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Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Through the Looking Glass IV -- chapter 2: REMEMBER WHO YOU ARE, ALICE!

  1. "as she described it afterwards": I mentioned this yesterday.  Taking it a step further, these simple insertions alter the entire point of view of the narration.  In Wonderland Carroll narrates in omniscient 3rd and is immediately proximate to the events of the story; in Looking-Glass he narrates in limited 3rd and is removed a step, as he tells the story 2nd-hand (or even possibly further removed) as it was originally narrated to him from Alice or another intermediary party.  This emphasizes the distance (I wonder if it was intentional; I imagine it was, but can't be sure) between Carroll and Alice of course; does it have any other role in tone, metaphor, or significance?  (POV: there is a possibility, though I doubt its likelihood, that Carroll's narration is not as removed as I assume, as he could indeed be "watching" the events first-hand for a limited 3rd, which he then augments after receiving report of Alice's personal account.  Regardless, the distance remains, as the story's tense, regardless of helping verbs' presence or absence, leans toward past-perfect rather than simple past.)
  2. Note from Martin Gardner: Chapter 2 of Looking-Glass is a parody of Tennyson's Maud (simple Wikipedia article here; in depth discussion here), section 22.
  3. There's another garden, of course; neither garden she enters, however, in either book, is as nice or innocent or lovely as she otherwise hoped or expected.
  4. Despite Tenniel's illustration, there's no indication in the text that Alice has decreased in size to meet flowers face to face.  Alice stooping to threaten the daisies indicates that she is yet "full-size," as well as the evident size of the Red Queen.
  5. Carroll wrote this of the Red Queen in his article "Alice on the Stage": "The Red Queen I pictured as a Fury; but of another type; her passion must be cold and calm; she must be formal and strict, yet not unkindly; pedantic to the tenth degree, the concentrated essence of all governesses!"
  6. What do you make of the Red Queen's statement of sense, nonsense, and dictionaries?
  7. Chapter 2 reads like an introduction to the looking-glass world.  By now we are parted from the house and soon from its garden, get the lay of the land and its manner of function, and we meet a dominant figure who represents in broad terms the type of the characters to come, at least those of the chess set.  Of course, this renders chapter 1 more of a prologue--the left-hand bookend, perhaps--which makes sense, if you look at the last couple of chapters (12 and 13, certainly; 11's iffy) and compare them together.
  8. If Alice's life is a chess game and Carroll is far removed from her, who is manipulating the pieces?  Compare this to the God and demigod issues of Wonderland.
  9. Of the Queen's instructions to Alice, only the third interests me, as the first two refer specifically to issues of chess: " --and remember who you are!"  Thoughts?
by Alfred Lord Tennyson
(part I, section 22)
Come into the garden, Maud, 
For the black bat, night, has flown, 
Come into the garden, Maud, 
I am here at the gate alone; 
And the woodbine spices are wafted abroad, 
And the musk of the roses blown. 

For a breeze of morning moves, 
And the planet of Love is on high, 
Beginning to faint in the light that she loves 
On a bed of daffodil sky, 
To faint in the light of the sun she loves, 
To faint in his light, and to die. 

All night have the roses heard 
The flute, violin, bassoon; 
All night has the casement jessamine stirr`d 
To the dancers dancing in tune; 
Till a silence fell with the waking bird, 
And a hush with the setting moon. 

I said to the lily, "There is but one 
With whom she has heart to be gay. 
When will the dancers leave her alone? 
She is weary of dance and play." 
Now half to the setting moon are gone, 
And half to the rising day; 
Low on the sand and loud on the stone 
The last wheel echoes away. 

I said to the rose, "The brief night goes 
In babble and revel and wine. 
O young lord-lover, what sighs are those, 
For one that will never be thine? 
But mine, but mine," so I sware to the rose, 
"For ever and ever, mine." 

And the soul of the rose went into my blood, 
As the music clash`d in the hall; 
And long by the garden lake I stood, 
For I heard your rivulet fall 
From the lake to the meadow and on to the wood, 
Our wood, that is dearer than all; 

From the meadow your walks have left so sweet 
That whenever a March-wind sighs 
He sets the jewel-print of your feet 
In violets blue as your eyes, 
To the woody hollows in which we meet 
And the valleys of Paradise. 

The slender acacia would not shake 
One long milk-bloom on the tree; 
The white lake-blossom fell into the lake, 
As the pimpernel dozed on the lea; 
But the rose was awake all night for your sake, 
Knowing your promise to me; 
The lilies and roses were all awake, 
They sigh`d for the dawn and thee. 

Queen rose of the rosebud garden of girls, 
Come hither, the dances are done, 
In gloss of satin and glimmer of pearls, 
Queen lily and rose in one; 
Shine out, little head, sunning over with curls, 
To the flowers, and be their sun. 

There has fallen a splendid tear 
From the passion-flower at the gate. 
She is coming, my dove, my dear; 
She is coming, my life, my fate; 
The red rose cries, "She is near, she is near;" 
And the white rose weeps, "She is late," 
The larkspur listens, "I hear, I hear;" 
And the lily whispers, "I wait." 

She is coming, my own, my sweet, 
Were it ever so airy a tread, 
My heart would hear her and beat, 
Were it earth in an earthy bed; 
My dust would hear her and beat, 
Had I lain for a century dead; 
Would start and tremble under her feet, 
And blossom in purple and red.


  1. I don't have time to respond to the questions now (although I will!), but what do you think of Lewis Carroll writing "Alice on the Stage"? I know that it must be frustrating when people don't get/misinterpret certain parts of what you're writing, but isn't a part of being a published author to leave people guessing at what you meant? Maybe I'm totally off-base.

  2. Not sure if you've read "Alice on the Stage," so I made a special post to quote it in its entirety. Regarding what he writes in the essay, I don't feel he goes too far. It seems to be more a story (up to the mild and generally favorable criticism of the play) of genesis than "this is what I meant." What do you think?

  3. Yeah, I haven't actually read it. I've just seen it referenced a couple times for explanations. I'll give it a look.

  4. 1. I think that you may be onto something, but let me play devil's advocate, as is my nature. He doesn't say that the way that HE learns this is how she describes it later. He merely indicates that this is a story that she would repeat to her friends and always use this phrase. You know how people are. No matter how many times they tell the story, there are always a few words that they think particularly fitting that they repeat over and over again.
    2. Thanks. I'll have a look at it.
    6. It all points a bit towards the arbitrariness of language, doesn't it?
    8. More nihilism? We never really do see who moves the pieces. Are you suggesting Carroll? Of course you have to take this in context of his religious background, so it's hard to say.
    9. It certainly calls to mind the first book when she keeps changing. And also it may be a bit of a prayer from Carroll.

  5. 1. Yeah, I see what you're saying, and certainly there's no way of telling the difference. But I never noticed this before, and it's intriguing me. I'm eager to find more of these little inserted personal comments.
    2. This poem by Tennyson is really something, and easily applicable to Alice and Carroll.
    6. I think you're right on, and all the more so augmented by Humpty Dumpty to come and Jabberwocky in the mirror.
    8. I'm not sure about this one way, except that I'm fairly convinced it's not Carroll. Personally, I think it's a reflection on and Carroll's acceptance of God's influence and the removal of his own.
    9. The prayer point is, I think, right on.

  6. 8. That could be just as well. Nihilism would be that the pieces are moving randomly. God would be that they are intentionally being moved AWAY from Carroll. Either way is equally depressing for someone whose entire world is Alice.

  7. Not all editions have it, so I don't know if yours does, but check the front of you copy and see if it has the chess board with a list of all the moves (as irrational as most of them are!). I don't think it's nihilism, not the same way as before anyway--if that works. Between the description of the pieces' movements (unless they are simply a report of what did happen rather than a description of fore-ordination) and Carroll's belief in God....

  8. Yeah, I agree with you. I don't think that my edition has it. :( Barnes and Noble fails? What is this world coming to?

  9. I've seen editions that skip the introductory poetry!


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