Alice's character and adventures in Through the Looking Glass is much different from the Alice in Alice in Wonderland. While both these worlds share distinct, fantastic characteristics defining them as lands disconnected from reality, lands of fantasy and bizarre rules, the challenges, obstacles, and confrontations that Alice faces are proportionately on a much grander scale, as are the concepts that she must grapple and explore. The land of the Looking Glass presents a significantly more complicated and sophisticated source of fantastic reality that challenges Alice to consider new uncanny perspectives, which, at first glance, seem to be of minimal relevance and importance. However, when thoroughly considered these peculiar principals provide insight to understanding different types of people and situations one might possibly encounter in reality.

In Wonderland, Alice constantly faces obstacles of size; either she must become larger or smaller, shorter or bigger. Her mission to enter the beautiful garden behind the small door propels her journey, ultimately, placing her in situations that, in many instances, require physical change evoking issues of self-identity within Alice. Her physical being and the means, in which others perceive her, directly correlate with how she understands and defines who she is. In "Looking Glass" land, her experiences and interactions with characters and their backward approach to life exposes Alice to the absurd pseudo-logical perspective present not only in lands of fantasy but also in reality. The Queen's discussion of the punishment of the King's messenger depicts Alice's struggle to make sense of this illogical chaos:

"there's the King Messenger. 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".

"Suppose he never commits the crime?"

"That would be all the better, wouldn't it?"

Alice felt there was no denying that. "Of course it would be all the better," she said: "but it wouldn't be all the better his being punished."

You're wrong there, at any rate, said the Queen. "Were you ever punished?"

"Only for faults," said Alice.

"And you were all the better for it, I know!" the Queen said triumphantly.

"Yes, but then I had done the things I was punished for," said Alice: "that makes all the difference."

"But if you hadn't done them," the Queen said, "that would have been better still; better and better, and better!"

Although this sort of justice is not explicitly practiced or applied in Alice's reality, exposure to this perspective deeply troubles Alice who fails to see any sense or moral purpose in its practice. For Alice to challenge the Queen's perspective on both a moral and logical scale infers depth and advanced cognitive process present in Alice but absent in the Queen. Alice's concern of punishing someone before a trial demonstrates Alice's concern, not only with the sequential order she is accustomed to in reality, as well as the moral conscious decision behind it. The Queen's ignorance of the problematic moral situation of the punishment of the King's messenger ascertains her character as completely confined and constrained to the backward nature of "Looking Glass Land". Alice's adventure in "Looking Glass Land" helps strengthen her character and self identity to grapple with the illogical and stubborn interactions with those she interacts with in reality.

Questions:

1. Carroll uses devices such as satire, puns, and humor in this passage and throughout the majority of the Alice Books. In a genre of a fantasy it is very popular to use diction and imagery to create a world distinct from reality. Why does Carroll not use these devices to construct the lands of Wonderland and The Looking Glass? Does it bear any relationship to the underlying message of these books, if there is one at all? Is the humor and use of puns and sarcasm more effective in his novel?

2. In the Alice Books and Jane Eyre, Both Carroll and Bronte center their novels around a young woman who struggle with their relationships between themselves and adult figures with authority. However, are their struggles with authority the same or different? Explain.

3. In the context of this passage and others figures of authority seem to be revered because of custom and Alice's feeling that she should be obedient, however, in many circumstances, it seems almost silly to do so. Does this possibly reflect a view upheld by Carroll himself, or simply a possibility he wishes to raise and only consider?

4. Besides being an author Dodgson was a mathematician who summoned his mathematical abilities to issues such as electoral politics. However, he was also deeply concerned with issues such as the abuse of animals, the existence of slavery, mistreatment of factory workers, and the degradation of women. Do any of Dodgson's political opinions and beliefs seem to find their way in this particular passage from "Through the Looking Glass"? Are any of these themes present elsewhere in the Alice Books?


Victorian Web Overview Lewis Carroll Leading Questions

Last modified 17 March 2009