Published in 1871 by Lewis Carroll (Charles Lutwidge Dodgson) “Through the Looking-glass and What Alice Found There” is a sequel to “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.” The second book is set six months later than the first book.
Alice is now seven and a half. On a boring afternoon, she lets her imagination take her through the mirror above her fireplace and into a magical world. In this world chess pieces come to life, animals and flowers talk, and everything is backward. She cuts cakes after she serves them. Days are grouped in threes instead of one at a time, and nursery rhymes come to life.
In the Looking-glass world, Alice sees a life size chess game in progress and wants to join. She meets with the Red Queen who helps her get started and tells her what square she needs to be in to become Queen. Along the way, she meets a variety of fantastical creatures including a Unicorn who thinks she’s a monster and a Sheep who runs a shop. She also listens to jokes from a Gnat that make him sad and watch two twin men dressed as schoolboys fight over a broken rattle. She even meets Humpty Dumpty who is under the White King’s protection.
Towards the end of the book, Alice becomes Queen Alice. At the banquet to celebrate her success, she has a disagreement with the Red Queen and begins to shake her. Suddenly the Red Queen becomes Alice’s kitten, and Alice realizes the escapade was a dream.
A little girl named Alice is lazily sitting in a chair in the parlor winding a ball of yarn. She is watching her kitten trying to unroll the ball of yarn and talking to her cat, Dinah. She admonishes Dinah for not controlling her baby. But the cat just looks up and then goes back to cleaning the kitten, Snowdrop.
Alice is bored and drowsy. She starts to imagine her cat is the Red Queen in her chess game and carries on a make believe the conversation with her. Alice tries to get her cat to assume the pose of the Red Queen but, of course, the cat does not cooperate. She threatens to push the cat through the mirror over the fireplace into the house on the other side of the mirror. Alice begins to daydream about the other world. Then she climbs onto the chair but can’t see the part behind the fireplace. She wonders if there is a fire. Would there be mild for the kitten? She looks through the passage into the next room that is reflected. Alice yearns to go through into the “Looking-glass House.”
She is still talking to Kitty about imagining they can step through the glass, suddenly a mist appears. Since she was already on the chimney-piece, she could see the glass melting away “just like a bright silvery mist.” She stepped through. Alice hops down into the Looking-Glass Room. Although the room is the mirror image of her room, there are differences, too. The pictures on the wall seem to be alive. The clock on the mantle has the face of a little old man grinning. The room is not as tidy. When she looked at the hearth, she noticed some chessmen marching two by two among the cinders.
She points out the Red King and Queen and then the White King and Queen quietly so as not to frighten them. She begins to think they can’t hear her.
Suddenly Alice hears squeaking from the table behind her. She sees a White Pawn kicking and rolling around. The White Queen frantically rushes past the King, knocking him over in her haste to get to her child, Lily. Alice picks the Queen up and sets her on the table which terrifies the Queen.
As she is calming the child and catching her breath, the Queen calls down to the King to “Mind the volcano!” She tells him that it blew her up onto the table. Alice becomes impatient with the King trying to get up to the table, so she lifts him up, too. Alice begins to laugh at the faces the King makes while she brushes the ash off of him. Since she is invisible to them, the King lays on his back in shock. Alice looks for some water to throw on him to revive him, but all she can find is a bottle of ink.
He begins to tell the Queen how terrifying it was and how he would never forget it. She replies that he will forget if he doesn’t make a note of it. He pulls out a huge memo book and pencil. Alice takes the end of the pencil and begins to write in his book. While the King and Queen try to understand the writing in the memo book, Alice notices a book laying on a table. There was a poem in it in mirror writing, “Jabberwocky.” She puts it up to the mirror so she can read it. It is about a terrible monster called the Jabberwock. She thinks it is a pretty poem, but hard to understand. Alice thinks it is about somebody killing something.
She puts the book down and sets out to explore the rest of the house. She heads for the garden first. Instead of running down the stairs she found herself floating. At the bottom, she grabs the door post and is glad to be walking in the “natural way.”
The Garden of Live Flowers
Alice finally arrives outside in the garden. She wants to get a better view from the top of a hill. But, when she tries to take the path it twists and turns until she finds herself back at the house. Frustrated because the house keeps getting in the way, she wishes the Tiger Lily could talk. The Tiger Lily replies that the flowers can talk when there is someone worth talking to. The Rose thinks her face has some sense in it, but not very much.
She wonders if the flowers feel safe and they assured her the tree protects them. It will bark if there is a danger. The Daisies begin to shout, Tiger Lily yells at them to be quiet, but it doesn’t help. Alice threatens to pick them if they don’t calm down. The flowers tell Alice there is another flower in the garden like her, but redder.
The Red Queen walks up to Alice who is surprised to see she has grown. The Rose tells her it’s because of the fresh air. After the Red Queen confuses Alice with her nonsense, she agrees to walk with Alice up to the hill. Alice notices the valley looks like a chess board, squared divided by little green hedges. She sees a chess game in progress.
Alice tells the Red Queen she would like to join in the game. The Red Queen says she can replace the White Queen’s pawn, Lily who is too young to play. She tells Alice that when she reaches the eighth square, she will be queen. The two begin to run, but they don’t make any progress. The wind blows past, but the landscape doesn’t change. The Red Queen keeps urging her to go faster.
Finally, they stop and are in the same place. The Queen gives her directions for the game. She tells Alice to speak in French when she can’t think of the English words, turn her toes our as she walks, and remember who she is. The Queen reaches her last peg and disappears after saying goodbye. Alice remembers she is the White Pawn and waits patiently to make her move.
Alice takes a look at the geography around her so she can be ready to make her move. Alice sees elephants in the distance moving from flower to flower like bees. Alice runs down the hill and jumps over the first of the six little brooks so she can get to the Third Square where she will be Queen.
The Guard asks for her tickets through the window of the full carriage she is sitting in. While everyone harasses her about showing her ticket, she explains that there was not ticket office where she came from. Alice thinks the voices sound like a chorus, then when they stop talking they think in chorus. The Guard looks at her through a telescope, then a microscope and last an opera glass. He tells her she is traveling the wrong way and shuts the window.
The man sitting across from her is dressed in white paper. He admonishes her for not knowing her way to the ticket office and her name. He discusses this with the Goat sitting next to him. The Goat thinks she will have to go back as baggage. The Beetle doesn’t get a chance to state it’s opinion before the Horse speaks up sounding hoarse. An insect is telling jokes in her ear. The carriage jumps over a brook. Alice grabs the Goat’s beard to steady herself.
The beard melts, and she finds herself under a tree. The insect that had been talking to her is with her. It is a Gnat and is about the size of a chicken. They discuss the differences in insects in her world and the Looking-Glass World. Here the horseflies are rocking horseflies that live on “sap and sawdust,” the dragonflies are Snapdragon flies that are made of plum pudding and live on frumenty and mince pie, and the butterflies are bread and butter flies who live on weak tea with cream.
The Gnat flies about and makes jokes that make him unhappy. He warns Alice not to go into the woods because her name will change. Then he disappears.
Alice walks into the wood because she till needs to go to the Eighth Square. She wonders what her name will be. As she walks and talks to herself, she realizes she has forgotten her name and decided it begins with an L. A Fawn walks up to her. She tries to pet it, but it shies away. When the Fawn asks her what her name is she says “Nothing.” She asks the Fawn what it’s name is as it might help her remember her name. The Fawn tells her it can’t remember either until they leave the wood.
The two walk until they leave the wood. The Fawn tells her its name and that she is a human child. Then it suddenly darted away in fear. Alone Alice sees signs pointing to Tweedledum and Tweedledee’s house. On the path, she comes upon “two fat little men.”
Tweedledum and Tweedledee
The two men stand with an arm around the other’s shoulder. One of them has Dum embroidered on his collar, and the other has Dee on his collar. Alice recites a poem about them. Then she asks them how to get through the woods. They tell her she was supposed to shake hands so since she doesn’t want to favor one above the other, she takes both their hands. They dance around in a circle together. They ignore her when she asks how to get out of the wood, but instead, they tell her a poem, “The Walrus and the Carpenter.”
The poem is about a walrus and a carpenter who trick some oysters so they can eat them. After the poem ends, Alice says that she likes the Walrus best because he feels sorry for the oysters. But after Tweedledee tells her the Walrus ate more than the Carpenter Alice changes her mind. Tweedledum tells her the Carpenter ate as much as he could hold, so she doesn’t know which one she prefers.
She hears a loud noise and wonders if there are any lions or tigers in the wood. But they tell her it is only the Red King snoring. Tweedledee tells her the King is dreaming about her and if he wakes up she will “go out – bang! – just like a candle!”
The two men try to tell Alice she is not real and she begins to cry while she insists she is real. They try to tell her that her tears aren’t real either. Suddenly Tweedledee sees the broken rattle on the ground. When Tweedledum sees it, he becomes enraged. The two begin their battle again to see who is the owner of the rattle, but a crow flies up and scares them away. Alice runs into the wood where she knows she will be safe from the crow. She sees a shawl blowing away.
Wool and Water
Alice catches the shawl and looks for the owner. It is the White Queen who is chasing after it. Alice helps her put her shawl on and helps her with her hair. Alice tells her she needs a lady’s maid. The White Queen offers Alice the job with “two pence a week and jam every other day.” Alice tells her she doesn’t care for jam. When the Queen tells her that even if she wanted it today, she couldn’t have it today, only yesterday and tomorrow, but never jam today. Alice is confused, and the Queen tells her it is “the effect of living backward.” But then she tells her the good part is “that one’s memory works both ways.”
The Queen starts to scream because she will prick her finger. When she does prick her finger later, she doesn’t make a sound because she already screamed because of it. Alice is more confused and cries because she is lonely. The Queen asks Alice how old she is and when Alice says seven and a half the Queen says she is “just one hundred and one, five months and a day.” When Alice says, she can’t believe it the Queen says she just needs more practice.
Alice asks her if she is better after hurting her finger and when the Queen tries to say she is better the word begins to come out as a sheep bleating. Then the Queen turns into a sheep. Suddenly Alice is in a dark shop, and the old Sheep is sitting in an armchair knitting. The Sheep asks Alice what she wants to buy, and she looks around.
Suddenly they are in a boat. They are gliding between banks. The Sheep keeps telling her to “Feather” which means row. She is supposed to catch crabs. The boat gets caught in the rushes. Then the boat and oars disappear, and they are back in the shop. The Sheep asks again what she wants to buy and Alice chooses an egg. But the egg keeps moving away from her. The chair turns into a tree, and she is in the wood again.
The egg keeps getting bigger and bigger until it becomes Humpty Dumpty. After she tells him her name Humpty Dumpty tells her it is a dumb name, names should mean something. She asks him why he is sitting on the wall, he tells her the King made a promise to him. When she begins to recite the Humpty Dumpty poem, he becomes angry. He assures her he is well protected. When she complements his cravat, he tells her the White King and Queen gave it to him for his un-birthday. Un-birthdays are better than birthdays because they come more often. “That’s glory for you.”
Alice tries to tell him that she doesn’t understand how he is using glory. He tells her that he pays words extra, so they work harder for him. She asks him to explain the Jabberwocky poem. He explains it to her then he tells her a poem that ends in goodbye. She finds him to be the most unsatisfactory people she has ever met. She hears a loud crash the shook the forest.
The Lion and the Unicorn
Soldiers come running through the woods. Alice slips behind a tree, so she won’t be run over by the soldiers. Next came the riders. They soldiers keep falling off the horses. Alice finds the White King sitting on the ground and writing in his memo book. He asks Alice if she saw the messengers he sent on the road. When he says that she saw Nobody, he is amazed. He can only see real people not Nobody. When she finds out what the names of the messengers are she has a poem for it. Then when she hears about the Lion and the Unicorn fighting for the crown, this prompts another poem.
The go to see the fight. Soon the King calls for a break and they eat bread. The White Queen runs past. The Unicorn asks the King what Alice is. He tells her she is a child and she can talk. She tells him she always thought Unicorns were real. He replies, “If you believe in me, I’ll believe in you.” The Unicorn calls for the cake. When Alice tries to cut it, the cake keeps joining again. She has to hand it out first then cut it in Looking-Glass world. When the Unicorn complains that the Lion was given a bigger piece, the battle begins again. Alice covers her ears to block out the noise.
It’s My Own Invention
When the noise finally dies down, Alice wonders if she dreamed the Lion and the Unicorn. Then she wonders if she is in the Red King’s dream and thinks to wake him to see what would happen. The Red Knight rides up shouting “Ahoy! Ahoy! Check!” He claims her as his prisoner. Then the White Knight rides up saying the same thing. The two Knights fight for her and the White Knight wins.
The White Knight accompanies her to the next brook. As she walks by his horse, the White Knight tells her about his inventions. As he explains them, she becomes more and more confused. The White Knight thinks her confusion is sadness and sings her a song to make her happy. He asks her to wait to jump the brook until she has seen him away. She waves her handkerchief at him as he rides away.
Then she jumps of the brook into the Eighth Square. She sits down on the soft grass and finds a crown on her head.
The Red and White Queen are sitting near her. The White Queen tells Alice she is not a Queen until she passes “the proper examination.” The questions the Queens ask Alice are nonsensical such as “How is bread made?” When Alice replies that you start with flour, the White Queen asked her where she would pick the flower. Alice says flour isn’t picked, it’s ground. To which the White Queen asks how many acres of ground. The Red Queen asks her, “What’s the French for fiddle-de-dee?” As the questions and nonsense continue the Red Queen tells her that in Looking-glass Land days and nights come in groups of two or three at a time. Such as three Tuesdays.
Soon the Queens put their heads on Alice’s shoulders and fall asleep. Then the heads of the Queens fall onto Alice’s lap, and they begin to snore. Their snoring begins to sound like a song to Alice that mesmerizes her so much she doesn’t notice when the Queens vanish.
Alice looks up and finds herself standing in front of a door that says “Queen Alice.” When she knocks on the door, a creature with a long beak opens the door long enough to deny her admittance. Suddenly the door is flung open, and a shrill voice sings a song of welcome to Queen Alice with a hundred voices joining in the chorus.
Alice walks in to find a large table filled with guests. At the head of the table are three chairs. Two are occupied by the Red and White Queens. Alice sits down between them. When the food comes out, Alice is introduced to it by the Red Queen the food is returned because she can’t eat anything she has been introduced to. Alice calls for the pudding to come back and serves it to her guests.
Chaos breaks out in the dining room. The White Queen lands in the soup. Alice thinks the Red Queen is causing the chaos, so she begins to shake her. The Red Queen begins to shrink and is soon Alice’s kitten. Alice realizes she was dreaming. Her kitten was the Red Queen, another kitten was the White Queen, and she thinks Dinah was Humpty Dumpty. But she can’t get the cats to admit to it.
Alice – a seven and a half-year-old little girl. One lazy afternoon she starts to imagine what the world on the other side of the mirror would be like. Soon she imagines herself stepping through the mirror. While there she meets a cavalcade of characters that are reminiscent of a dream. She walks through the world with the innocence of a child. Every time she tries to make sense of the Looking – Glass world, it refuses to be controlled.
White Queen – the nicer of the Queens. She is untidy and always in need of someone to help her. Alice steps in to fix her hair and shawl while the White Queen tries to explain the complexities of the Looking – Glass World. The White Queen is the character that moves the plot along by offering expositions.
Red Queen – she is overbearing and domineering. Although she has a more regal bearing than the White Queen, the Red Queen is quick tempered. Her character is used to direct Alice intentionally usually by dragging her along or ordering her about. She is the first to reprimand Alice on any failing she thinks Alice has.
The White King – The White King frightens easily. Alice frightens him by picking him up in the first of the story, and he is intimidated by the Lion and the Unicorn. But, he is also first to come to the aid of Humpty Dumpty. He carries a memo book around so he can take notes to help him remember things that happen around him.
Red King – every time Alice sees the Red King he is asleep. Alice is told by Tweedledee and Tweedledum that he is dreaming about her and if he wakes up, she will cease to exist.
The White Knight – he is the inventor. He rescues Alice from the Red Knight by battling him and defeating him. The White Knight accompanies Alice to the edge of the forest after the battle. Along the way, he often almost falls off his horse. He invents things to help, but they come short of actually being helpful.
Humpty Dumpty – when Alice is in the Sheep’s store she tries to buy an egg. The egg starts to role away. As she chases it, the store vanishes and the egg grows. Soon it is Humpty Dumpty sitting on a wall. He is rude and presumptuous. He assures Alice that he has the White King’s protection, so he will not fall off the wall as the nursery rhyme suggests.
Tweedledum and Tweedledee – Alice meets this two twin, chubby boys in the woods near their house. They are dressed like school boys with their names embroidered on their collars. When she meets them, they seem to be getting along and have their arms about each other. But soon they see a broken rattle and begin to fight for the ownership.
The Unicorn – Alice attends the battle between the Lion and the Unicorn. When he sees Alice, he is surprised to see a little girl that talks and calls her a monster after she tells him that she thought he was a monster. He tells her that if she believes in him, then he will believe in her.
The Gnat – Alice meets him in the carriage as she begins her journey. He sits near her ear and tells her jokes using puns. After she leaves the carriage, he grows to the size of a chicken. Whenever he tells jokes, they make him sad.
Tiger Lily – she talks to Alice. Tiger Lily tries to be the authority of the flowers in the flower bed.
Lewis Carroll Biography
Born Charles Lutwidge Dodgson in 1832 in England. He came from a large family of eleven children. His father had a gift for mathematics and was a conservative cleric of the Church of England. Later he became the Archdeacon of Richmond. Dodgson was educated at home. His reading list was extensive, and he was a mathematical prodigy.
He and many of his siblings suffered from a stammer. At twelve years old he began attending grammar school. He went on to study mathematics in Oxford. Where he graduated with honors but had trouble concentrating. In 1855 he won the Christ Church Mathematical Lectureship and held that position for the next twenty-six years.
At six feet tall Dodgson was slim, and his health was precarious. He lost his hearing in one ear after a fever as a young child. When he was seventeen, he contacted severe whooping cough that left him with a damaged lungs.
As an adult, his stammer stayed with him but only seemed to show itself around adults. With children it was absent. During his time people of his social class entertained each other in their parlors. He was adept at singing but best at story telling and mimicry. He was a good friend of George MacDonald, a fairy tale author. The enthusiastic response of MacDonald’s children of his Alice stories prompted him to publish them. He published under the pseudonym Lewis Carroll, which is a Latin translation for Charles Lutwidge, his first and middle name. It was chosen by his editor. He also published nearly a dozen mathematical works under his regular name, Dodgson.
In addition to writing and mathematics, Dodgson was also a logician and an Anglican deacon. He also took up photography semi-professionally. From his studio, he turned out over three thousand photographs of men, women, children, dogs, dolls, skeletons, statures, paintings and landscape. Although considered controversial the photographs he took of children was always accompanied by their parents. He usually photographed in the outdoors because of the optimal light.
Dodgson also put out a few inventions including a nyctograph, which is a writing tablet that allows note taking in the dark. It has a card with sixteen square grids. It had a system of symbols that represent the alphabet in a graffiti writing system. He also invented a game resembling Scrabble.
When he was as young, Dodgson began writing poetry and short stories. He was published in a few magazines. His work was usually funny and satirical. Dodgson was shy and his own worst critic, although his Alice books made him almost instantly famous. He received more that ninety-eight letters from fans of his books. Almost thirty years after the success of his Alice books, Dodgson published a two-volume book of Silvie and Bruno, two fairy siblings. The stories weave together the land of fairies and England.
Even with all his fame, Dodgson continued to teach at Christ Church until his death. Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, also known as Lewis Carroll died on January 14, 1898, at the age of sixty-five of pneumonia. In two weeks he would have been sixty-six. He is buried in Guildford at the Mount Cemetery.