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Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Through the Looking Glass III -- chapter 1: SNOW DAY

  1. The contrast between the kittens' colors leads to a short stack of fairly obvious observations of good and evil.  Is there more than this here?  Look at the kitten receiving the majority of Alice's attention; the behavior of the kitten compared to Alice's behavior (as she reports it); and never forget Carroll.
  2. Remember what snow and winter classically represent.  Combine this with Carroll's separation from Alice and the fact that he very much enjoyed offering kisses to his child friends.  Additionally, notice how favorably Alice describes the snow, as well as the mentions of "blanket" and "sleep."  These allusions and metaphors, I think, describe perfectly Carroll's feelings of distance and loss for Alice.  (Potential aside: does Alice's playful threat to Kitty to shut it out in the snow play into this at all?)
  3. Alice's mention of the bonfire preparations and the general time of year suggest Guy Fawkes Day is tomorrow, making today November 4, exactly 6 months after Alice in Wonderland.  This is augmented by a later mention that, while through the looking-glass, she is exactly seven-and-a-half years old.
  4. Alice's play-maternal treatment of Kitty suggests that she is growing up.
  5. "And here I wish I could tell you half the things Alice used to say...."  I don't recall if it happens again in Looking-Glass, but it never happened at all in Wonderland that Carroll employed first-person narration.  Why is it particularly fitting here and now?  It is also significant that this sentence hints at significant distance between the time of the storytelling and events it narrates.  (Later in this chapter, he employs a similar distancing: "She said afterward that she had never seen in all her life such a face as the King made....")
  6. While Alice's sisters make regular appearances, albeit primarily via puns and jokes, they are all but removed from Looking-Glass, save this impersonal mention of Alice's practical sister.
  7. (I just love this line: "Nurse!  Do let's pretend that I'm a hungry hyena, and you're a bone!")
  8. Mysterious things, dreams.  Duh, right?  If you go through chapter 1 and look carefully, there are a number of events, thoughts, and observations of and around Alice and her surroundings that suggest--or foreshadow--the "dream" to come.
  9. Pay close attention (if you'd like; it's not always significant to our reading here) to reversals in the "other" house and of the "other" Alice, both through the looking-glass.  Interesting:  It was another Alice, a distant cousin of Carroll's in fact, who inspired the narrative reversals.  Carroll, visiting his uncle, came upon this other Alice and said, "So you are another Alice.  I'm very fond of Alices.  Would you like to come and see something which is rather puzzling," upon which they entered the home and Carroll pointed out the intrigues of looking in a mirror.  He gave her an orange and asked which hand it was in, then why it appeared in the other hand in her reflection.  She said, "If I was on the other side of the glass, wouldn't the orange still be in my right hand?"
  10. Tenniel's two illustrations of Alice passing through the looking-glass are meant to appear on opposite sides of the same page, to add to the appearance of Alice actually passing through the mirror.  Notice she is the only item not reversed or otherwise changed.  Even Tenniel's signature and the name "Dalziel" (the company which did the wood-cut engraving of Tenniel's illustrations) is reversed.
  11. How easily Alice checkmates the White King, who, by all appearances, is now, though only temporarily, dead--or dead to her.
  12. Notice the automatic writing of the King, controlled, as it were, by a virtual god--an almighty, invisible force.
  13. Funny that holding "Jabberwocky" up to the mirror did little to make it more understandable.  (I'm not going into all the "definitions" of the non-/sense words in the poem, though I'm happy to answer questions, if there are any.)


  1. 1. Hmm... I don't know. A black cat of course is an omen of bad luck. I'd be interested to hear what you have to say about Carroll.
    2. Yes, now is the winter of Carroll's discontent.
    3. I wonder if there are any implications to why Guy Fawkes Day in particular, other than just the date.
    4. I found this annoying. I wonder if that's intentional, since obviously, Carroll would not particularly LIKE her growing up.
    5. This is a great catch. I don't remember if from the first either, and you surely would have noticed it had it been there, given what you're looking at in particular this time through.
    7. More eating!
    10. Interesting. I'll keep an eye on this.
    11. Another great catch. Jeez, you are on a roll.
    12. A couple of things. 1. More death. We really should have counted these. It's sort of an ongoing theme throughout the books. 2. I don't know if this is just my addition, but the letters aren't reversed like they should be. If you hold it up to a mirror, as I just did, it's equally unintelligible as otherwise. Oversight, misprint in my edition, or something else?

  2. 12 -- (I've got lots to say on the others -- but later -- time) Neither Carroll nor Tenniel is very consistent with the representation of reversals. There's an awful lot that is so hidden as to be nearly unnoticeable, but many we assume should be reversed but aren't. I think of it a little like "have" in a narrative paragraph of past perfect. Use the "have/has/had" once at the top, and leave it out since it's cumbersome.

  3. 1 -- The good vs. evil is the typical comment, but I think it's more along the lines of another echo of the relationship between Alice and Carroll. I'm not sure which one's which, though, which makes it a little weird. And I'm not sure. Dubious, at best. Most likely, there's nothing here, but I can't help but wonder....

    2 -- The first time I caught this, I reread the chapter and I cried. (Yes. I'm that kind of passionate about my favs.) I've missed people. I've been heart-broken. Never have I found a poem or piece or excerpt that better or more fully captured the real potential depth of such loss. And then it's even better--stronger--for the contrast of Alice's cheeriness and obliviousness about it all. W. O. W. !!

    3 -- I don't know. I really don't get Guy Fawkes day. And if you go to "Legacy" at the end of Wikipedia's Guy Fawkes article, it doesn't read like something Carroll would be all the eager to support, not that he'd be against it, though.

    4 -- I've never found it annoying, though I see how it can be. I've worked with too many kids to be any kind of put out by it.

    11 -- The Red King more so than the White, but these a pretty easily connected to Carroll.

    12 -- I assigned the counting of death references the first time I read this with students. It's not what I'm looking for this time, as the idea, not the count, is more important to me. But this is pretty common to do, and has been done, as has been the counting of reversals and with special attention paid to Alice's "handed-ness." Likely more than any of this, though, is inspection of "Jabberwocky's" lexicon.


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