Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There (also known as Alice Through
the Looking-Glass or simply Through the Looking-Glass) is a novel published on 27 December 1871 by Lewis Carroll and the sequel to Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland . Alice again enters a fantastical world, this time by climbing through a mirror into the world that she can see beyond it. Lewis Carroll’s sequel to Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (1865), titled Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There (1871), takes the beloved Alice into a new world featuring a live game of chess, a few bizarre characters, and a repetition of classic nursery rhymes. While nonsense proves to be the bread-and-butter of Lewis Carroll’s writing style, it is not without purpose; the narrative structuring of the chess game and Alice’s pursuit of queenhood, coupled with the exchanges with the various characters, fall in line with a classic coming of age tale, and present Alice as a figure within a Bildungsroman.
The lone subjective mind can never understand what constitutes absolute truth or reality. One cannot escape how his opinions and his single point of view distort and reshape reality,
transforming it into a personal reality. Lewis Carroll challenges this personal reality in Through the Looking Glass by using the genre of fantasy. He confronts the reader indirectly through Alice. As the foreign world through the looking glass disobeys Alice’s established views, so does it disobey the reader’s views. The Hatter’s imprisonment serves as a good example of this. The Queen explains, “‘He’s in prison now, being punished: and the trial doesn’t even begin till next Wednesday: and of course the crime comes last of all.'” (Through the Looking Glass, p. 151) Alice does not see the sense of this because, like us, she has the reverse view of reality from the looking glass people. She dislikes the idea that someone could be punished for a crime they did not commit, but to the Queen it makes perfect sense. This contrast of perspectives causes the reader to re-evaluate his own world, to question what he labels as unfair. On our side of the looking glass, people do occasionally get punished for something they did not do. Children are often reprimanded for a sibling’s misbehavior. In countries with strict governments, people who raise the suspicions of the government can be put in jail before they actually do anything to warrant it. Carroll makes us see the multiple examples of injustice in our own world by presenting that same injustice in a
different world where we can get a more objective view of it.
Not only does perspective vary between individuals, it also changes with age [“Fantasy and
Conception of the Real.”, something evident evident in the following passage:
Alice laughed. “There’s no use trying,” she said: “one can’t believe impossible things.”
“I daresay you haven’t had much practice,” said the Queen. “When I was your age, I always
did it for half-an-hour a day. Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things
before breakfast. There goes the shawl again!”
“Alice had begun with ‘Let’s pretend we’re kings and queens;’ and her sister, who liked
being exact, had argued that they couldn’t, because there were only two of them, and Alice
hand been reduced at last to say, ‘Well, you can be one of them then, and I’ll be the rest.”
-Through the Looking Glass and what Alice found there (Chapter 1)
In Carroll’s sequel to Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Alice once again finds herself in a bizarre and nonsensical place when she passes through a mirror and enters a looking-glass world where nothing is quite as it seems. From her guest appearance as a pawn in chess match to her meeting with Humpty Dumpty, Through the Looking-Glass and what Alice found there follows Alice on her curious adventure and shows Carroll’s great skill at creating an imaginary world full of the fantastical and extraordinary elements.
Through the Looking-Glass and what Alice found there is an adventurous journey of Alice, where she is shown growing into womanhood. Here, she meets few animals and mostly talking flowers and insects. The game of chess is a prominent factor in this novel. Alice plays the part of the White Queen’s daughter Lily as she is sick and becomes the White Queen’s pawn. Alice is told that at the eight square she would become the Queen. The whole novel is transformed into a chess board where the white pawn (Alice) wins the match in eleven moves.
While in the process she meets people like Tweedledee and Tweedledum, Unicorn, Sheep, White Knight, Messenger, Humpty Dumpty, Carpenter, Walrus, Crow, Lion, Oyster, White King and Queen, Red King and Queen, aged man. The strange things about these creatures are that, they suddenly transform form one person to another. For instance: the White Queen transforms into a sheep, the egg which Alice buys from the sheep turns into Humpty Dumpty, the Red Queen turns into the kitten and so on. This is fantasy.
Alice in Chapter 1 of Through the Looking glass and what Alice found there tells her kitten, “Let’s pretend that you’re the Red Queen, Kitty!” And in Chapter 10 and 11, we come to know, “The Red Queen made no resistance whatever: only her face grew very small, and her eyes got large and green: and still, as Alice went on shaking her, she kept on growing shorter-and fatter-and softer-and rounder-and—and it really was a kitten, after all.” This is a combination of fantasy and reality.
The ideology in the world of Looking glass is very contradictory. For instance: “A slow sort of
country!” said the Queen. “Now, here you see, it takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place. If you want to get somewhere else, you must run at least twice as fast as that.”. Next, “You’d be nowhere. Why you’re only a sort of thing in his dream!”, “If that there King was to wake,” added Tweedledum, “you’d go out — bang! — just like a candle!” Then, “You may look in front of you, and on both sides, if you like,” said the Sheep; “but you can’t look all round you – unless you’ve got eyes at the back of your head.” Again, “You don’t know how to manage Looking glass cakes,” the Unicorn remarked. “Hand it round first, and cut it afterwards.” All these are various kinds of ideas and events which occurs in the world of Looking-glass.
Moreover, whenever Alice was in danger, someone comes and saves her like the Red knight comes to harm Alice while the White knight saves her. The moves are analogy to the chess game. Alice can never come backward or think her past because she is a pawn. The White queen appears anywhere and at anytime because she can take moves in all direction. The King can take only one step. All these rules which are applied in chess are applicable in the world of the Looking-Glass as well. It is the world of fantasy.
“Children yet, the tale to hear,
Eager eye and willing ear,
Lovingly shall nestle near.
In a Wonderland they lie,
Dreaming as the days go by,
Dreaming as the summers die:
Ever drifting down the stream
Lingering in the golden gleam
Life, what is it but a dream?”
Life is a dreamed-reality. For many people, life is a dream. We want to go ahead in life. Some
does, but not all. Like Alice, many of us too dream in our own wonderlands. We want to visit the looking glass, the other side of reality which is a fancy. We interact with animals in our daily life but in wonderland it is different.
The Queen’s picture of reality includes more and more “impossible things” as she gets older. Alice, being from the other side of the mirror, changes in the opposite way. As she matures she comes to see more ideas as fantasy. In this excerpt, Alice appears to be stubborn and foolish for her disbelief. Back in England adults would think of her as stubborn and foolish for believing in fantasy. The passage highlights the inconsistencies of adults who tell you there is no monster under the bed one moment and yet encourage their children to believe in Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy. Carroll also uses the scene to make fun of the Victorian quest for logic, reason, and truth. Reality means an entirely different thing to each person and to the same person at different points in his life. Carroll vey cleverly makes its readers to get inside the book. But some chapters end abruptly like the “Humpty Dumpty”. All these are possible due to the element of fantasy which the novel formulates. The element of fantasy is impeccably penned down by Lewis Carroll which makes the readers amusing.
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