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Friday, March 4, 2011

Through The Looking Glass XI -- THE WASP IN A WIG

If you haven't yet read "The Wasp in a Wig" episode, and/or the publishers of your edition didn't deign to include it, read it here.

  1. A male wasp in an interesting choice for character.  The males are sting-less and impotent, especially compared to females, and so with chess kings and queens--except chess pieces are not so universally loathed as, well, wasps.
  2. It's unlikely that Carroll is the Wasp, at least by intention, like he was the Knight, as this Wasp is but a lower-class drone (indicated through his language, his species and gender, and even to a degree his wig) and Carroll prided himself on being a Victorian gentleman.  Martin Gardner posits that the Wasp acts as a ventriloquist's puppet here, voicing Carroll, as the animal's character and age, both particularly significant if taken in their close contextual proximity to the White Knight, so closely resemble Carroll and other characters whom he's "inhabited" through the book.
  3. PUN (one among so many, of course, but this one perhaps more subtle than the coming comb): This wasp has the newspaper--the paper, paper being, of course, the substance employed for the crafting of a wasp's nest.
  4. Yellow is a classic symbol for age.
  5. Word play: a lack of neck-bending, stiff-neck, and conceit.  Will Alice soon have the stiff-neck of a chess queen to go with the typically queenly conceit?  
  6. Contrast Alice's attitude going into the episode with that of her leaving at its conclusion.

The most important question is this:  Should the chapter have been suppressed at all?  Did Carroll ere, permitting as he did Tenniel to talk him out of its inclusion?


  1. 5. I think that we don't yet know. We hope that she doesn't. I don't THINK that she will, but success (not to mention adulthood) comes differently to different people.
    6. Well, in both cases, she is moved by compassion. What is remarkable to me is not so much the contrast, but how she's STILL happy to have helped even though the wasp is totally rude to her.

    It's funny. The word "suppress" reminds me of the courtroom scene in the first book. I don't know whether you're doing that intentionally or not.

    But to answer the question... I'm not a fan of this episode. I know that you like it, so I don't want to be too harsh. I don't think that it would be the worst part of the books if it were inserted, but I don't think it's as good as the average moment in the book either. More to the point, I think that it takes away from a bit of the excitement. Alice has just met Carroll for the last time. She has fought the good fight, finished the course, kept the faith, now she gets the crown. The wasp is sort of anticlimactic. Maybe if the episode were somewhere else, but here? No. I'm going to have to agree with the eminently talented (although less so most of the time than Carroll) John Tenniel on this one.

    Now tell me why I'm wrong.

  2. I think you have a slightly skewed perspective on my appreciation for the episode. I mentioned it just now in response to Katie's comment after the full text. I like it. I think it's revealing of Carroll as a writer. It doesn't really fit--certainly not necessarily so--in the text of the novel. (I hope I'm not contradicting myself from an earlier post; but that's entirely possible. If I am, well my position on the episode has developed.)

    5. I think it's a little bit cautionary--at least that's how I see it through the wordplay.
    6. I see the Wasp as initially rude, and I give Alice the benefit of the doubt and agree with her that likely he's rude, at least initially, because he's uncomfortable. And he is no longer rude at the end. He is the ONLY character in either of the books who thanks her for anything. I disagree a little with the general critical consensus that the Wasp is not Carroll. It seem a bit like a doppelganger for the White Knight. I'm not convinced of this, however.

    SUPPRESS! I love the versatile usage of Carroll and his other commentators. So, yes, intentional.

  3. All fair comments, and I agree with the change in the wasp.


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