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Thursday, March 3, 2011

Through the Looking Glass X -- chapter 8: FAREWELL, WHITE KNIGHT

  1. "I've a great mind to go and wake [the Red King], and see what happens," says Alice, shortly after a very Inception-like moment.  What's important here, I think, is Alice's acknowledgment that she hopes it's her dream, not the King's.
  2. While Carroll is fairly transparently present in the Red King, he is even more obviously embodied in the White Knight, which, by all evidence, was an intentional characterization by Carroll (from Martin Gardner's notes): "Jeffrey Stern, in his article 'Carroll Identifies Himself at Last' (Jabberwocky, Summer/Autumn 1990), describes a game board hand-drawn by Carroll that was recently discovered.  The nature of the frame is unknown, but on the underside of the cardboard sheet Carroll had written 'Olive Butler, from the White Knight.  Nov. 21, 1892.'  'So, at last,' Stern comments, 'we know for certain the Carroll did portray himself as the White Knight.'"
  3. It makes sense to ask, if this is indeed a game of chess being played out, who it is controlling the pieces.  Is it the Red King who is dreaming it?  Is it a meeting of two dreams--that of Alice, who is here a white pawn, together with that of the Red King, and therefor representing indeed the two sides of the board?  Well, the puppet-like, Punch-and-Judy behavior of the Red and White Knights may indicate otherwise--that there is indeed but one player--one puppet master--playing for both sides.  How, if at all, does this play against Alice's hope for this to be her dream?  Consider also that while Wonderland was written specifically for Alice Liddell, Looking-Glass bears more indicators that it was composed for reasons personal to Carroll.
  4. What significance is there to the White Knight's escorting Alice to assume her queen-ship?
  5. Aside from the "proof" of Jeffrey Stern, what more immediate, though more circumstantial, evidence is there to indicate Carroll's caricature in the White Knight?  Along these lines, and essentially invisible by reading the text alone, Carroll was something of an amateur inventor; also, contrast the White Knights treatment of Alice against her treatment at the hands of pretty much all of the other characters in the two books.
  6. A.A. Milne (1952) suggests that the horse's ankle spikes inspired "The Hunting of the Snark," as the Knight intends them "to guard against the bites of sharks," and so "the compositor in his first proof made the very easy substitution of an 'n' for an 'h', and set Carroll wondering what the bites of snarks were like ... wondering until inevitably The Hunting of the Snark followed, which is the way such things get written."
  7. A further suggestion that the White Knight is the true master of Looking-Glass House is the load of his pack and horse, which recall a variety of moments throughout the two books.  Can you spot and identify them?
  8. "Of all the strange things that Alice saw in her journey Through The Looking-Glass, this was the one that she always remembered most clearly."
  9. It's possible that the old man on the gate is a reflection--and unforgettable by him--of the White Knight, who, of course, is a reflection--and unforgettable by Alice--of Lewis Carroll.
  10. "...but you didn't cry so much as I thought you would."  This chapter, also the longest, is, I think, reflective (like so many other things within and, by nature of its title, without it) of the underlying tone of the whole book, as put by Donald Rackin: that of "a love between a child all potential, freedom, flux, and growing up and a man all impotence, imprisonment, stasis, and falling down."  And when she finally leaves him, not so sad as he might have hoped, and even perhaps free of him, she is a queen.
Before moving on to chapter 9, we will examine the episode "The Wasp in a Wig."


  1. 1. What I love about this is that the only way that she can possibly see what happens is if she's not in his dream. Because if she is, she will suddenly cease to exist altogether and therefore will never get a chance to answer her question (or do anything else). So if she has serious fears about this, I would encourage her NOT to wake the red king. Save a few hours of existence.
    3. I think that the pieces have free will in this game of chess.
    4. A couple of things: First of all, it's Carroll guiding her through her childhood. Second, she has to leave the White Knight behind to become a queen, so it's more about growing up.
    5. He's just a very Carroll-like figure. In addition, there are a couple things that mark him apart. For one, he is the only character in the book who takes an interest in Alice that isn't condescending. Second, this has to be by far the happiest chapter of the book--at least so far.
    6. Yeah, I thought of this connection, too.
    7. Arg, I don't have the book on me right now. I'll look later.
    8. Yep, more evidence that it is Carroll.
    10. Do you think that Carroll crowned her?

  2. 10 -- I think this is a lot like the characters being independent of some puppet master, which I agree with, by the way. If there is not a person playing the game, there's no player to choose whether she becomes a queen or some other piece when she lands an the 8th rank. The context of the story has always been that she would always become queen by reaching this point, however. I think that the crown is simply there, now that she's arrived. Of course, regardless of who is or isn't playing chess, it is definitely Carroll who wrote the book, so no matter what, yes, he crowns her.

  3. 5 -- This chapter always seemed like a brief, dream-like reunion between the two. Happy for both of them. Long--extended, really. But on temporary no matter how it's strung out.


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