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." GPL], 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!" [p. 153]
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.
Last modified December 1993