My literature class assigned "The Black Ball" by Ralph Ellison. The strange white man offering a card for a union meeting has just left, and John's boss Mr. Berry has come to check on his work, especially the brass which John was so careful to polish.
"Good morning, John," Mr Berry said. I turned, and there he stood; derby, long black coat, stick, nose glasses and all. He stood gazing into the brass like the wicked queen into her looking glass in the story which the boy liked so well.
I think that this is a reference to the queen in Snow White, who asks the looking glass for the fairest lady in all the land. I'm not sure why it was brought up, though. Why couldn't it just say that he stared at the brass and left it at that? Or, if a more flowery description was needed, why Snow White specifically? I also noted this passage from earlier, where John recounts the normal way this interaction goes:
"Good morning, John." he would say, looking not at me but at the brass.
"Good morning, sir." I would say, looking not at him but at the brass. Usually his face was reflected there. For him, I was there. Besides that brass, his money, and the half-dozen or so plants in his office, I don’t believe he had any other real interests in life.
So both of them look into the brass, which is also the looking glass? I assume the brass is important, given how much word-space is lavished upon it, but how does Snow White's queen relate to all this?