Through The Looking Glass Questions and Answers Pdf Download
Q. 1. Comment on the Role of Chess Plays in Through the Looking-Glass.
Ans. Lewis Carroll was the pen name of Charles Lutwidge Dodgson (18321898). He was an English writer, mathematician, logician, Anglican deacon (Reverend), and photographer. He was born in Cheshire. He attended Oxford, graduated first in his class in Mathematics, and lectured mathematics at Christ Church for 26 years.
In 1856, he published his first piece of literary work under the name of Lewis Carroll, a play on words of his name Charles Lutwidge reversed. Lewis was the anglicized form of Ludovicus, which was the Latin for Lutwidge. Carroll was the English form of the Latin Carolus, which comes from the name Charles.
In 1862, Lewis Carroll wrote to his sister, Mary, that he had been playing chess with Lionel Tennyson, age 8, the son of Alfred, Lord Tennyson (1809-1892). In 1865 he published Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. In this story, Alice, age seven-and-a-half, encountered a kingdom of playing cards after falling down a rabbit hole. There was no chess mentioned.
There were several entries to Carroll’s diaries about chess. On August 10, 1866, he wrote that he spent a good deal of the day watching a chess tournament. On September 3, 1866, he wrote that he received 250 chess score sheets so that he could write chess games down. He said that he liked consultation-games better than the ordinary single game. On December 24, 1866, he wrote that he played chess with one of his traveling companions while waiting for the train for an hour. In July 1867, he wrote that he played chess with a fellow traveler while on his way to St. Petersburg. In August 1867, he wrote that he played chess with R.M. Hunt of New York while traveling from St. Petersburg to Warsaw.
In 1871, he published its sequel – Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There. His Looking-Glass book was illustrated by Sir John Tenniel. His chess pieces illustrations were based on the St. George pattern, not the more accepted Staunton pattern. He dedicated the book to Alice Liddell (1852-1934), a young girl whose family lived near Lewis Carroll. It is possible that Lewis Carroll was teaching Alice Liddell how to play chess, and devised the stories to entertain young Alice while she was learning the game. Alice may have been the niece of a serious chess player and patron, Henry Thomas Liddell, Earl of Ravensworth. Alice was the daughter of Henry Liddell, Dean of Christ Church.
Lewis Carroll’s books are among the most widely read pieces of literature in the Western world. Many movies, television special, and plays have been made around Alice and Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass.
In some early versions of Through the Looking Glass, Lewis Carroll equated every character with a corresponding chess piece.
Through the Looking Glass has many chess references (none in Alice in Wonderland). In the story, the chess pieces have come to life. In a garden, Alice meets the Red Queen. The Red Queen reveals to Alice that the entire countryside id laid out in squares, like a gigantic chessboard. The Red Queen offers to make Alice a White Queen if she can move all the way from the second rank to the eighth rank in a chess game. Alice starts out in the second rank as one of the White Queen’s pawns. She then makes her journey across the chessboard. A train gets her from the second row past the third row to the fourth row. This is just like chess, with a pawn going from the 2nd rank to the 4th rank on its first move.
On the 4th rank, she meets Tweedledee and Tweedledum. They point out the sleeping Red King. Alice then meets the White Queen and they advance to the 5th rank by crossing over a brook together. She then crosses another brook into the 6th rank and runs into Humpty Dumpty. He falls and “all the king’s horses and all the king’s men” come to help, and are accompanied by the White King.
Alice reaches the 7th rank by crossing another brook into the forested territory of the Red Knight. The Red Knight is trying to capture the white pawn, which is Alice. She is saved by the White Knight. The White Knight escorts Alice through the forest towards the final brook-crossing to the 8th rank, but he keeps falling off his horse.
Alice bids farewell to the White Knight and steps across the last brook to the 8th rank. She is then automatically crowned as queen, with the crown materializing abruptly on her head. She then finds herself in the company of the Red Queen and the other White queen. The other queens invite one another to a party that will be hosted by the newly crowned Alice, which Alice knows nothing about it.
Alice arrives at the party where there is chaos. Alice finally grabs the Red Queen and shakes her violently, thus “capturing” the Red Queen. Alice unknowingly puts the Red King into checkmate, and he finally wakes up.
Alice suddenly awakes in her armchair to find herself holding the black kitten. She deduces that the black kitten was the Red Queen all along, and the white kitten was the White Queen.
The central purpose of Carroll’s chess game was to demonstrated that significance of a mere pawn being able to “queen.’ The pawn is ‘queened when it reaches the opposite end of the board on the 8th rank. The pawn is exchanged for a queen, becoming the most powerful piece on the board.
In response to concerns and criticisms, Lewis Carroll included In the preface to the 1896 editions the following:
“As the chess-problem, given on the previous page, has puzzled some of my readers, it may be well to explain that it is correctly worked out, so far as the moves are concerned. The alternation of Red and White is perhaps not so strictly observed as it might be, and the “castling” of the three Queens is merely a way of saying that they entered the palace; but the “check” of the White King at move 6, the capture of the Red Knight at move 7, and the final “checkmate” of the Red King, will be found, by any one who will take the trouble to set the pieces and play the moves as directed, to be strictly in accordance with the laws of the game”
The pieces that participate in the encounter – including the standout roles played by the White Queen, the Red Queen and the Red King (despite his impassivity) have fantasy names, such as Tweedledee, Tweedledum, the Talking Sheep, the Elder, the White Knight, Humpty Dumpty, the Carpenter; the Walrus, the Raven, the Red Knight, and two that are very special: the Lion (representing England) and the Unicorn (Scotland), which are fighting for the supremacy of the kingdom.
Relations have been established with some public figures of the time, even to the point of believing that the White Knight represented Carroll himself. If this were so, we shall consider especially touching the scene in which that piece says goodbye to Alice after having protected her and having shown her the way to become a queen. This can be interpreted as a parable of what should have happened in real life.
It is well known that the author was inspired by a girl that went by the same name, Alice Liddell, who, along with her sisters, was educated by Carroll. They were the daughters of his personal friend Henry Liddell, the Dean of Christ Church in Oxford. Carroll taught the girls how to play chess. When Alice became an adult, the inevitable departure from her old counsellor took place. Surely, in those circumstances, he could have felt like the aforementioned White Knight that had to say goodbye to the girl in the story..
Beyond the technicalities, Carroll found in chess an unbeatable way to convey – with a sort of special magic certain ideas and values. At the same time, a great literary discovery was made: it was now possible for the protagonist of a story to participate in a hallucinatory experience in this case on the other side of a mirror. The author seems to invite us to reflect on the fact that it will always be possible to participate in a different reality which is much closer to us than we tend to believe. At the same time, it provokes admiration for a girl that – within a frame of innocence explores unknown territories, and assumes the challenge of the undiscovered with joy, expectation, and a bit of recklessness.
In the game, the pieces are white and red, and not the classic black and white that corresponds to the universal canon of chess. In this regard, we can resort to the French researcher Michel Pastoureau, who pointed out how this subject evolved historically.
In the original versions of the game, such as chaturanga and shatranj, black and red pieces opposed each other. In India these colours were metaphors, respectively, of nothingness and wealth or passion; the Muslim world, meanwhile, red meant life and black meant death.
In feudal times, given the influence of Christianity, white always represented purity, while both red (which, despite alluding to papal garments, is also the colour of the devil) and black were the tones that diverged the most from the former. In this context, for the first time, the use of black that came from the East was replaced by white in Europe.
Later, towards the thirteenth century, this will change to an antithesis that eventually will be considered perfect: that of white against black, a prototype that will definitely transcend. This is, after all, a rather exact antinomy, since the ideas of light, epiphany and good, associated with the colour white, contrast clearly with the darkness, perversion and evil that black conveys. In this sense, we return to the ancient Greeks, given that, for example, for Aristotle, white signified maximum transparency, while black referred to absolute opacity.
Additionally, what was happening to the pieces transferred to the squares of the board? In primitive times these did not have any special colour, since the spaces were only delimited by lines. Then, red and black or red and white squares started to alternate. However, when the new model of antithetic colours was imposed, the squared surface, like the pieces, was also coloured in black and white.
Anyway, Sir John Tenniel, when illustrating his friend’s story, presented a confrontation between red and white pieces. In the British context, one might think that these colours referred to other struggles, those staged by England and Scotland. In fact, in the coat of arms of the United Kingdom there is a crowned lion that corresponds to England – we shall remember that the cross of St George of that country’s flag is red – and a white chained unicorn symbolizing Scotland.
When she meets the White Queen in the garden in the beginning of the book, she is instructed to advance eight squares. She is told that she will become a queen when she reaches the final square. A chess board is eight squares across and when a pawn advances to the opposite edge, it becomes a queen. The Red Knight battles the White Knight for Alice, wanting to take her prisoner and in so doing prevent her from moving to the final square. Before crossing the final brook to the final square, the White Knight sings a sad song about an old and a young man, which is meant to warn young Alice about what lies ahead.
Q. 2. Evaluate Though the Looking Glass as a Children Literature.
Ans. In ‘Children’s Literature- Practice and Theory’, Felicity A. Hughes suggests that that the history of the genre called ‘children’s literature coincides, more or less, with that of the novel. As the novel struggled to break free of its inferior status, of being a ‘low’ form of art, lesser and lesser novelists chose to write for a ‘family audience’. In order to be taken more seriously by critics, writers began to create books with subject matter and content which, they believed, was not suitable for children or, a little more ridiculously, for women. This, in part, led to books being written exclusively for children, by writers like Edith Nesbit and R.L. Stevenson. The division between later novels, or books for adult men, and books for children, was based on the assumption that comprehension of ‘serious’ content required a certain amount of emotional maturity that children could not be expected to possess.
“One of the most striking features of English children’s literature”, Hughes goes on to argue, “is the amount and quality of fantasy offered to children especially in the last quarter century.” And indeed, one of the assumptions regarding children’s literature is that it, predominantly, indulges in fantastical stories and strange, otherworldly creatures. The most conspicuous count on which Carroll’s ‘Through the Looking Glass’ conforms to this assumption is the sheer fantastical nature of the text and the fact that it is full of mythical creatures and magical transformations. It also depends largely on an alternate fictional world with barely a page describing events in the real world, right at the beginning of the narrative- that too, featuring Alice talking to her cats, away from any other human presence. At the same time, it can be observed that the text subverts this conjecture, since, throughout the narrative reality pervades fantasy. We may expect Alice’s dream to be an escape from her suffocating world of strict Victorian norms, a space for wish-fulfillment, designed to provide the child reader with vicarious pleasure and the hope that there exists such a world, without order and rules, which he or she may escape into. However, the Looking Glass world is only an inverted image of Alice’s real world, where characters are dismissive of her- just as adults would perhaps be in the real world- and the Red Queen is hell-bent upon playing the role of a Victorian governess, reminding Alice about etiquette a little too often, while the talking flowers find fault with her appearance. It would be safe to suggest that the Looking Glass world is a construct of the little girl’s own reservoir of memories, fears and thoughts. In ‘A Curious Child’, Nina Auerbach remarks, “The ultimate effect of Alice’s adventures implicates her, female child though she is, in the troubled human condition… The sympathetic delicacy and precision with which Carroll traced the chaos of a little girl’s psyche seems equalled and surpassed only later…” The concept of Alice’s adventure turning out to be a dream is also very typical of the children’s literature genre- since the escape must be temporary and a part of the child’s secret world. And yet the question that Alice asks once she wakes up- “which dreamed it?”- is an ontolugical question, which does not fit very neatly into the idea of children’s literature being non-serious.
The use of fantastical creatures, as mentioned before, is an identifying element of literature for children. This emerges from the belief that children interact more readily with animals, magical beings and toys come alive (chess pieces, in this case), since they are not ‘real adults and tend not to criticize them. It also ties up with the idea of inverting the normal order of the world, by making these creatures talk. We have already established, however, that the strange beings are just as critical of Alice as real-world adults. They are all too caught up in their own ideological battles to be the warm, nurturing and fluffy beings one would expect them to be. Humpty Dumpty mocks the nature of language; the Tweedles seem to be acting out their version of the Kane and Able story- all for the sake of a rattle; and the sheep tries to tempt Alice into buying more eggs than she needs. Alice too cares little about them, simply pushing on to become queen.
In ‘The Art of Fiction’, James remarks, while speaking of young ones and the books meant for them, “The sort of taste that used to be called ‘good’ has nothing to do with the matter: we are so demonstrably in the presence of millions for whom taste is but an obscure, confused, immediate instinct.” The assumption that children are impulsive and lack taste, allows for the use of nonsense and gibberish which, it may be claimed, cater to children’s ‘baser’ pleasure instincts.
Carroll’s brand of nonsense, however, is used to question Victorian sensibility, and to make a statement about the notion of chaos and order, in general. The Red Queen rightly points out, “You may call it “nonsense” if you like, but I’ve heard nonsense, compared with which that would be as sensible as a dictionary!” Similarly, nursery rhymes and poems are used as symbols of predestination, and limit, instead of allowing, play and freedom. While the rhymes determine the fate of the Looking Glass creatures, the poem in the chapter titled ‘White Knighť is a burlesque of Wordsworth’s ‘Revolution and Independence’. ‘Through the Looking Glass’ features violence, dark humour and a feeling of helplessness, of being driven along a path at a dizzying speed, against one’s will. It subverts the romantic view of childhood being an idyllic state. It busts the two important myths that Victorians swore by- of the Wordsworthian Child and the Pure Female Child. Alice has no qualms in whispering, “Nurse! Do let’s pretend that I’m a hungry hyena and you’re a bone!” One gets many glimpses of her demonic energy and sadistic impulses, perhaps resulting from unhealthy repression. The concept of a game of chess- of play and make-believe, considered ‘suitable for children- also becomes an allegory for life and Alice has to follow very strict rules, doing exactly as the Red Queen tells her to.
The convention of the injection of morality into books for children is also questioned within Carroll’s text. Moral absolutes hardly hold valid in the Looking Glass world, as the comic spirit of play overturns the seriousness of all sacrosanct authorities like language, religion, society and god. Speaking of children, Elizabeth Cook says, “Playground games show that children like… a clear differentiation between cowboys, cops and spacemen who are good, and Indians, robbers and spaće-monsters who are bad.” The players in the game are clearly differentiated, as red and white, and yet white-pawn-Alice does not want to be rescued by the White Knight. Nor does she mind following the instructions of the Red Queen. There is no clear distinction between good and bad. Alice herself shows both sadistic tendencies as well as benevolence, while all characters are condescending but do not pose a threat to her. Thus the need for didacticism in fairy tales and the emphasis on punishment is opposed. The White Queen’s discourse on punishment destabilizes its very notion and makes a mockery of it. Alice does something similar when she scolds the kitten for unwinding the ball of yarn, but later drops it herself, breaking the binary between the one at fault and the one meting out punishment. Robert Fiske’s opinion about popular literature in ‘Reading Popular. Texts’ could, for all practical purposes, be a commentary on Carroll’s work”Norms… lose their invisibility, lose their status as natural common sense, and are brought out into the open agenda… parody allows us to mock the conventional, to evade its ideological thrust, to turn its norms back on themselves.”
Here, it would be useful to turn to Hughes again. He states- “Since fantasy can be seen as the antithesis of realism, it seemed to follow, to those who espoused the realist cause, that fantasy was also the opposite of serious, i.e., trivial or frivolous.” Carroll’s fantasy is exactly the opposite of that. The strong symbolism allows for the critique of a range of subjects the rigidity of language, the absurdity of war (the Tweedles), the education system (the Queens asking Alice nonsensical questions while claiming to test how well she has learnt her ‘lessons’ and Humpty Dumpty belittling bookish knowledge), political tussles (Lion and the Unicorn), developments within religion (assuming that the Red Queen is symbolic of The High Church Party and the White Queen of the Rationalists), the concept of god (the slumbering Red King who may wake up and cause Alice to “go out like a candle”), existential crisis (“It’s so terribly lonely here.” “Consider anything. Only don’t cry’), nihilism (“whenever she looked closely at a shelf, it seemed to be empty”), the consumerist culture (scented rushes fading away almost immediately and two eggs being cheaper than one, in the shop), the Industrial Revolution, utilitarianism (“land there is worth a thousand pounds an inch” and the metaphor of the railway), the reckless pace of development (the Red Queen forcing Alice to run fast to stay in the same place), and systems of jurisdiction (the hatter being punished before he commits the crime). The publication of‘On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection’, in 1859 (six years before Wonderland), disconcerted the Victorian populace, as it made them feel alone, all of a sudden. The idea, that they had suddenly been abandoned by ‘god’, launched them into an era of selfdoubt (reflected in the writings of poets of the time). Instead of being amazed at the things around her and asking “Where am I?” (typical of a child in a dream-like world), Alice constantly wonders “Who am I?”. Perhaps Alice’s quest embodies the Victorian quest for identity, in the wake of the confusion generated by Darwin’s book- “Who are we?”, “How did we get here?”
The Victorian Age has often been called the age of repression (sexual, and otherwise). This environment often led to the creation of ‘trashy’ novels, allegedly read only by servants and women, which featured women characters who would start out as rebellious and are later ‘subdued. Alice too wakes up from her dream of inverted norms and chaos. In fact she is the one who brings about the climax in her dream, crying out “I can’t stand this any longer”, upsetting the food table and attacking the Red Queen. She puts an end to the very chaos that provided her an escape from her overtly ordered reality. Thus, “Through the Looking Glass’ subverts the genre of children’s literature, but conforms, perhaps unwittingly, to the tradition of creating women characters that are adventurous but end up where they started.
Q. 3. Discuss Through the Looking Glass as an inversion of reality.
Ans. In escaping into the Looking-glass world Alice does not actually escape from the anxieties and problems of the world. According to Rosemary Jackson, “As fantasy recombines and inverts the real it does not escape it, it exists in a parasitical or symbiotic relationship to the real. The fantastic cannot exist independently of the real world which it seems to find so frustratingly finite.” The world of fantasy is one in which the codes and conducts of the real world, along with what is right or wrong is constantly thrown into a flux and makes the reader question its nctity. Fantasy in the Alice books also somewhere comment on the world as it is; it highlights the absurdity of what adults say which despite being said with authority is often nonsensical or ridiculous.
W In the real world, Alice’s life only involved around being “punished” even though half the times she was only “anxious to be of use.” She is gleeful when realization dawns on her that in the Looking-Glass world that “there’ll be no one here to scold me away from the fire…what fun would it be, when they see me through the glass here, and can’t get at me.” Through this exclamation of Alice, it can be seen that she was trying to avoid confrontation with the adults of her family, and her childlike excitement comes forth in knowing they “can’t get at her.”
Alice only thinks whereupon entering the Looking-glass world that she has escaped from the “Victorian hothouse of rules and conventionalities.” (Fiona McCullough) On her interaction with the “live flowers” in the garden, she immediately changes the topic when the Rose and the Tiger-lily start disapproving of her. In “The Poetics of Childhood”, Roni Natov says, “In Carroll’s version of the garden, the flowers are cruel and mocking and no matter how she tries, Alice winds up with insults; Carroll’s perspective of the garden seems to be an unromantic, satiric and anti-pastoral version.” The Rose remarks that Alice had “some sense” in her, even though she doesn’t have a very “clever” face. The Tigerlily remarks that if her petals “curled up” up a bit more, she’d be “all right”. The petals perhaps refer to her unkempt hair, and the narratorial voice remarks that “Alice didn’t like being criticized”. In the very first episode with the Looking-Glass creatures (when she is not invisible), Alice does not encounter any compassion. She is made to feel ignorant and silly when a Daisy has to explain her logic behind “why branches are called boughs.” She is heckled and the flowers undermine her. This is very much like the real world she is a part of. When the daisies all speak together, she threatens to “pick” them in order to subdue the pert flowers. Through this episode, Alice almost sounds like a teacher/governess speaking. Children in the hierarchical order of the Victorian society were beneath even their tutors/ governesses, who in spite being paid employees, were regarded with more respect.
The intimate conversational tone deployed by the narratorial voice shocked the elite Victorian audiences. According to them, the voice should have been didactic instead of satirizing the adult figures. The adult reader is thrown on a loop when he/she finds out that the mockery in the text is directed towards them. This idea is introduced when the cat, Dinah, is indifferent to her kittens (she rubs their face the “wrong way”). Alice then steps in as the bigger authority, aping the adults in her reproachful attitude (“Dinah ought to have taught you better manners”, “don’t interrupt me”, “I’m going to tell you all your faults”). It is a comical situation as the reader realizes that the kitten is at Alice’s mercy, the same way the child is at the adults. The victim (Alice) take on the role of the oppressor proving victimization is a cyclical process. Alice takes on the role of both the admonished and admonisher. Alice assumes the kitten to be someone she can have a conversation with, which is an extension of her game “let’s pretend.” The child is put down so much that she has to dream of an alternate world.
She metes out punishment to the kitten (by holding it against the Lookingglass), because it wouldn’t fold its arms properly. When the kitten still does not do the same, there comes across the awareness of no learning actually taking place. Alice has internalized the oft-said critique of her behaviour and wonders that she might be sent off to “prison” if all her punishments are dispensed together. Even in her imagination she is not liberated from the adult authority. According to Carol Lesnih-Oberstein, “The claim that the child has no voice between the hierarchies of our society because adults either silence or create that voice actually helps construct the chid as a helpless, powerless being and contributes to the culturally hegemonic norms.” But Alice in spite of being constantly chastised is one of the gems of the Victorian era characters. She is modest, proficient, innocent and resourceful in her social etiquettes. Judy Blume derides what childhood innocence is, “Children are inexperienced but they are not innocent. Childhood can be a terrible time of life..the fantasy of childhood is to be an adult.” But it was the White Queen who had the qualities generally associated with childhood. “Alice never thought it would do to have an argument at the very beginning of the conversation” with the White Queen. It is Alice who showed more rationale and was clued in to the events happening around her. The Queen does not even feel the irrationality or absurdity of the rules in her world (“jam tomorrow and jam yesterday, but never today”). This can be seen as a critique by the author who reveals an “adult world of nonsensical rules and conventions.” (Roni Natov)
Alice’s lack of docility and subservience, who is usually very well mannered and eager to please, is seen when she declines to be the White Queen’s lady’s-maid. On Alice’s meeting with Humpty Dumpty, the air of importance he has around himself is extorted at the expense of the child. He is the perfect parody of an adultconstantly needing his ego stoked, idiosyncratic nature which comes with age. The creatures which Alice has encountered till half way through the text are “unreliable, they live in a solipsistic, nonsensical and aggressive world.”
Alice has internalised the indignities associated with being a child, and at some level she also doesn’teven defend herself. (“There’s no use in speaking”). She is constantly being harassed by the travellers in the train as she didn’t know where to get the ticket from (“So young a child ought to know which way she’s going even if she doesn’t know her own name”, “She ought to know her way to the ticket-office, even if she doesn’t know her alphabet.”) Her faults are being charted out and she is given no chance to defend herself. She is constantly worried of making a social faux pas, of making a gaffe she would be punished for. (“It would never do to say, ‘How d’ye do?’ now, we seem to have got beyond that somehow”). There is this regular fear of breaking the social protocol and the child being judged over that. And unlike children, adults could abruptly speak whatever came to their head, thence breaking the politesse in their conversation. (“You like poetry?”)
Throughout the text, Alice has always acted wise and never had been daunted by the adventure ahead of her. The only time she was a “little timid” was when she had to enter the woods. But she immediately made up her mind to go forward.
The Tweedle brothers fight because of Tweedledum’s “new rattle”, and Alice hopes to make them a “little ashamed” of fighting over such a trivial topic. This in turn is also a critique by the author who questions the significance of war and its preparations. Tweedledum and Tweedledee run into the woods “hand-in-hand”, only to return with “bolsters, blankets, hearth-rugs, table-cloths” and each of these things had to be tied to them “somehow or other.” They also time for how long would they fight. (“Let’s fight till six, and then have dinner.”) This is another instance of the ridiculousness in the Looking-glass world, and how Alice isn’t free from war and misery even in a fantasy world.
/ On saying goodbye to Humpty Dumpty, he only offered one finger to Alice to shake. Some members of the Victorian aristocracy only offered two fingers when shaking hands to their social inferiors. Humpty, in his pride, took this insult even further. Never in the text is Alice seen interacting with people her age. In fact the only child in Through the Looking-glass is Alice herself. This is perhaps another comparison with the real world, where Alice is usually alone, with not even siblings to call her own (her sister believed in “practicality”, not in the absurd world of fantasy). The White Knight is the only creature who shows a touch of human affection for Alice and “rescues” her.
According to W.H. Auden, it is Alice who is invariably reasonable, self contained and polite while all the other inhabitants of the Looking-glass world are at the mercy of their passions and extremely bad mannered or incompetent like the White Knight or the White Queen. The childhood portrayed in Through the Looking-glass is certainly not the Wordworthian idea of childhood. Instead it is a dark place where a “rational and rebellious child is placed at the centre exposing a world which is mad, evasive, arbitrary and threatening.” (Peter Hunt) Carroll throughout the book describes the child’s frustration at the illogical ways of the adults- “their didacticism and contradictory behaviour.” The confusing use of their language is only another way of the bullying and condescension of the Looking-glass creatures. “The underlying message of Alice is a rejection of adult authority, a vindication of the rights of the child, even the right of the child to self assertion.” (Elsie Leach) Lastly, Carroll found a new way of writing for children, where the child reader was treated as an equal rather than a subordinate.
Q. 4. Discuss Through the Looking Glass as a representative nonsense literature.
Ans. A definition of “nonsense” is a number of “words conveying absurd or ridiculous ideas” and a second definition is nonsense as a “language without meaning” (Tigges 9). This definition means that, on the one hand, it is possible to find a text classified as a nonsense text if it is composed of ideas without any sense in the real life, for example, “you are not yourself” or “drive faster, so you’ll stay at the same place.” On the other hand, a nonsense text could consist of ideas with no meaning, using words that do not exist, for instance, “tomorrow, there will be a biliadous cake for the cuvudaley party.”
a According to the first definition, a nonsense text which uses some ridiculous ideas results in a text which will make the reader think about why what is written in the text is not logical or why the meaning of it is ridiculous. For example, if the text states “you are not yourself,” the reader will try to understand why that idea is absurd: can you not be yourself? What happens when you die, are you yourself or not? Clearly, a nonsense text based on this definition will make the reader think further about the sense of reality than a text which entails some, or more, “sense”.
Furthermore, it is possible that, after reading a nonsense text, the reader will learn more about reality than after reading a “sense text” or a text which is not classified as a nonsense text. Reading romantic stories is excellent for entertainment, but everybody knows how love works or, at least, most people can experience love in their real lives. But nonsense tales go further than that. The reader of a nonsense text must understand reality and also the logic of the real world. That is to say, how reality works. It is easy to understand what we see everyday, such as the day and the night or how a seed becomes a flower, without even thinking much about it. Being more accurate, these quotidians facts are recorded in our brains as axioms in our regular days. But a reader of a nonsense text must understand further, thinking about the logic of the real world and, at the same time, about the world beyond it, the one that we do not see or experience every day.
Regarding the second definition, a text composed of language with no meanirg using, for instance, coined words, will make, consequently, the imagination and ingenuity of the reader flow even more than reading other types of texts. Using the previous example, “tomorrow, there will be a biliadous cake for the cuvudaley party,” the reader should consider all the possibilities to be able to understand the meaning of “biliadous” or “cuvudaley”. After connecting that specific nonsense phrase with the later ones which are written along the text, the reader will obtain one or more conclusions about the spirit of the text. Or maybe not.
Nonsense literature is always open to the reader’s imagination and it is very pleasing to have the opportunity to read texts that are created to develop the creativity and wisdom of the reader. Texts should not be exclusively to describe reality, because the art of creating literature does not work like other subjects, for instance mathematics. .Lewis Carroll created many absurd or ridiculous ideas in his texts and, also, coined words. Moreover, Carroll used nonsense anecdotes and tales to introduce the reader to his logical problems that, mostly, do not have an apparent solution. The reader, according to his or her own criteria, should analyze why these illogical problems are not rational and concluding, in the end, reaching a meaning, and a reason, of those problems. After that, the reader will be able to continue reading by discovering the plot of the text.
Following an entry in the diary of Lewis Carroll, on the 4th of July, 1862: “I made an expedition up the river to Godstow with the three Liddells; we had tea on the bank there and did not reach Christ Church until half-past eight” (Woollcott 1). Carroll had taken a day off and spent it with the small daughters of the Dean of Christ Church, Henry Liddell: Lorina Charlotte, Alice, and Edith (Phillips 4). On the 4th of July, 1865, exactly three years after the decisive row up the river, Miss Alice Liddell received the first presentation copy of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland signed by Lewis Carroll .
a Alice Liddell was born in Westminster in 1852. She was a friend of Lewis during her childhood and she was his inspiration for the main character in the books Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (1865) and Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There (1871). Alice Liddell was thirteen years old when the first book of Alice was presented to her.
“Jabberwocky” is a nonsense poem which is included in the book Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There. This tale came six years after Alice in Wonderland, and it is “one of those rare sequels in literature that lives up to the expectations established by the initial volume” (Guiliano xiv). Through the Looking-Glass is not a sequel of the first book about Alice, rather a new tale where Alice is in a different land enjoying new adventures (xiv). It was indeed, Queen Victoria, after reading the first book about Alice, who suggested that Carroll “dedicate his next book to her” (Woollcott 4). The relation between Queen Victoria and Carroll was not the best one at that time (actually, the character of the Queen of Hearts in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland is used as a criticism towards Her Majesty) and, because of that reason, “his next book was a mathematical opus entitled An Elementary Treatise on Determinants.”
The poem “Jabberwocky” is about the killing of a creature called “the Jabberwock”. There are many coined words in this poem. For instance: “O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!” As stated earlier, the word “frabjous” is a coined word, hence, this word did not have a meaning until Carroll used it. Therefore, the reader must decide a certain signification, or maybe more than one, in order to be able to follow the reading.
In the second chapter of Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There, there is a famous occurrence which involves both the Red Queen and Alice. It describes Alice and the Red Queen running really fast for some time. During the race, the Red Queen, constantly asks Alice to run faster and faster and, once they stop, Alice asks: “Why, I do believe we’ve been under this tree the whole time! Everything’s just as it was!” (Carroll 152). After this question, the Red Queen answers Alice: “Of course it is.” So, the Red Queen tells Alice that they are running simply to stay in the same place. Alice, after the Queen’s answer, says: a 1
“Well, in our country,” said Alice, still panting a little, “you’d generally get to
somewhere else — if you run very fast for a long time as we’ve been doing.” “A slow sort of country!” said the Queen. “Now, here, you see, it takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place. If you want to get somewhere else, you must run at least twice as fast as that!” 1
Again, there is a nonsense idea. Is it possible to run very fast to stay in the same place? Well, if all the things around you move at the same time, maybe you are at the same place. But, if you run twice as fast as that, maybe you do not stay at the same place. Everything depends on your surroundings. Moreover, the Earth is moving very fast all the time, thus, we cannot be ever at the same place, is that right? The reader should take into consideration his or her own thoughts and the laws of physics and, perhaps, he or she would achieve a conclusion, or maybe not.
The characters within the nonsense consistently cut each other off and change the subject entirely, meaning that the intrigue of these great pieces of literature may come not from the cohesive whole of the stories they tell, but from the fragmented nature of those stories which give the reader many unfinished lines of thought to pursue for themselves, long after the characters of the text have forgotten them entirely.
Carroll achieves this in different ways in both Wonderland and LookingGlass. In Looking-Glass the process is very clear: Alice’s quest to reach the end of the board and become a Queen is the ever-present driving force of the narrative. In fact, the reader knows from the start not only that Alice’s monarchic ambition is the central process, but also that it is ultimately successful. This is conveyed through the inscription above the chessboard and list of moves at the start, “White Pawn (Alice) to play, and win in eleven moves.” Alice is continually frustrated in her quest to reach the end of the board as her progression is interrupted by characters who insist on reciting poetry for her. When Tweedledee begins The Walrus and the Carpenter, “Alice venture[s] to interrupt him. ‘If it’s very long,’ she said, as politely as she could, ‘would you please tell me which road -“”, however her attempt to continue her process is fruitless, as Alice’s interruption is itself interrupted by Tweedledee, who simply “smile[s] gently and begſins] again”. These interruptions in Alice’s journey are only ever temporary, as eventually she reaches the eighth square and becomes “Queen Alice”.
The story takes place within the structure of the mirror-world chess game, which has been mentioned in chapter one as being crucial to nonsense: the deliberate departure from the expected structure. The poem “Jabberwocky” and the character of Humpty Dumpty are other typical examples of nonsense. On top of these, some aspects of the mise-en-scène are also important to this theme.
Structure is a basis of nonsense. Nonsense likes to subvert strict order and structure. The structure of a game of chess, therefore, is suitable. In addition, Alice moves through a mirror into a mirror world. This opens a door for strange encounters, a mirror to the normal ways of her own world. The chess game provides a way for new characters and entirely different scenes to be introduced on every square, which Henderson makes full use of. Every scene has different characters, but also different surroundings and costume changes. In Alice’s first dialogue with the Red Queen, the latter explains to Alice where she has to go and what will happen there. In this passage, the structure of the chess game, in which Alice has just become a pawn, is explained. Since this marks the beginning of the chess game, this passage can be seen as the official beginning of the nonsense genre. The Red Queen introduces the chess game to Alice, whereas, a little later, the mirror world is explained to her by the White Queen in terms of time and trial, and also how memory works both ways. The Queens, therefore, are key to the nonsense genre, as they are most linked to both the chess world and the mirror world.
In literary nonsense, there is always a tension between presence and absence of meaning. What makes sense to Alice doesn’t make sense to other characters and it’s the other way round. Although Alice’s adventures in both books are criticised. they should actually be regarded as a wonderful journey in an alternative reality where common sense references are challenged and figurative meanings are often taken literally, producing humorous situations between Alice and the creatures she encounters. When the characters have conversations, like Alice did with Humpty Dumpty, they transmit an idea that saying what one means and meaning what one says are not the same things.
Nonsense can be called a form of fantasy. Personified animals, the nature of time are only but a few themes that are common to these. The difference consists in the fact that nonsense world is a verbal one. The excess of meaning is often the basis of nonsense rather than the lack of it and it leads to a humorous aspect. Alice’s first literary discovery in the Looking-Glass House is “Jabberwocky”, a poem often seen as representative of the methods of literary nonsense, and later in the chapters Alice encounters Humpty Dumpty. Humpty’s assertion that he can “explain” all existent and some non-existent poetry is a non sequitur through which Lewis Carroll mocks the intellectual arrogance of real “eggheads”. Literary nonsense is born out of perplexity. Nonsense outlook may come from a child’s perspective and the adults might perceive it as absurd but it might hold a meaning to that child. In that way, nonsense is nonsense to only a few but to others it does make sense and therefore it’s difficult to mark the territory of sense and nonsense.
Q. 5. Discuss Through the Looking Glass as a Critique on Victorian society.
Ans. In Alice and Through the Looking Glass, he mixed real wit and appropiate gravity to explore starvation and malnutrition, paralleling his own society’s effort to survive. For example, Alice continuously looked towards eating to alter her size in this fantasy world. Carroll demonstrated an understandable preoccupation with food in Wonderland as a way of sharing his thoughts on hunger in Victorian society.
During the 1830s and 1840s, there was an enormous shortage of food, driving the prices much higher than many could afford. Many found themselves scrounging for food, as Alice did, or even going hungry. But in Carroll’s fantasy world, Alice found something to eat in the form of a gigantic mushroom. Nature, and its ability to provide food, sheds some light on the author’s search for possible ways of saving his starving.
England, distinctions were drawn not upon knowledge, but upon ignorance and a label . Lewis Carroll seems implicitely to to criticise these Victorian attitudes towards race, gender and class in Through the Looking Glass. Alice’s seemingly nonsensical conversation with the flowers might be a satire on society’s superficial attitudes toward race and class, which considered blacks and members of the lower class to be “unreastanable, irrational , and easily childlike creatures having no religion but only superstition.”
“And can all flowers talk?”
“As well as you can”, said the Tiger-lily.”. And a great deal louder”. “It isn’s manners for us to begin, you know”, said the Rose, “and I really was wondering when you’d speak! Said I to myself, her face has got some sense in it, though it’s not a clever one! Still, you’re the right color, and that goes a long way.” (Through the Looking Glass, p.121).
Social convention, rules of etiquette, and authority are also parodied in the passage of the banquet Alice attends, with the Red Queen’s introduction of Alice to the leg of mutton and her obsession with etiquette and proper manners to the point of depriving Alice of dinner, demonstrate the strait-laced rituals of Victorian society, whose absurdities Carroll mocks.
Carroll almost leads us to believe that Victorian social ritual merely entails a primness with the stiffness of a starched cravat. But he does not stop there; instead, he shows us the darker side of convention -the authority of the elite (here the Red Queen, the Pudding, and the creatures in Wonderland) to criticize rudely the child and others whom they perceive to be ignorant.
In the Looking-Glass world, factual forms of knowledge are further satirized hrough the characters and their statements. The satire arises from the absurdity of the characters’ knowledge and the pride they take in knowing such things. The White Queen asserts “Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast” (184), while the Red Queen says proudly that “I can read words of one letter!”” (233). This seems to mock the impossibility of knowing everything, and implies that the child should focus on the imagination as well.
The Red Queen is, as Robert Polhemus states, “the principal explicit authority figure in the book” (Through the Looking-Glass, Norton Critical Edition). The Queen is alternatively a straitjacketed governess type and a hypocrite with the manners of a wild animal; in the banquet scene, she sharply scolds Alice for acutely observing the boorishness of the guests , but herself eats like a “pig in a trough”. By characterizing the Red Queen in this manner, Carroll questions the “license to criticize” accorded to contemporary figures of authority and reduces them to platitude-spouting automatons.
It is precisely the extremes of social convention and etiquette, Carroll implies, that trigger this phenomenon and have invaded Victorian society, transforming it into a farcical world of rude, hostile people reminiscent of the creatures in Wonderland. Carroll’s social commentary in Through the Looking-Glass does offer a note of hope. In the end, Alice, sick of the confusion and chaos which ensues when the tableware and candles fly around the room, finally summons the courage to challenge the Red Queen, to whom she hitherto has been relatively subservient. In shaking the Queen into a harmless kitten, Alice breaks the spell of the domineering, repressive authority figures circumscribed within conventions of etiquette and manners. If rigid social structure, taken to an extreme, pigeonholes people into specific power relations, then stepping out of that circle to challenge harmful authority helps restore order. Only when Alice actively confronts the Red Queen can she free herself from the chaos of Wonderland.
Education plays a large role in the Alice books, contributing both to Carroll’s characterization of Alice and to our perceptions of Victorian England. Throughout the Alice books, Alice refers to her lessons and her education, usually very proud of the learning that she has acquired. It seems, however, that the information that she remembers from her lessons is usually either completely useless or wrong. For example, although she can remember the how many miles down until the center of the earth, she mistakenly believes that everything will be upside down when she passes through to the other side.
Traditional public schools emphasized Greek and Latin, house systems, school spirit, improving character, and that the goal of education was to mold the student into a young Christian gentleman. This approach can be seen in Alice, since her knowledge seems to consist mainly of maxims and morals about obedience and safety. Carroll seems to feel amusement at best, and utter contempt at worst, for this typically Victorian penchant, especially in his satirical characterization of the Duchess in Alice in Wonderland. “Everything’s got a moral, if only you can find it”, says the Duchess. Alice’s experience with her, however, makes the reader laugh at the absurdity of such a character.
Kathy Szoke, in her discussion of the Victorian audience, explains how authors make their audiences think about issues relative to their own lives. Carroll certainly made a conscious decision to make morals and tales of obedience, a large part of Victorian upbringing, nonsensical. This rejection of typical Victorian manners and education of children supports one of the themes in hisAlice books, the idea that a child’s imagination has value. Social convention, rules of etiquette, and authority are all parodied in a passage from The Looking Glass. The banquet Alice attends, with the Red Queen’s introduction of Alice to the leg of mutton and her obsession with etiquette and proper manners to the point of depriving Alice of dinner demonstrates the strait-laced rituals of Victorian society, whose absurdities Carroll mocks.
Carroll almost leads us to believe that Victorian social ritual merely entails a primness with the stiffness of a starched cravat. But he does not stop there; instead, he shows us the darker side of convention –the authority of the elite (here the Red Queen, the Pudding, and the creatures in Wonderland) to criticize rudely the child and others whom they perceive to be ignorant.
The Red Queen, who is, as Robert Polhemus states, “the principal explicit authority figure in the book” (Through the Looking-Glass, Norton Critical Edition). The Queen is alternatively a straitjacketed governess type and a hypocrite with the manners of a wild animal; in the banquet scene, she sharply scolds Alice for acutely observing the boorishness of the guests, but herself eats like a “pig in a trough” . By characterizing the Red Queen in this manner, Carroll questions the “license to criticize” accorded to contemporary figures of authority and reduces them to platitude-spouting automatons. It is precisely the extremes of social convention and etiquette, Carroll implies, that trigger this phenomenon and have invaded Victorian society, transforming it into a farcical world of rude, hostile people reminiscent of the creatures in Wonderland.
Carroll’s social commentary in Through the Looking-Glass does offer a note of hope. In the end, Alice, sick of the confusion and chaos which ensues when the tableware and candles fly around the room, finally summons the courage to challenge the Red Queen, to whom she hitherto has been relatively subservient.
In shaking the Queen into a harmless kitten, Alice breaks the spell of the domineering, repressive authority figures circumscribed within conventions of etiquette and manners. If rigid social structure, taken to an extreme, pigeonholes people into specific power relations then stepping out of that circle to challenge harmful authority helps restore order. Only when Alice actively confronts the Red Queen can she free herself from the chaos of Wonderland.
In the Looking-Glass episode in which Alice and the deer wander through the wood, they befriend each other because they do not know each other’s names. But once they remember who they are, the deer runs off because it is supposed to be frightened of “humans.” Again, Carroll asks us to consider the multiplicity of meanings for each word. This scene also seems to suggest a connection between status and social behavior. A deer is “supposed” to be afraid of humans, but when Alice and the deer do not remember their identities, they are able to step outside their roles as “human” and “deer” and befriend each other (164-165). Once the deer remembers what it is, “a look of alarm came into its beautiful brown eyes, and in another moment it had darted away at full speed”.
Carroll’s playfulness extends to his satire of the Victorians’ adherence to social etiquette. According to Geoffrey Best, respectability was dominant during themid Victorian period; it can be characterized as “a style of living understoThrough his fantasy world, Carroll is able to satirize social manners through his human and anthropomorphized animals who humourously mimic manners. As well, Alice functions as an allegorical figure for the child who fails in her attempts to follow social manners.
The feast in the Looking-Glass world further satirizes social etiquette. Carroll satirizes formal introductions between people through the Red Queen’s introductions of Alice to the anthropomorphized food:
“You look a little shy: let me introduce you to that leg of mutton,” said the Red Queen. “Alice-Mutton: Mutton-Alice.” The leg of mutton got up in the dish and made a little bow to Alice! and Alice returned the bow, not knowing whether to be frightened or amused.” “May I give you a slice?” she said, taking up the knife and fork, and looking from one Queen to the other. “Certainly not,” the Red Queen said very decidedly, “it isn’t etiquette to cut anyone you’ve been introduced to. Remove the joint!”
The play on “cut” in this passage, which means to snub someone overtly, takes on a humourous twist by its violent connotations in this passage. At the end, the feast turns chaotic when the Red Queen toasts Queen Alice’s health, and the people start eating and drinking in an undignified manner: “… all the guests began drinking it directly, and very queerly they managed it: some of them put their glasses upon their heads like extinguishers, and drank all that trickled down their faces-others upset the decanters and three of them (who looked like kangaroos) scrambled into the dish of roast mutton, and began eagerly lapping up the gravy” (242). Again, the fantasy world characters’ indifferent reactions to the chaos contributes to the humour and satire of the situation; instead of reestablishing prder, they treat the chaos as if it were a normal part of a feast, and ask Alice to “return thanks in a neat speech'”.
When Alice meets the Red Queen in another Looking-Glass episode, we again encounter the decorum and manners that Alice, as a “good girl,” should follow. The Red Queen appears to be an allegorical figure for the adult who tries to socialize the child in proper manners:
“Where do you come from?” said the Red Queen. “And where are you going? Look up, speak nicely, and don’t twiddle your fingers all the time.” Alice attended to all these directions …
“… Curtsey while you’re thinking what to say. It saves time.”
a “It’s time for you to answer now,” the Queen said, looking at her watch: “open your mouth a little wider when you speak, and always say ‘your Majesty.'” Yet, this adherence to manners is satirized through the Red Queen’s commands. Her ironic comment to curtsey first in order to save time draws attention to itself as a constructed form of social conduct.
The refusal to conform to woman’s conventional role in Victorian society is even more prominent in the ending of Through the Looking-Glass. Here, Alice rejects the prescribed role more overtly. In contrast to the first book’s nar ve; which concludes with the envious thoughts of Alice’s sister towards Alice’s retention of her childhood, Alice’s thoughts dominate the final scene of the second novel. The awoken Alice continues to affirm the centrality of childhood and rejects the adult world by mimicking its statements of etiquette: ”Sit up a little more stiffly, dear!’ Alice cried with a merry laugh. ‘And curtsey while you’re thinking what to-what to purr. It saves time, remember!’ And she caught it up it one little kiss, ‘just in honour of its having been a Red Queen” (247). Also, the second novel’s final scene ends with an open-ended question that is meant to stimulate the child reader’s imagination. Carroll asks his readers to consider whether Alice or the Red King dreamed about Alice’s adventures in the Looking-Glass world: “Which do you think it was?” (249). and gave
In place of Victorian morality and social etiquette, Carroll creates a society in which there are no definite rules to follow. He creates a sense of play and spontaneity that is expressed in the various games in each novel. During the Victorian era, several leisure activities were aimed at educating the child. Ira Bruce Nadel suggests that while inventing games was a popular pastime for Victorian children, adults created games that stressed the moral and utilitarian character of play. These included board games that provided lessons in geography and history, as well as dolls and optical toys that aimed “to teach social rank, tasteful dress, and the occupations of various classes” (Nadel 30). It was only in the late Victorian and Edwardian periods that societal attitudes towards play changed, paralleling the decline of the moral tale for children. Society came to see play as something to engage in for the “sheer enjoyment of it” (Nadel 32).
Carroll further undennines authority and infantilizes the adult characters In Through the Looking-Glass.4 He inverts the adult-child relationship and gives Alice control. The battle between the Lion and Unicorn satirizes the units of monarchy. The Lion and the Unicorn are part of the British coat of arms that was created after the union of Scotland and England (Carroll 210-211; Gardner 283). Ironically, they seem ready to fight each other over something as trivial as cake. They behave in childlike ways, and are thus infantilized: “I say, this isn’t fair! cried the Unicorn, as Alice sat with the knife in her hand, very much puzzled how to begin. ‘The Monster has given the Lion twice as much as me'” (213). Similarly, Tweedledum and Tweedledee are childlike characters who are prone to outbursts. That they dress up parodicaUy as knights is also childlike.
Overall, Carroll’s techniques of social criticism are enhanced by his use of the fantasy genre. The chaos of Wonderland and the Looking-Glass world helps him to satirize the authority of Victorian morality and social etiquette, and more generally, the hierarchy of Victorian society that helps to affirm them. Carroll’s characters act in unpredictable and illogical ways that do not conform to the social conventions of Alice’s own world, and Alice cannot rely on social conventions from her own world as indicators and predictors of behavior in Wonderland and the LookingGlass world. Rosemary Jackson asserts that commonly held attitudes and assumptions move towards a realm of non-signification in the fantasy world.
Q. 6. Comment on Carroll’s use of language and wordplay in Through the Looking Glass.
Ans. In Through the Looking-Glass, Carroll employs a different kind of “wordplay” from the puns of Wonderland. In fact, puns are looked down upon here, as evidenced by the fact that the only people who use them in Looking-Glass are the Gnat, who is directly told by Alice that puns are bad jokes, and the White Queen , who is characterized throughout the book as being foolish, disordered (in mind and appearance), and infantile. Rather than playing with the ambiguous meanings of words, Carroll here changes the words themselves into both archaic and“portmanteau” forms in order to elucidate, confuse, or create different meanings. On page 187, Humpty Dumpty says of the portmanteau words, such as “slithy” (“lithe and slimy”), “mimsy” (“flimsy and miserable”), and “outgrabed” (“bellow[ed] and whistl[ed)”), that “there are two meanings packed into one word.” Though the resultant words appear nonsensical, once their meanings are unpacked (if the meanings can be correctly extracted) these amalgamations can be seen as more accurate and efficient (albeit more confusing) descriptions of what Carroll sees his characters doing or saying in his mind’s eye. As Humpty Dumpty makes up the meanings of words in an absurdly arbitrary fashion, so does Carroll. However, while Alice questions Humpty’s definitions, we take Carroll’s nontraditional use of language as an opportunity for literary analysis and a hunt to find hidden meanings rather than as nonsense to be ridiculed.
It is interesting that Carroll himself creates his own kind of dictionary and literary explanation for the made-up words from Jabberwocky, and that he uses this same vocabulary in other works: The endnotes make clear that this odd verbiage is not just in Looking-Glass, nor is it restricted to the Alice books. It is almost pseudo-Shakespearean in a way: the Bard created several previously unknown words and phrases that are now used in daily speech. I was surprised to find that the word “chortle,” which I had heard before, actually comes from this book and was created as a nonsense word that required an explanation – I had previously thought that it was just a rarely used English word!
On a biographical note, it may also be relevant to consider Carroll’s obsession with the meanings of words in Looking-Glass in reference to the fact that the compilation of the OED and with it an analysis of the historical development of words was beginning at Oxford during Carroll’s matriculation there.
Q. 7. Write an Explication of Lewis Carroll’s “Jabberwocky.”
Ans. Lewis Carroll, famous for including nonsensical poems in his beloved Alice stories, used “Jabberwocky” in Alice’s second Adventure: Through the Looking Glass and What Alice Found There. The poem is recognized as one of his most famous, and included made up words that have slipped their way into English dictionaries. The New American Handy College Dictionary has even come to use the word “Jabberwocky” to describe “gibberish” and “nonsensical speech” (369). Lewis Carroll, although using plenty of “jabberwocky” in his poem, never the less tells a gripping story with his use of diction, imagery, and themes that tie to the larger works the poem appears in.
/ Carroll begins and ends “Jabberwocky” with the same stanza that is filled with his nonsense words including “brillig,” “slithy,” and “wabe”. In fact, he wrote the first stanza years before the rest of the poem appeared in Through the Looking Glass (Carroll, Alice 255). Knowing that the readers of the novel would not understand this fantastical stanza, Carroll included an explication of his own through the words of Humpty-Dumpty later in Through the Looking Glass. Humpty-Dumpty explains what the author meant with his use of words like “slithy.” Carroll believed in enhancing meaning by combining words to take on the meaning that each word would have separately.
Even though the first stanza is indecipherable to one who has not read Humpty-Dumpty’s clarification of it, it sets up the whimsical nature of the poem for the reader. In addition, the stanza, despite being written years before ties the rest of the poem together and creates the feeling of one congruous whole. Carroll continues to use “home-made” words throughout the poem, mixing them with common words that tell the story of the “Jabberwock” beast.
The poem tells the story of a fairy-tale, filled with beasts and bravery. The scariest beast of all in the world of the poem is the Jabberwock, although the land is filled with others like the “bandersnatch” and the “jubjub” bird. Carroll uses or creates words like these that are obviously very carefully picked so that he may convey his story in a vivid and entrancing way. In an “entraviving” manner, perhaps, he would say. The word use in Jabberwocky fits in with the world that Alice has wandered in to as it is filled with things she does not immediately understand, things she is not used to finding in her own reality.
Imagery is an important element to Carroll’s Jabberwock. He makes it apparent from the start that the action is occurring in a land other than our own, even a land other than Wonderland. It immediately sucks the reader into a land where imagination is king, as there is no reason to the way things are. The poem appears in a book that Alice picks up, making it a fairy-tale even inside the odd land of the looking glass. “Jabberwocky” is typed backwards in the book, increasing the effect of wonderment on Alice, who can understand none of it. Its appearance in the book heightens the strangeness of the poem itself, amazing Alice even after her own adventures. Alice and the reader are left to see the poem as a tale of something strange and bewildering.
“Jabberwocky” follows the boy on his quest to rid his land of the evil Jabberwock. The reader immediately understands the task is not an easy one and that the beast is a terrible menace on the village the boy and his father reside in. Alice herself exclaims that, “Somehow it seems to fill my head with ideas-only I don’t exactly know what they are” (Carroll, Alice 132). The reader, like Alice, knows that the action has consisted of the heroic actions of a boy slaying a monster, even though Carroll doesn’t use conventional words to tell the story. The imagery is so sharp, that although the reader may not understand all the words, he or she has no problem following the action of the work.
By the end of the poem the reader understands that the boy has been successful in his quest to slay the Jabberwock. He returns home to his father bearing the head of the beast. Carroll displays this graphically in lines 19 and 20; “He left it dead, and with its head/he went galumphing back” (Carroll, “Jabberwocky” 1699). “Galumphing” brings the image of the excited ride of victory the boy partakes in to get home and announce his success. The dictionary theorizes that Carroll created the word from combining “gallop” and “triumph,” (289).
The joyous outburst of the father conveys what a wonderful thing that the boy has done for the village. The reader is left with the understanding that the world for the humans has been changed by the single brave act of the boy. Due to the slaying of the Jabberwock the world has changed for the better within the village. One could attribute this to Alice, if one considers her as the village that her adventures have changed, making her a better person.
As mentioned above, the poem ends with the same verse that it began with. The reader still has no solid understanding of it, but does understand that there has been some action in the land where the Jabberwock once roamed. The repetition of the opening stanza at the end tells the reader that although a major change has happened to the boy and the others he lives with, the action has had no major effect on the world in general. After the boy has slain the monster; the toves, borogroves, and raths still go on as they had before. Once again this can be looked at in reference to Alice’s own life, while she is altered, the outside world who do not realize what she has been through remains unchanged.
The themes of the poem are similar to some other narrative poems written around the same time. The poem deals with mythical and mystical creatures. Like Tennyson and Keats, Carroll tells an epic fairy tale, only he does it in seven verses as opposed to several pages. The poem deals with courage, which closes relates to Alice. She must use courage during her own adventures and while she is not slaying the monster, she is faced with many challenges.
“Jabberwocky” shows that everyone can do amazing things. The original illustrator of the Alice books, John Tenniel includes a drawing of his idea of the Jabberwock beast showing the boy as being in a “David and Goliath” situation. He is capable of overcoming the odds and making his village safer to live in. Alice, in a similar way must overcome her fears and doubts by using her wits to get out of the scrapes she finds herself in. This is a potent theme that gives the reader knowledge that they can do things that may seem impossible.
“Jabberwocky” is a poem capable of being an asset to the Alice books, all the while able to stand-alone. Lewis Carroll writes the poem as an enrapturing narrative poem that combines clever word use, vivid imagery, and strong thematic views to create a highly enjoyable read. Carroll effectively uses these things to make an epic fairy tale story in only thirty lines. It creates an alternate reality in an alternate reality filled with heroes and villains, with good overcoming