LIT 4334: The Golden Age of Children's Literature

Motivations in Writing Children’s Literature

The agendas that author’s have when writing their works of fiction are very interesting.  They cover an array of motives and serve a purpose that is ultimately for the author.  The authors may have a strong moral code that they believe all others should also have and so they write stories where one can learn and see how following these morals will lead them to having the best life they can have.  Another motive could be political agendas.  Many texts are written in a time of political turmoil and some authors incorporate this into their works.  Authors also tend to put much of themselves into their stories.  The reasons can vary; perhaps it is a way to immortalize themselves or, a way for them to work through insecurities or problems in their lives.  Most likely, it is a way for the authors to write something that they know personally and feel a connection to.

images    Charles Kingsley inserts his belief in religion and duty within his tale of The Water Babies.  Kingsley was a very religious man and had a set idea about how “good” people lived.  Therefore, he chose to push these beliefs onto others by instructing children how one was meant to behave through his tale of Tom and Ellie.  Even within classic fairy tales there are lessons and morals to be gained from reading these stories.   Do not disobey your husband, marry whomever you are intended to and maybe you will fall in love with him anyway, be a good child and listen to your elders and remain sweet and pure.  These are all lessons, which can be obtained through the readings of fairy tales from all over the world.

Political agendas can be inferred within at least a few of the texts that we have read during this course.  Both Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Books and Frank L.  Baum’s The Wizard of Oz have different social and political issues within them. Within Kipling’s books about Mowgli and his animal comrades we see a social hierarchy that is very reflective of British governed India.  Many historians view the Baum’s The Wizard of Oz as a political text.  They have assumed that Baum used very strategically certain characteristics and colors within the novel to represent political America.  For instance, some historian’s have stated that the Cowardly Lion could be the politician William Jennings Bryan who had the reputation of being indecisive.  Others have inferred that the Yellow Brick Road is symbolic of gold and the silver shoes are representative of currency.  images-1

Finally, I would like to visit the concept, which leaves me with the most questions, the motive of putting oneself within one’s own fictional story.  Lewis Carroll inserted himself in both of his Alice tales.  In Alice’s Adventure’s in Wonderland we see a tale that Lewis wrote entirely for the children he was very fond of from his own life.  Alice Liddell is the Alice whom Carroll both wrote the story and created the character around.  In his follow up, Through the Looking Glass, Carroll inserts himself into the text as The White Knight.  He gives his mannerisms and other qualities to this character.  Carroll is not the only author to do this though and we see a similar story within J.M. Barrie’s stories about Peter Pan.  Much like Carroll, Barrie was also very close to a family with young children that were not his own. Instead of the children being all girls this family was made up of five young boys whom Barrie created his tales for.  He even names his characters within his works after these boys.  Barrie also gives a part of himself to the character of Peter, and put his own dog Porthos within his earlier drafts.

Unknown-1 Unknown

Though motives may vary it is easy to assume that these author’s felt a need to write about the beliefs, world occurrences, and things going on in their lives.  Especially interesting is that these are texts that are geared for children.  The need to impress morality, hint a political issues, and offer a personal vulnerability that children may not grasp quite fully at first but later in life when they are older and pick back up these classics that is very likely to change.

*Geer, John G.; Rochon, Thomas R. (2004). “William Jennings Bryan on the Yellow Brick Road”. The Journal of American Culture 16 (4): 59–63. doi:10.1111/j.1542-734X.1993.00059.x.

Advertisements
1 Comment »

Looking-Glass Chess

The Looking-Glass world that Alice enters in Through the Looking-Glass (And What Alice Found There) is undoubtedly a creation from the logical mind of Charles Dodgson. It is described as having “a number of tiny little brooks running straight across it from side to side, and the ground between was divided up into squares by a number of little green hedges, that reached from brook to brook.” This description is obviously a chessboard, which is a theme throughout the story. Alice encounters all of the pieces in the chess game that help her, a pawn, to reach the other side of the board and become a queen herself within 11 moves.

Being a thorough man, Dodgson included a picture of the chessboard in the Looking-Glass world of the moves that are made in the story in the exact order they take place.

Looking-Glass Chess

 

Alice begins her journey upon meeting the Red Queen at the forefront of the white piece’s side of the chessboard, who then allows her to be a pawn for the white team. The Red Queen tells Alice, “you’re in the Second Square to begin with: when you get to the Eighth Square you’ll be a Queen.” In the above picture we can see Alice begins as a pawn in the second square for move number one. Next, Alice “ran down the hill and jumped over the first of the six little brooks,” which puts her in the Third Square. After this sentence, we see three rows of asterisks, which are used throughout the story to signify that Alice has moved into the next square.

Alice then rides an unusual railway that jumps across a brook, sending Alice into the Fourth square, which is the home of Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum. After their discourse and poems she meets the White Queen, and she follows after her across a brook, which takes her into the Fifth Square. To her astonishment, the queen becomes a sheep, and the surroundings become a small shop of goods. She suddenly realizes she’s on a boat and rows through this square. At the end, she’s in the small shop again and she jumps across a small brook in the shop into the Sixth Square.

In the Sixth Square, Alice has a pedantic lesson with Humpty Dumpty, who teaches her the imaginative aspect of language. Leaving him, she meets the White King and his soldiers and encounter a problem regarding Plum Pudding and a group of strange animals. After leaving the Lion and Unicorn behind, Alice enters the the Seventh Square.

In the Seventh Square,  Alice is almost taken by the Red Knight. However, The White Knight comes to her aid, takes the Red Knight, and accompanies Alice to the edge of the Eight Square.

At this point, Alice jumps across the final brook and suddenly is crowned a queen. This is not the end of the game though.

Alice then attends her own coronation dinner. The Red Queen and all other attendants aggravate Alice to the point where she throws a tantrum. In her fury, Alice grabs the Red Queen and shakes her, taking the piece and winning the game.

Thus, in eleven total moves, Alice moves across the chessboard as a pawn and becomes a queen. She then takes the Red Queen and wins the game. The only issue, which even Dodgson confesses, is that the sides take their turns out of order. However, the actual moves can be mapped out and recorded as Alice journeys across the Looking-Glass world. Such a complex scheme truly proves Dodgson to be a logic-loving and mathematical genius because one can read this novel through the distant view of a chessboard.

3 Comments »

The Motif of Corrective and Confusing Speech

In Carroll’s Through The Looking-Glass, as well as his first book, there is a consistency of characters questioning everything Alice says, or correcting her; more so in Through The Looking-Glass, I find. It is a motif that spans both stories to the very end, and, for me at least, can make me nauseous at times, due to the literalness and word-picky characters in his stories. For poor Alice, I hardly know how she bears with it all, constantly having her words and sentences reevaluated and given meanings she hadn’t first meant, then being told that she should have said what she meant; which I’m sure, if she had said exactly what she meant, it would have been questioned and evaluated just as harsh.

Some major instances of this motif in Carroll’s Through The Looking-Glass are the scenes when Alice meets the red queen, Tweedledum and Tweedledee, the white queen, and Humpty Dumpty.

With the red queen, Alice says that she lost her way, in which the queen replies, “‘I don’t know what you mean by your way,’ said the Queen: ‘all the ways about her belong to me.'” For poor Alice, such a reply would be considered extremely rude an outbreak, especially in the social aspects of England at the time. Alice is simply saying a normal utterance: that she lost her way. Like most all the people of Wonderland and in the Looking-Glass, the red queen takes this literal, and, because she is a queen (and very ignorant, I may add), she automatically assumes Alice is claiming that all the ways are her’s.

red queen

Tweedledum and Tweedledee are much worse to her though, suggesting that, because the red king is perhaps dreaming of Alice, that she doesn’t really exist — that she couldn’t exist in two places at once. Instead of messing with the very words she speaks, they mess around with her logic, convincing her, to a point, that she is not real!

“‘And if he left off dreaming about you, where do you suppose you’d be?’

‘Where I am now, of course,’ said Alice.

‘Not you!’ Tweedledee retorted contemptuously. ‘You’d be nowhere. Why, you’re only a sort of thing in his dream!’

‘If that there King was to wake,’ added Tweedledum, ‘you’d go out–bang!–just like a candle!'”

Poor Alice, this even provokes tears in her eyes. This is a clear example of the cruel nature of the characters in Carroll’s books; perhaps they don’t mean to be cruel, since their logic is based off of nonsense and a common theme: that we rely so much on language to convey meaning to everything, that if those meanings are meddled or messed with, our existence shrivels up to the size of a useless, slugging snail.

The last scene I want to note, is that of Alice meeting Humpty Dumpty, who may just be the worst of them all, in terms of messing with Alice’s words. When Alice tells Humpty Dumpty her name, he follows with, “‘It’s a stupid name enough!'” Then asks what it means. Of course, Alice doesn’t understand why a name must mean something. Humpty Dumpty declares that it does, in fact; that his own name describes his own shape and good looks quite well. Similarly, Alice tells him her age, “‘Seven years and six months.'” Humpty Dumpty, of course, tells her that she’s wrong, that if he meant how old she was (which he pretty much did), then he would have said it. Then he says that her age is better left off at seven, then further messes with her words.

humpty-dumpty

Poor Alice, such interactions could make one go mad. Clearly, Carroll meant all this upon the reader; it creates an atmosphere of nonsense, which is entertaining to children because it can be funny at times, and they don’t have to use much of their brain to get it. For me, I find it entertaining but at the same time, a bit angry at the characters and wanting to put an end to their nonsense, for some of it is so uncalled for. This is the motif in Carroll’s books. It works. It is original. It is a classic, with an everlasting place in our society.

1 Comment »

Humpty Dumpty’s Meta-Narrative

Image

As per our discussion in class, Lewis Carroll–through the agent of his characters–was able to insert a philosophy of language and literary comprehension. Humpty Dumpty most explicitly demonstrates this throughout his interaction with Alice, when she reveals her confusion and the difficulty of understanding the poem “Jabberwocky” presents her. Humpty Dumpty swiftly informs her that he deconstruct the ambiguity of the words (and of course goes on to translate an entire stanza).

Humpty Dumpty is actually discussing the linguistic side to Alice’s encounter with the surreal. Her wonderland/looking-glass world does exist under the same conditions as “the real world,” therefore, the semantics and pragmatics of language there would not follow the same rules.

“I don’t know what you mean by ‘glory,’ ” Alice said.
Humpty Dumpty smiled contemptuously. “Of course you don’t—till I tell you. I meant ‘there’s a nice knock-down argument for you!’ ”
“But ‘glory’ doesn’t mean ‘a nice knock-down argument’,” Alice objected.
“When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean—neither more nor less.”
“The question is,” said Alice, “whether you can make words mean so many different things.”
“The question is,” said Humpty Dumpty, “which is to be master      that’s all.”
Alice was too much puzzled to say anything, so after a minute Humpty Dumpty began again. “They’ve a temper, some of them—particularly verbs, they’re the proudest—adjectives you can do anything with, but not verbs—however, I can manage the whole lot! Impenetrability! That’s what I say!”

I brought up the point that perhaps Carroll was trying to illustrate that meaning is subjective to the individual, and that when reading the text, the reader should also be applying their own meaning, unadulterated by others opinions. Carroll deliberately wrote “Jabberwocky” to be an interactive work, so that readers wouldn’t be subjected to a poem that already had an abundant amount of interpretations (which it still does), but by using nonsensical words instead, no one could fully claim they knew what the intended meaning was.

The conversation between Alice and Humpty Dumpty also address the connection between language and reality. Throughout Alice’s adventure, she confronts the problem of existence and the true nature of things as a result of the altered label she is no longer familiar with. Conceptually she is able to conjure an image of whatever is being discussed, but she is consistently disoriented by the skewed definitions, and the arbitrary nature of the conversations she finds herself participating in.

Humpty Dumpty explains to Alice that he makes up the definitions of the words he uses, which would indicate a complete irrelevancy to any message he was trying to convey–except the message Carroll is conveying through Dumpty, which is (in part) an understanding of human expression through language.

ImageImage

1 Comment »

The Shifting World of Through the Looking Glass

What is life but a dream?

Much like its predecessor, Through the Looking Glass showcases Lewis Carroll’s love for seemingly nonsensical characters, dialogue exchanges, and world. However, it can be argued that the world showcased in the sequel surpasses the original world of Wonderland in its  non-linearity and bizarre occurrences. One of the biggest differences between Wonderland and the world within the looking glass is the completely random shifts in settings that pop up in the sequel. Carroll purposely sets up a setting and a set of characters only to change them completely without notice. The motif can be in interpreted several ways, but I believe Carroll included this odd device to reinforce the idea that real life can be as nonsensical and random as the looking glass world.

A peek into the bizarre carriage scene.

The first major example of this motif occurs in chapter 3 when Alice inexplicably goes from running down a hill to being thrust inside a carriage and being badgered for not having a ticket. She undergoes bullying from the carriage guard  and its passengers, has her thoughts read by everyone on the carriage, and is scrutinized under microscopes. I think Carroll potentially included this encounter to showcase the way situations sometimes deprives people completely of their preparedness. The complete tonal shift reinforces this idea, with the tone first being curious and whimsical to anxious and troubled. The prevalent sense of helplessness Alice experiences in the carriage, particularly the insults aimed at her from the characters, also adds to this stark tonal shift. Although seemingly random, I think Carroll possessed a method to his madness through complete scene changes.

Alice and her kitten, the ear to her muse.

Although many of the scene changes in the novel represent a shift from tranquility (at least what can be considered tranquil in the world) to chaos, the final setting change at the end represents a stark departure from this trend. When Alice becomes queen, a nonsensical and disastrous dinner is held in her honor. At the climax of this dinner, Alice awakens and learns the entire ordeal was a dream. I think this shift at the end directly links to the poem that ends the story, which’s final line states “Life, what is it but a dream?”  (line 21). This particular shift gives the reader an interesting insight into Carroll’s opinion on life in a very melancholy yet philosophical line. When Alice awakens, she attributes figures in her life (such as her cats) to to characters in her dream and recounts the dream to one of her kittens. Her desire to make sense of the dream and remember all the details could indicate a desire to return to the looking glass world. This relates to the sadly nostalgic tone of Carroll’s poem, which sounds like he experienced life as a dream and perhaps mournfully misses it. This could sum up a huge theme of the book, which emphasizes attaining happiness no matter the circumstances, even if it’s achieved through a dream.

Carroll’s employment of drastic scene changes represents both the positives and negatives of the randomness of life. Although I may not agree with his feelings regarding happiness and its pursuit, I find his weaving of nonsense with philosophical themes quite admirable as a writer.

Leave a comment »

Lewis Carroll is but a dream?

97h/02/vict/0092/87

Within Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking Glass we see  again several instances of logic.  Carroll prompts his readers to ponder what things actually mean in this text  by crafting a world where things are not as they may appear.  This hold true to Lewis Carroll’s life as well,  Virgina Woolf has stated that “we think we have caught Lewis Caroll; we look again and see an Oxford clergyman, We think we have caught the Reverend C.L. Dodgson, we look again and see a fairy elf” (Woolf, 1948).

Within the text we see Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum tell Alice the story of the walrus and the carpenter and the oysters with the end results of the oyster being devoured by the walrus and the carpenter not getting any. This causes Alice to feel sorrow for the carpenter and the oysters.  However, the Tweedles caution her against her sympathy since the carpenter’s intent was to do the same.  Also, Alice enters into the woods where things have no names and happens upon a deer.  The deer does not who she is either or that Alice is a human.  When they come upon a clearing their clarity returns and the deer runs from Alice frightened.  Once again confusion has occurred.  Alice and the deer both had less fear when they did not know themselves or what the other was.  This is a contrary notion to people thinking they would become more scared if they were to forget who they were.

embleton-ron-walrus-and-the-carpenter                          alice_and_the_doe_shower_curtain

The Tweedles also have Alice wonder what would happen if the Red King were to awaken from his slumber.  They believe she would disappear entirely because they think she is what he is dreaming of and nothing more.  As readers we are under the assumption that Alice is the one who is dreaming of some sort and so it would be her that should awaken and have the Red King disappear.  This concept of Alice’s dream leads me to the ending of the novel when Carroll questions what exactly it is that has occurred.  Even Alice herself does not which is the case once she has returned home.  She does not know if she was dreaming or if it was the King.  Carroll frames the last line of prose with this question, “Which do you think it was?”  Carroll has ended his work in the same trend that he wrote this story.

images

Much of what Carroll appeared to be was also different. Lewis Carroll conjures up ideas of a man who loved writing, the fantastical, and logical nonsense.  He was innovative with the characters he created while also being very meticulous in his use of math and logic within the stories.  We also see a love and fondness for young girls within his texts.  This love for “child friends” was also a commonality for Carroll’s alter ego, mathematician and educator Charles Dodgson.  He taught young boys and yet he hated them, much preferring the company of young girls.  He was a clergyman but never took his vows. Dodgson wrote under the penname of Lewis Carroll though if he was written a letter addressed to the name Carroll requesting an autograph for one of his Alice stories, he would throw away the letter. Even his love for young girls is a confusion.  Was it a sexual love or did children hold a purity Carroll sought?  Or perhaps Carroll liked young children so much because they did not make the social demands upon him that adults did.  This multifaceted man shows us that his works of fiction are a mirror for himself.  Much like his books Carroll’s life leads us wondering what was what in his life.  Regardless, we are left with stories that continue to delight us as children and inspire us as adults.  Woolf sums it up nicely, “Many great satirists and moralists have shown us the world upside down, and have made us see it, as grown-up people see it, savagely.  Only Lewis Carroll has shown us the world upside down as a child sees it, and has made us laugh” (Woolf, 1948 ).

 

*Woolf, Virgina. Moment and Other Essays. 2nd ed. 1948. eBook.

1 Comment »

Nothing Gold Can Stay

  

  Both Lewis Carroll’s Wonderland and Looking Glass Land are enchanting, nonsensical places.  Yet throughout the Alice stories, Carroll hints at the fleeting, temporary nature of their existence.  Nothing in these fantasy worlds is ever permanent.  The rules of logic at play are always changing.  At one moment, it makes perfect sense to knock on a door to a house in order to be let in by the frog footman; in the next, knocking on the door is a ridiculous notion which will get you nowhere at all.  And once one travels through the looking glass, things morph and change at the drop of a hat with no attempt made at an explanation, not even an illogical one.  These occurrences are frustrating to Alice, who is used to the rigid, dependable order of the real world, but she does come to appreciate these lands for what they are.  By the end of her first adventure, she has developed a bit of a soft spot for Wonderland. In the final chapter of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, “Alice got up and ran off, thinking while she ran, as well she might, what a wonderful dream it had been” (Carroll 142).  In her childlike state of mind, Alice concludes that these dreamlands are really quite wonderful places after all.
As nice as Alice finds these dreamlands to be, Carroll ends each of his stories in the same way- Alice awakens from her dream.  She is not allowed to stay in Wonderland or beyond the looking glass forever; she is forced to return to her day-to-day life.  Carroll too could not remain a permanent inhabitant of Wonderland, nor could the real Alice Liddell.  In the poems which begin and end each tale, readers are exposed to this melancholy truth.
The poem which prefaces Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland tells the tale of origin of the story which is about to unfold.  Carroll sets his tale “All in the golden afternoon,” which is a fleeting time.  A golden afternoon calls to mind something lovely and pleasant, bordering on perfection.  But no afternoon lasts forever; each one ends with the setting of the sun and the closing of the day.  Within this brief window of time “grew the tale of Wonderland.”  Carroll is aware of the fact that Wonderland is itself allowed a brief window and so closes the poem by pleading “Alice! A childish story take, / And, with a gentle hand, / Lay it where childhood’s dreams are twined / In Memory’s mystic band.”  It is only through the child taking hold of the story and gifting it a place of honor within their memory that it can continue on its golden state.  Within memory, the world cannot touch it and make it less than it was.
In the opening poem of Through the Looking Glass, Carroll tells of “A tale begun in other days, / When summers suns were glowing / … Whose echoes live in memory yet. / Through envious years would say ‘forget.’”  So he feels that the precious tale of Wonderland has been preserved, although “envious years” are urging a maturing child to leave it behind- “Without, the frost, the blinding snow, / The storm-wind’s moody madness- / Within, the firelight’s ruddy glow / And childhood’s nest of gladness.”  The world outside of memory is bombarding the inner child to snuff “the firelight’s ruddy glow.”  But Carroll does not imply that the child surrenders to the attack.  In the poem which closes Through the Looking Glass, he admits that “Long has paled that sunny sky: / Echoes fade and memories die; / Autumn frosts have slain July” but insinuates that the inhabitants of Wonderland have not ceased to exist, for “In a Wonderland they lie, / Dreaming as the days go by, / Dreaming as the summers die / … Ever drifting down the stream- / Lingering in the golden gleam.” Something or someone is still lingering in the soft light of that golden afternoon.  Be that Alice, Carroll, or the reader, it does not matter much.  What matters is only that someone has managed to hold onto that golden quality which slips away so easily.
Many years after the publication of the Alice stories, Robert Frost published a poem, entitled “Nothing Gold Can Stay.”

“Nature’s first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf’s a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf.
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay.”

This poem is an embodiment of the essence of the golden afternoon when Wonderland was created.  It was wonderful, but inevitably could not last.  The golden afternoon subsided to evening, just as “dawn goes down to day.”  Presumably, Alice herself was subject to this cycle as well.  She grew up and had to move on or awaken from the nonsensical fantasy lands of Carroll’s invention.  Carroll is not in denial of the demands of reality, but still proposes a solution: to hold onto anything golden, one must tuck it safely away within the protective walls of nostalgic memory.

Leave a comment »

Carroll and The White Knight

The White Knight was one of the most intriguing characters I read in Through the Looking Glass. But through our class discussion, it was interesting to learn that Carroll wrote the Knight as himself. This had me coming back to a point that was made which was that he was still in a child like state of mind. Being that this is a rumor, we cannot be sure of Carroll’s true character, but I feel that many points that we have studied lead to that conclusion. Through a character sketch of the White Knight, we can see how nonsensical Carroll truly was.

 

a0950997-edc0-452a-99f9-971ce7e983fe images (3)

To support my hypothesis that he was stuck in a child-like state of mind, we can look to how he saw himself in the White Knight. The man was very silly, making little sense. He could not stay on his horse, he made up ridiculous inventions and the reader could also sense his potential feelings towards Alice. But does this mean that Carroll knew he acted this way? Or did he see his actions as normal? Clearly he did not see the world of the Knight as normal, thus all of the nonsense surrounding his character. But if we think about him as a person and what we have learned through research and presentations, can we say that he was still stuck in a state of juvenile mentality? Could these stories point to a psychological issue that was not seen during his time? We cannot be too sure. But one thing is for sure, that Carroll understood how far left he acted and that he was not like the “grown-ups” of his time period. We can see this through the White Knight and the world he creates for Alice. The nonsense of his characters can speak for what he was truly like, a child possibly stuck inside a man’s body.

 

*The video is a scene from Through the Looking Glass. a movie that was produced about the book. This scene is where the White Knight rescues Alice from the Red Knight. I hope you enjoy!

1 Comment »

Politics and Nonsense

In Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking-Glass, there are among the nonsense some very lucid thoughts and not-so-subtle political commentary. Chapter VII “The Unicorn and the Lion” is an excellent example of these allusions. The footnotes explain the correlation of the nursery rhyme and its link to the ongoing conflict between the English and Scottish kingdoms within Great Britain, and as the scene plays out in the story, it further reinforces this link.

Historically, there has been a division between the English and Scottish kingdoms, even after they united in the early 1700s. The rhyme presented in Looking-Glass uses the symbols of the Lion – from the English coat of arms – and the Unicorn – found on the Scottish coat of arms – in constant conflict:

“The lion and the unicorn were fighting for the crown:
The lion beat the unicorn all around the town.
Some gave them white bread, and some gave them brown:
Some gave them plum-cake and drummed them out of town.” (Carroll, 198)

The rhyme speaks to the political relationship between the two kingdoms and their infighting. In Looking-Glass, Carroll’s Lion and Unicorn – who the artist Tenniel caricaturizes as Ewart Gladstone and Benjamin Disraeli respectively – have been fighting for quite a while. The king, upon hearing from his messengers, goes to watch.

“The King was evidently very uncomfortable at having to sit down between the two great creatures; but there was no other place for him… the poor King   was nearly shaking [the crown] off his head, he trembled so much… he was very nervous, and his voice quite quivered.” (Carroll, 202)

Interestingly, the notes state that the caricatures were principally Tenniel – who was a political cartoonist – and Carroll may not have even intended this association. However, as the situation develops, and as the two fighters take their rest, the King becomes increasingly afraid of the two bestial titans:

Considering whether Carroll was involved, the scene can be interpreted as a commentary on how the British monarch was becoming increasingly caught between the struggles of Parliament; the well-known political feud of Disraeli and Gladstone becomes then the reason the King is frightened by the battle. This would effectively “implicate” Carroll in the politics of the scene.

The whole point of this post then, is to suggest that the nonsense in Through the Looking-Glass may not be as much nonsense as the reader is led to believe.

1 Comment »

The Role Chess Plays in Through the Looking-Glass

Image

In Through the Looking-Glass, Alice has barely aged since her last escapades in Wonderland took place. She was born into rich Victorian family, thus solidifying her nobility as a character. I feel that it is important to mention her circumstances because chess is a game that was played by royalty. There are many instances in antiquity in which people play a chess match against Death as a symbol of Fate. This appears to be the case in Through the Looking-Glass.  Alice starts off as a pawn in this new portal existence and she is surrounded by a set of heavily-structured guidelines, much different than her previous experiences. When Alice is a pawn, she is naive and has little knowledge and control over what to do, as she is unfamiliar with this game, even though she is predestined to be a queen, the best piece. Her movements to become a queen happen with great success, but only because she is helped by other circumstances. This new world is divided into chess squares, which are indicated by crossing over a brook or stream, and each time Alice successfully crosses over a square, she gets closer to her goal. Any time Alice lands on the same row as another character, she is interacting with them in some way.  Throughout the text, the characters act in accordance to their corresponding pieces. The Queens go all over the board, which speaks to how powerful they are. The knights falling off of their horses symbolize an L-shaped move which a knight piece does in chess. The Kings are usually cautious and tend not to move very often.

Image

This whole idea of chess serves as a metaphor for two different points. It points toward the idea that Fate is a predetermined notion and that individuals are guided not by themselves but by exterior forces. Alice has no sense of freedom of thought because she is constantly surrounded by heavily enforced rules and structure. Chess also serves as a metaphor for the maturation or evolution of Alice. Even though she stays the same age throughout the text, her language and attitude change and she becomes more woman-like as she goes up the ranks. When she successfully overtakes the Red Queen, thereby checkmating the Red King, she becomes the best piece and wakes up from her dream.

Image

Leave a comment »