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Through the Looking-Glass – Lewis Carroll

Through the Looking-Glass – Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There (1871) is a novel by Lewis Carroll (Charles Lutwidge Dodgson), the sequel to Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (1865). Set some six months later than the earlier book, Alice again enters a fantastical world, this time by climbing through a mirror into the world that she can see beyond it. Through the Looking-Glass includes such celebrated verses as “Jabberwocky” and “The Walrus and the Carpenter”, and the episode involving Tweedledum and Tweedledee. The mirror which inspired Carroll remains displayed in Charlton Kings.

Chapter 1: Looking-Glass House

Alice is playing with a white kitten (who she calls “Snowdrop”) and a black kitten (who she calls “Kitty”)—the offspring of Dinah, Alice’s cat in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland—when she ponders what the world is like on the other side of a mirror’s reflection. Climbing up onto the fireplace mantel, she pokes at the wall-hung mirror behind the fireplace and discovers, to her surprise, that she is able to step through it to an alternative world. In this reflected version of her own house, she finds a book with looking-glass poetry, “Jabberwocky”, whose reversed printing she can read only by holding it up to the mirror. She also observes that the chess pieces have come to life, though they remain small enough for her to pick up.

Chapter 2: The Garden of Live Flowers

Upon leaving the house (where it had been a cold, snowy night), she enters a sunny spring garden where the flowers can speak; they perceive Alice as being a “flower that can move about”. Elsewhere in the garden, Alice meets the Red Queen, who is now human-sized, and who impresses Alice with her ability to run at breathtaking speeds. This is a reference to the chess rule that queens are able to move any number of vacant squares at once, in any direction, which makes them the most “agile” of pieces.

Chapter 3: Looking-Glass Insects

The Red Queen reveals to Alice that the entire countryside is laid out in squares, like a gigantic chessboard, and offers to make Alice a queen if she can move all the way to the eighth rank/row in a chess match. This is a reference to the chess rule of Promotion. Alice is placed in the second rank as one of the White Queen’s pawns, and begins her journey across the chessboard by boarding a train that literally jumps over the third row and directly into the fourth rank, thus acting on the rule that pawns can advance two spaces on their first move.

Chapter 4: Tweedledum and Tweedledee

She then meets the fat twin brothers Tweedledum and Tweedledee, who she knows from the famous nursery rhyme. After reciting the long poem “The Walrus and the Carpenter”, the Tweedles draw Alice’s attention to the Red King—loudly snoring away under a nearby tree—and maliciously provoke her with idle philosophical banter that she exists only as an imaginary figure in the Red King’s dreams (thereby implying that she will cease to exist the instant he wakes up). Finally, the brothers begin acting out their nursery-rhyme by suiting up for battle, only to be frightened away by an enormous crow, as the nursery rhyme about them predicts.

Chapter 5: Wool and Water

Alice next meets the White Queen, who is very absent-minded but boasts of (and demonstrates) her ability to remember future events before they have happened. Alice and the White Queen advance into the chessboard’s fifth rank by crossing over a brook together, but at the very moment of the crossing, the Queen transforms into a talking Sheep in a small shop. Alice soon finds herself struggling to handle the oars of a small rowboat, where the Sheep annoys her with (seemingly) nonsensical shouting about “crabs” and “feathers”. Unknown to Alice, these are standard terms in the jargon of rowing. Thus (for a change) the Queen/Sheep was speaking in a perfectly logical and meaningful way.

Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Charles Lutwidge Dodgson (/ˈtʃɑːrlz ˈlʌtwɪdʒ ˈdɒdsən/; 27 January 1832 – 14 January 1898), better known by his pen name Lewis Carroll (/ˈkærəl/), was an English writer, mathematician, logician, Anglican deacon, and photographer. His most famous writings are Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, its sequel Through the Looking-Glass, which includes the poem “Jabberwocky”, and the poem The Hunting of the Snark – all examples of the genre of literary nonsense. He is noted for his facility at word play, logic and fantasy. There are societies in many parts of the world dedicated to the enjoyment and promotion of his works and the investigation of his life.

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Through the Looking-Glass
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