authentically.

Tone or the Mood of “The Guy in the Glass”

The tone is reflective and contemplative. While it is gentle and empathetic, it offers guidance rather than condemnation. Wimbrow’s words convey a sense of understanding and encouragement, fostering a mood of sincerity and authenticity.

Although the poem addresses serious themes like personal integrity and accountability, the tone remains positive and motivational. Therefore, there is a subtle optimism in the poet’s message, suggesting that, regardless of past mistakes or shortcomings, individuals have the power to change and live a life true to their principles.

The Form and Structure of “The Guy in the Glass”

“The Guy in the Glass” by Dale Wimbrow is structured into twelve quatrains, with each quatrain consisting of four lines. The poem does not strictly adhere to a specific metrical pattern, such as iambic pentameter or tetrameter. Therefore, it contributes to the conversational and accessible tone of the poem, making it more relatable to a wide audience.

The rhyme scheme of “The Guy in the Glass”

Moreover, the poem adheres to a consistent AABB rhyme scheme. Here, the first and second lines rhyme with each other, and the third and fourth lines rhyme with each other. This rhyme scheme contributes to the rhythmic quality of the poem, creating a melodic and musical flow as the reader progresses through each stanza.

Pauses and line breaks of “The Guy in the Glass”

Wimbrow employs enjambment throughout the poem, where lines flow into each other without a pause, creating a smooth and continuous rhythm. This technique contributes to the conversational and reflective nature of the verses, allowing ideas to unfold seamlessly. The absence of punctuation within some lines enhances the fluidity of the poem, maintaining a natural and unbroken cadence.

Overall, the consistent rhyme scheme, combined with the use of enjambment and occasional punctuation, serves to create a harmonious and engaging structure.

Line-by-line analysis of “The Guy in the Glass”

Line 1: “When you get what you want in your struggle for self,”

The opening line sets the stage with a conditional clause, which is a hypothetical situation. This line immediately engages the reader, establishing a connection through the universal experience of pursuing goals.

The term “struggle for self” encapsulates the broader theme of personal development and self-realization. There’s a subtle irony embedded in this term.  While the word “struggle” typically conveys hardship, the juxtaposition with “for self” implies that this struggle is ultimately for personal fulfillment and authenticity. It hints at the idea that the challenges faced in the pursuit of one’s desires contribute to a deeper understanding of oneself.

The phrase “get what you want” encapsulates the idea of accomplishment and fulfillment of desires. It can encompass various aspects of life, such as career achievements, personal goals, or emotional satisfaction. Moreover, it conveys the notion that achieving what one desires is not always a straightforward path but involves.

Line 2: “And the world makes you king for a day.”

This line paints a vivid picture of a momentary triumph in the journey of self-achievement. It is a metaphorical expression that suggests a scenario where an individual receives widespread recognition, akin to being crowned as a king. The metaphor carries connotations of grandeur, authority, and societal approval, presenting a compelling image of external success.

However, beneath the surface of this metaphor lies a subtle irony. The phrase “for a day” introduces a temporal element, implying that this moment of being hailed as a king is transient. Here, Wimbrow seems to suggest that the world’s validation is a momentary victory. As the poem unfolds, the juxtaposition of this external triumph with the subsequent emphasis on self-reflection lays the groundwork for the overarching theme of the poem.

Line 3: “Just go to the mirror and look at yourself”

Here, Dale introduces a shift in focus from external recognition to internal realization through self-reflection. He directs the reader to engage in a direct and intimate confrontation with their own reflection in the mirror.

The imperative “Just go to the mirror” creates a sense of immediacy, urging the reader to embark on a personal journey immediately. Additionally, the use of the word “just” adds an element of simplicity, suggesting that the act of looking into the mirror is straightforward yet important.

The metaphor of the mirror, as introduced in these lines, becomes a central symbol in the poem. It serves as a powerful tool for self-examination. As such, the mirror is a reflective surface where one can confront their own image. Metaphorically, this implies looking into their innermost thoughts, values, and character. Thus, the mirror becomes a metaphorical gateway to one’s true self.

Line 4: “And see what that man has to say.”

Wimbrow uses personification by attributing a voice and agency to the reflection in the mirror. In addition, the term directive “see what that man has to say” implies that the reflection possesses a voice or message that demands attention. Besides, this personification adds depth to the act of self-reflection, suggesting that the inner self has something to communicate or reveal to the individual.

The choice of the word “man” emphasizes the mature and self-aware aspect of the individual confronting their reflection. Therefore, this implies that the person looking into the mirror is not merely observing a physical appearance, but engaging in a dialogue with his own identity.

Line 5-6: “For it isn’t your father, or mother, or wife,/ Whose judgment upon you must pass.”

These lines emphasize that the evaluation of one’s actions and character does not solely rest on external opinions. Here, the use of the conjunction “For” establishes a logical connection with the previous lines. This indicates that the poet is providing a rationale for the act of looking into the mirror for self-reflection.

Furthermore, the poet introduces a series of significant relationships—father, mother, and wife—symbolizing familial and marital connections that typically hold emotional weight and influence in an individual’s life. The use of litotes, a form of understatement, is used by the word “isn’t”, to emphasize the idea.

The phrase “Whose judgment upon you must pass” introduces the central idea that these influential external figures do not have the authority to judge the individual. The word “must” adds a sense of inevitability, suggesting that, ultimately, each person is accountable to themselves.

Line 7-8: “The fellow whose verdict counts most in your life/ Is the one staring back from the glass.”

The use of the definite article “The” in “The fellow” implies singularity and specificity, focusing the reader’s attention on a singular, crucial judge. Also, this individual is not explicitly named, but the subsequent lines clarify that this judge is the one reflected in the mirror—the self. The term “fellow” adds a touch of familiarity, creating a sense of camaraderie between the reader and the person they see in the mirror. Furthermore, the employment of personification can be seen again in the phrase “staring back from the glass”.

In addition, the antithesis is created by introducing the contrast between the “fellow” and the familial persons described earlier. This juxtaposition against the previous mention of external figures like father, mother, and wife amplifies the poem’s core message.

Moreover, the word “verdict” carries legal connotations, reinforcing the gravity of the self-assessment being discussed. This term implies a formal decision or judgment reached after careful consideration.

Line 9-10: “He’s the fellow to please, never mind all the rest, For he’s with you clear up to the end.”

The use of the pronoun “He” and personifying this inner self as a “fellow,” Wimbrow, introduces a sense of companionship and camaraderie. Hence, the mirror becomes not just a reflective surface but a symbolic partner in the journey of self-discovery.

The phrase “never mind all the rest” serves as a declaration that all external opinions are to be dismissed; the priority is to “please” the internal self. Here, Wimbrow encourages the reader to disregard external pressures and judgments in favor of staying true to one’s authentic principles.

The subsequent line, “For he’s with you clear up to the end,” reinforces the enduring nature of this internal relationship. The word “clear” emphasizes the transparency and authenticity of this companionship. Furthermore, the metaphorical journey “up to the end” suggests a lifelong partnership throughout the entirety of an individual’s life.

Appearances fade, but self-honesty endures. Explore Wimbrow's "The Guy in the Glass" and discover freedom in living authentically.

Line 11-12:”And you’ve passed your most dangerous, difficult test/ If the guy in the glass is your friend.“

The use of the conjunction “And” signals a continuation and a consequential outcome based on the preceding guidance in the poem.

The phrase “you’ve passed your most dangerous, difficult test” implies that the ultimate challenge, fraught with potential pitfalls and complexities, lies in the establishment of a friendly and amicable relationship with oneself. Also, the use of superlatives like “most dangerous” and “difficult” elevates the significance of this internal test, suggesting that navigating one’s own identity and self-judgment is a profound and challenging endeavor.

The metaphor of the “guy in the glass” being your friend adds depth to the idea of self-approval. Friendship is typically associated with mutual understanding, acceptance, and support. Therefore, it suggests that the key to passing life’s most challenging test lies in a genuine friendship with the inner self.

Line 13-14: “You may be like Jack Horner and “chisel” a plum,/ And think you’re a wonderful guy,”

The allusion to Jack Horner refers to the nursery rhyme character “Little Jack Horner” who is known for putting his thumb into a Christmas pie and pulling out a plum. The use of the verb “chisel” in quotation marks introduces a metaphorical action. It conveys the idea of achieving an impressive accomplishment by cheating.

Moreover, the choice of a plum as the object being chiseled implies a desirable and sweet outcome, symbolizing a sought-after achievement. Ironically, Wimbrow tries to mock the temptation of humans to achieve success for the sake of external recognition.

The term “wonderful guy” implies a sense of self-satisfaction and self-congratulation based on potentially manipulated achievements. Furthermore, the use of the second person, addressing the reader directly, adds a personal dimension to the statement.

Line 15-16: “But the man in the glass says you’re only a bum/ If you can’t look him straight in the eye.”

Thematically, the rhyme between “plum” and “bum” underscores the contrast between deceptive external achievements (“chiseling a plum”) and uncompromising internal judgment (“only a bum”). Again, the choice of these words enhances the dichotomy, as “plum” represents a sweet and desirable outcome, while “bum” conveys a harsh judgment or failure.

Additionally, the term “bum” is a straightforward expression that conveys a sense of failure, inadequacy, or moral deficiency. By using this term, Wimbrow delivers a candid and uncompromising evaluation of one’s character.

The act of looking oneself in the eye in the mirror symbolizes the ability to confront one’s own actions, choices, and values with honesty and transparency. Moreover, the eyes are often considered windows to the soul, and meeting one’s own gaze is symbolic of facing the truth within.

Line 17-18: “You can fool the whole world down the pathway of years,/ And get pats on the back as you pass,”

Wimbrow uses the metaphor of the “pathway of years” to convey the enduring nature of life. The phrase “You can fool the whole world” introduces the notion of external deception. Through this, Wimbrow acknowledges the potential for individuals to craft an image that may not align with their true selves. Also, the emphasis on “the whole world” amplifies the scale of this action, implying a large audience.

The subsequent line, “And get pats on the back as you pass,” suggests external validation where one may receive praise or approval. However, the external praise contrasts with the internal judgment advocated throughout the poem, creating a tension between external appearances and internal truth.

Also, the choice of the word “fool” implies a deliberate act of cheating, prompting readers to reflect on the sincerity of their own actions.

Line 19-20: “But your final reward will be heartaches and tears/ If you’ve cheated the guy in the glass.”

Through these last lines, Wimbrow introduces the idea of a “final reward,” framing it as the ultimate outcome throughout a lifetime. The term “reward” typically carries positive connotations, but the qualifier “final” hints at an enduring impact. Furthermore, the vivid imagery of “heartaches and tears” infers emotional pain and distress. The emotional language used in this line heightens the gravity of the warning, making it resonate on a visceral level with the reader.

The use of the conditional term “if” places the responsibility on the individual for “cheating” and betraying the inner self. Finally, this warning is not just about facing external judgment but also about the internal emotional toll of betraying one’s own values.

These lines serve as a powerful conclusion to the poem, encapsulating its overarching theme. Wimbrow leaves readers with a somber reflection on the potential outcomes of a life lived inauthentically.


“The Guy in the Glass” is a straightforward and heartfelt poem encouraging self-reflection and personal honesty. The narrator talks about life’s journey and warns against deceiving oneself for external praise. Therefore, the poet’s intention appears to be to offer valuable life advice, targeting a broad audience. It feels like the poet is speaking from personal experience, sharing timeless wisdom. Reading it makes you contemplate personal authenticity and leaves you with a sense of responsibility for your own values and integrity.

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