Alice in Wonderland/Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll I would like to start by saying that I hated this book. It made no sense to me, and the entire time I felt that the author was on crack. I was expecting it to be a great book, because I loved the movie so much (animated one). The book never had a sensible plot, it was just this annoying little girl who was having these twisted dreams that made no sense to me, although I do realize that they have deeper social/political meanings. It is a complicated and intelligent novel that only smart and analytical people can understand it, while actually enjoying it too.
In some sense the craziness of the novel kind of makes sense because it is a dream, and dreams can be quite ridiculous. I did not like the novel because it did not have an exciting climax or conflict. I never had the feeling of anticipation while reading it, or any enthusiasm whatsoever. The book had a lot of puns and poems that a lot of people enjoy, but I personally hate puns and poems. Overall the book was not a good match for me, and I will be more careful in choosing my novel next time. RAWLIPS Wisdom of Youth:
Alice is constantly challenged of who she is and how she perceives things, but by the end she is the same little girl with the same outlook of life. She remains true to herself. Loss of Innocence: This seems to be the more apparent theme in the entire novel. Alice’s loss of innocence is illustrated with her constant change in size which represents puberty. In the beginning, she comes across one of her first obstacles: getting through the small door into the garden. First she drinks the bottle that reads “DRINK ME” (Carroll 10) which shrinks her, but then she realizes she forgot the key.
So then she eats a piece of cake that reads “EAT ME” (Carroll 12) and she grows large. It’s clever that Carroll chooses to have actual food to be the thing that makes Alice grow. The whole growing and shrinking happens quite a few times throughout the novel. The whole point is to show how Alice doesn’t really think of the consequences of her actions, just like an innocent child. She just doesn’t care. But when she is faced with the difficulty of her mistakes, she suffers. She cries when she realizes she can’t get through to the garden, which then ends up almost drowning her.
She almost destroys the White Rabbit’s house because of her gigantic growth yet again. She gets called a serpent by a pigeon, again because of her weird growing. She also begins to forget a lot of her lessons. All this change to her physical appearance makes her realize she also has issues inside. She begins to have an identity issue, like a lot of kids when growing up. “’I-I’m a little girl’ said Alice, rather doubtfully” (Carroll 43). Alice doesn’t know if she’s herself anymore. She also comes across people who aren’t exactly kind and understanding to Alice, especially the Queen who represents evil.
She is saddened by the world she sees, especially when she sees the corruption and coldness of the Queen who sends everyone to their execution. So here is this little girl, in a whole new world that’s so twisted and filled with twisted people, going through all these physical and emotional changes. However, Alice is one of the few characters of this theme to NOT crumble and lose. She is able to preserve her view of the world as it originally was, and doesn’t change much from the beginning of the novel to the end, because her adventure only happened in her dream.
It’s only at the end of the first book where Alice grows physically and realizes she doesn’t have to be afraid of the creatures “nothing but a pack of cards! ” (Carroll 97) and then she wakes up. Her waking up proves that everything was made up and an illusion, so she shouldn’t be afraid. Illusion VS Reality: Alice is pretty much in an illusion throughout the entire novel. She doesn’t know what’s real and what’s not. She tries to fit in what she thinks is reality, but is contradicted by all the characters.
The part of the novel where the illusion finally becomes reality is when Alice is attacked by the playing cards in the court room, and it is shown to actually be “ dead leaves that had fluttered down from the trees upon her face” (Carroll 98), waking her from her dream (illusion) into reality. And then again in Through the Looking Glass when Alice thinks she is shaking the queen, when really it’s just her cat. Alice doesn’t even dwell over the fact that she goes in and out of reality, because she is just a kid. Although she does think about the King, and that maybe she’s actually in his dream.
Characters Alice Liddell: A seven and a half year old girl whose goal in Wonderland is to go to the Queen’s garden, and to become a queen in Through the Looking Glass. Alice can be described as imaginative and creative. It seems her only real friends are her sister, who doesn’t even have a name, and her cats. Alice is an adventurous girl, and sometimes her curiosity gets the better of her. She can’t help but follow her instincts without second thought. She wants to learn more about the world around her, and like a kid doesn’t realize the consequences of her actions.
But, it’s important to note that she is in a dream, and in a dream our decisions don’t really matter because the consequences aren’t real. So Alice might have gotten herself in dangerous situations because of her curiosity, but she was never in any really danger. Alice also never grows as a character in the novel. She does grow physically, but not mentally. She doesn’t learn anything, she doesn’t become any smarter or wiser or experienced—she remains the same because nothing has physically happened in her life, it was all a dream.
Alice’s sole purpose is to guide the reader into this wonderland and through these crazy characters. White Rabbit: This character is the opposite of Alice. He thinks too much, and he is the epitome of stress and anxiety. He’s always worried about being late. He is also the reason why Alice ends up in wonderland. He was curious to her. The Caterpillar: The Caterpillar is probably my favorite character. He is the first character in which Alice gets help from. He helps her with her size issue by telling her about the mushrooms. He also tells Alice about metamorphosis and that it’s not a bad thing to grow.
Deeper meaning would be that growing up is a part of nature and completely normal. The Caterpillar reminded me of like a kid in school who is experimenting with drugs and is peer pressuring Alice to take mushrooms (the drug that people do now). I don’t know if people did mushrooms back then during Carroll’s time, I’m pretty sure it was available because its mushrooms, but it’s a funny coincident. The Cheshire Cat: Out of all the characters in Wonderland, Alice likes the Cat the best because she is fond of cats. The Cat is known for its grin and also that it can disappear and reappear whenever it wants.
The cat shows to be a powerful character because not even the most powerful people, the King and Queen, can get it. The Duchess: The Duchess is a little weird. She seems bipolar because her personality drastically changes the second time she meets Alice in the garden. In the pepper room she was an abusive parent, and then in the garden she was nice to Alice and kept trying to get close to her. She also kept trying to get to the moral story, “”Every thing’s got a moral, if only you can find it. “(Carroll 70). However, Alice just seems annoyed by her, and whatever she thinks, is what Carroll thinks.
And so if Carroll is annoyed by her, than he might be annoyed by morality. However, that doesn’t make sense because Carroll was a religious person. So, this is the character I am unsure about. The Queen of Hearts: She is the evil character in the wonderland. She constantly goes around sentencing people to death. What I don’t understand is why Carroll always makes the most powerful character a woman, and also the most evil. It is speculated that Carroll was not exactly smooth with the ladies, but instead had an obsession with little girls, like Alice Liddell, who was an actual person (Shulevitz).
So, maybe he just didn’t like older women and saw them as evil. King of Hearts: He is not mentioned much but in comparison to the Queen he is much kinder in that he prevents the Queen from executing everyone. He is also a doormat in the relationship with the Queen. This might also be a view that Carroll has. He might not like older women because he thinks they dominate and control the relationship in ruthless and corrupt ways. I am completely guessing, but it sounds plausible. The Red Queen: She is the queen in the Looking Glass world.
She defies my theory on how Carroll views women. Because she is actually nice and helps Alice become a Queen. Even though you would think, because the whole thing is based on a chess game, the Red Queen would hate Alice for being a queen because they are not on the same side of the game. She is also extremely fast, just like a queen player is in a game of chess since they can pretty much go in any direction and as far as they want. But the Red Queen is commanding and bossy. She also turns into Alice’s cat at the end. The White Queen: The White queen is a child archetype.
She can’t really look after herself, and many times Alice has to help her. The whole idea of Looking Glass world is that everything is backwards and the relationship between Alice and the Queen is another example of this. Instead of the adult taking care of the child, the child is taking care of the adult. Deeper meaning to this would be that even children can be mature and be caregivers. This makes sense because Carroll did have an eerie interest in little children, especially girls. It’s even been speculated that he wanted to marry the real Alice Liddell (Shulevitz).
The White Knight: After reading the Sparknotes definition of the White King, his role in the novel makes a little more sense than a random guy just escorting Alice because he wants to. The Sparknotes page states that Carroll modeled the White Knight after himself. This is plausible to me because the White Knight seemed really interested in Alice and helping her. “I’ll see you safe to the end of the wood—and then I must go back, you know. That’s the end of my move. ” (Carroll 181). Carroll also chooses to have Alice say that the White Knight “dazzled her” (Carroll 187). Like the White Knight, Carroll had shaggy hair, blue eyes, and a mild face. Also like Carroll, the White Knight has a penchant for inventing and compulsively preparing for any kind of contingency, no matter how ridiculous” (Sparknotes Editors). The White Knight is also really clumsy and can’t seem to ride his horse properly in a straight line. This makes sense because the entire thing is a game of chess, and since he is a Knight he can only move in a shape of an L. The White Knight also recites a song for Alice and says she is going to cry (because of the separation between them in real life maybe).
According to Sparknotes, “he sings a song that conjures up feelings of wistful longing, calling attention to the idea of Alice’s transformation into a queen as a metaphor for her sexual awakening into womanhood. The White Knight represents a figure from her childhood who can bring her to the point at which she reaches adulthood before he must let go. The scene between the White Knight and Alice is marked by feelings of nostalgia tinged with regret, since Alice must eventually leave the White Knight and claim her new role alone” (Sparknotes Editors).
The first time I read through the song that the White Knight sings to Alice I did not get any “metaphor for [Alice’s] sexual awakening into womanhood”, because she’s only seven and that would never go through my mind. So I read it again and I still didn’t see it. But the line “Of that old man I used to know” (Carroll 189) jumped out at me and then I kind of got the poem. The “old man” is obviously Carroll, and the “I” is Alice. Carroll believes that the real Alice Liddell viewed him as an old man that played with her, but Carroll also states that she cared about him when he writes that she “weep[s]” for the old man.
But that’s in the poem, and not what actually happens because Alice doesn’t cry at all after hearing the song. So I’m not really sure if Carroll is saying that the real Alice Liddell cared for him or not. The White Knight does state that “the end of [his] move” is when he gets her to a safe place where she doesn’t need his protection anymore. This can be seen as the real life situation between Carroll and Alice Liddell. Carroll couldn’t stay with her forever and so there had to be a time where he had to let her go.
He couldn’t follow her through puberty and her growth into a woman (maybe because he didn’t want her as an older woman, because he’s not attracted to older women, and wants to stick to little girls). Either way Carroll is creepy. The Red King: Most important thing about him is that he sleeps, and Alice thinks that she is a part of his dream, instead of him being a part of her dream. Humpty Dumpty: He recites poems and also analyzes them to Alice. He does to poems what the students do in AP Lit. When he finds the meanings of things he makes up whatever he wants. ’When I use a word,’ Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, ‘it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less. ’’(Carroll 161). Again, it’s like AP Lit, we have to try to find a meaning a bigger picture in the text we read even if we have no idea what it’s about. Make stuff up, right? Well that’s what humpty Dumpty does. As I have learned in class, you can’t be wrong as long as you can back up her theory with proof. Although, he might give any word any meaning he wants, he says that names should have a specific meaning. I don’t understand what the meaning behind that is. He explains the poem “Jabberwocky” to Alice.
While reading the book I never paid much attention to the poem because I thought it was nonsense. Humpty Dumpty has a lot of riddles and puns. When Alice asks him why he’s all alone, he says that there is no one with him. Well, obviously. He doesn’t answer the questions that Alice asks of him the way she wants, the way normal people in the normal world would. His riddles and puns remind me of the joke, “why did the chicken cross the road? ” It’s like, no duh to get to the other side. Tweedledum and Tweedledee: Twin brothers that recite poetry to Alice and also get into a fight because of a rattle.
Carroll is literally portraying little boys who are immature. It also shows that Carroll did not like little boys; he liked little girls. He portrays Alice as a smart little girl, but the twin boys as idiots. The twins are also the only young boy characters; Carroll decides not to have little boy characters. It might be because he doesn’t see Alice’s partners as little boys, but grown men like himself (Shmoop Editorial Team). With the way Carroll describes the relationship between the White Knight and Alice as opposed to the relationship between the twins and Alice is different.
He sees someone like him as more fit to be her partner than little boys. Just creepy. The Mad Hatter: A guy at the tea party in which Alice went to. He shows up a couple of more times through the novel, but doesn’t have a major role in the story. I’m kind of surprised he wasn’t more important in the novel because Tim Burton made an entire movie dedicated to the Mad Hatter. He tells Alice that he had a fight with Time and as a result the tea parties are always at six o’clock, and it just so happens that it’s always six o’clock. He acts as if Time is a real person.
I don’t understand the meaning of time being stopped, or even treating time as a person. The whole point of the Tea Party scene, along with its weird members, is to show the craziness of wonderland. Mock Turtle: The Mock turtle is named after mock turtle soup, because the Queen says it herself to Alice that “It’s the thing Mock Turtle Soup is made from,” (Carroll 73). The Mock Turtle is depressed because he wants to be a real turtle. The Mock Turtle is another pun, because the actual soup uses parts of a calf in the soup, and the non-muscular meat part of it is used to imitate (mock) turtle meat.
So there isn’t actually any turtle meat in the soup. And the picture in the book illustrates the head of the Mock Turtle is that of a calf. This pun literally wants me to smack my forehead and say “really? ” It’s so weird, and I don’t get the point of doing it. It just goes to show that this really is a book meant for children; however it’s too complicated for them. And you have to be an adult who really likes puns and nonsense to enjoy this book. The Gryphon: He is the one that tells Alice that the Queen of Hearts doesn’t actually execute anyone. This realization shows that rulers control people by fear.
Caucus Race Carroll uses the caucus race of the animals to criticize politics and people in politics. The whole “dry” thing (“how to get dry again” [Carroll 21]) can mean that they are “dry” people, as in boring. So politics and politicians are boring. When they race, there is no finish line or anything, they just call stop so that everyone wins. Nothing gets accomplished, other than the fact that they get dry. Carroll is also exposing that politicians are just like these animals, which randomly run around without a proper “race” and accomplish little.
For example, Obama during the 2008 campaign promised a bunch of stuff and in the “race” he won. But once he was president, he didn’t do a lot of what he said he was going to do, and in fact did the opposite of what he was going to do. So in the end, it can be argued that he didn’t do as much as he could. Also, just because he was announced the winner, doesn’t mean his opponents didn’t win either. For example, Sarah Paling got extremely rich because of the media exposure she got off the campaign. Cards I noticed that all the important and high class people were Hearts, including the king and queen.
And the Spades are gardeners, Diamonds are courtiers, and the Clubs are soldiers. I always assumed that the Spades were the most powerful because in the game 21 getting black jack is the best hand. Also, in a deck of cards the ace of spades is the only card that looks slightly different than the rest of the deck. The thing that puzzled me is that the King of Hearts (the actual playing card) is more powerful than the Queen of Hearts, but in Wonderland the Queen appears to have more power than the King. The King does overshadow the Queen in the fact that he preempts the executions demanded by the Queen.
So, she might appear to have more authority, but the actual power is in the hands of the King. However, I don’t really understand why Carroll would do this. Is it to show that no matter how many female rulers there are, the man will always be in charge and undermine the female ruler’s commands/choices? Croquet This is the scene I was most familiar with when I read it in the book because it was such a big scene in the animated movie. Instead of having inanimate objects as the equipment of the game, they were live animals. It’s just weird; I don’t think there is a meaning behind it.
All I know is that it is definitely animal cruelty and PETA would not be pleased with the idea. The Queen always wins this game because if anyone seems to be better than her, she will just sentence them to death. Chess The game of chess is important in the second half of the novel in Looking Glass World. The entire journey for Alice is a Chess game, because she is transforming from being a pawn into being a queen. It’s exactly like how the real game works. My main strategy in chess is to always get one of my pawns all the way across to exchange it for a queen.
Carroll is using this analogy to illustrate the growth of Alice. The pawn represents her being a child, and the queen represents her growing up and maturing. The queen is also the most powerful piece in the game, which is why Carroll has the Red Queen as a more powerful character than the king, who just sleeps. Importance of Color The colors red and white are important both in Wonderland and Looking Glass World. First you see the white roses that the cards put by mistake, because they were supposed to be red by the Queens orders. Then in Looking Glass World there are the red chess pieces and the white chess pieces.
I don’t think this is a coincidence. White represents innocence and purity, and red represents rage. In the case of the roses the white roses represents Alice. The painting of the white roses with red paint could represent the Queen’s rage and trying to overshadow Alice and what Alice represents, which is youth. The Queen is likely to be jealous of Alice’s youth, which is a major theme in the novel. As for the chess pieces the descriptions of the colors don’t match that well, because the Red Queen is not full of rage. And also why choose red and white, when it’s normally black and white? Conclusion
I disliked the book, but there was a lot to talk about in the log. It’s possible to write twenty or more pages on this book because everything is random, and something new just keeps coming and coming. My problem was that because I disliked the book, it was hard for me to talk about it and analyze it because I had no interest in it. I thought it was all nonsense. And trying to take apart the poems the riddles and puns that Carroll uses was like trying to understand the universe. The guy has a talent with language, I will admit that. I just find it useless because it brought me no joy or entertainment, just a headache.