Through the Looking-Glass – Summary

Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll is a sequel to Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Alice again enters the world of adventure, this time by climbing through a mirror into a world inside the mirror. There she finds that just like in a reflection everything is reversed, including logic and time.


Chapter 1, 2

The novel opens with Alice curled in a corner of the great arm chair drowsily mumbling to herself watching her pet kitty, as she unravels a ball of string. She picks Kitty up and rebukes her for being naughty and starts talking to her about the “Looking Glass House”, a fantasy world on the other side of the mirror where everything is in reverse like when a book is held up in front of a mirror and the words run backwards. Little Alice holding up Kitty to the mirror imagines a world inside the mirror and in another moment she is already in the Looking-Glass room. Inside the Looking-Glass house Alice finds a room similar to her own but she realizes several strange differences like the pictures on the wall next to the fire seem to be all alive and the chessmen are alive and walking about two and two. She comes to the aid of the white queen’s daughter Lily but also realizes that she is invisible to the chess pieces.

Alice then gets distracted by a book on the table which she finds difficult to read because of the placement of the words, then an idea strikes her that she should read the book holding it up in front of a mirror. The book contains the poem “Jabberwocky” which may seem nonsensical and confusing at first but is a meaningful poem of the battle between good and evil.

Intrigued by the strange poem which she cannot understand Alice sets off to explore the rest of the house, spots a beautiful garden which she wants to explore but every time she goes a few yards into the garden she finds herself straight back at the house. Perplexed she wonders aloud to the Tiger-lily how to get to the garden and to her astonishment the tiger lily responds. The flowers in the garden think Alice is a flower that can move and several flowers join in the conversation and begin insulting her. Alice comes to learn from the flowers that the Red Queen is nearby and she is asking for her whereabouts. She sees the Red Queen approaching and is surprised to find her grown a good deal than when she first saw her. Alice then walks towards the Red Queen only to realize that every time she moves towards the Red Queen, she goes further away from her. So, at the advice of Rose, to walk away from the queen to reach the queen she realizes that she would have to walk in the opposite direction of wherever she wants to go. Alice meets the Red Queen and they engage in a conversation, however the Red queen is not impressed with the attitude of Alice and often interrupts to correct her. As Alice looks over the field, she sees a huge game of chess being played all around her and she tells the queen that she would like to join the game and she would like to be a Queen herself. The Red Queen tells Alice that she can stand in as the White Queen’s pawn since Lily, the daughter of the White Queen, is still too young to play and when she gets to the eighth square she will be a queen. Later on, Alice never quite makes out how it all began but she remembers running as fast as she could with the Red Queen hand in hand and yet still remains at the same place just where they had started running. The Red Queen tells Alice that they have to run as fast as they can to be at the same place. The queen gives Alice instructions on how to cross the other squares and reach the last square and with that she vanishes.

Chapter 3, 4

Inexplicably Alice finds herself on a train (as instructed by the Red Queen), with a goat, a beetle, and a man dressed in white paper. They all nag Alice a little bit until the train eventually comes to an abrupt stop and Alice while trying to grab something for support manages to catch hold of the goat’s beard but the beard melts away and she finds herself under a tree talking to a chicken sized Gnat who tells her about the interesting insects of the Looking-Glass world like the ‘Rocking-horse-fly’, ‘The Snap-dragon-fly’, and ‘Bread-and- butter-fly’. After learning about the names of different kinds of insects of the Looking-Glass world she sets off again, determined to reach the eighth square and she discovers that she has forgotten the names of things, even her own name. She comes across a fawn who has also forgotten the names of things and the two walk on together. When Alice and the fawn emerge from the forest, they walk through the forest with the fawn’s head lovingly clasped in Alice’s arms. As memories return to the fawn, he suddenly realizes that Alice is a human child and runs away in fear of her. Alice also remembers her name and walks on alone until she meets Tweedledee and Tweedledum and sees the Red King sleeping nearby.

When Alice reaches Tweedledee and Tweedledum’s house she tries to ask them for directions but they repeatedly ignore her questions and recite a poem instead. Alice hears a strange noise coming from the woods to which Tweedledum and Tweedledee say it is only the Red King snoring, and that she exists only as a figment of the Red King’s dream. Annoyed at the remark, Alice begins to cry but decides to console herself saying that they are only talking nonsense. A fight spontaneously erupts between the two of them as predicted in the nursery rhyme, over a broken rattle and a giant crow flies by and interrupts the fight sending Tweedledum and Tweedledee running.

Chapter 5, 6

In the meantime, Alice slips away and encounters the White Queen who tells her that time moves backward in the Looking- Glass world and as she speaks, the queen plasters her fingers, then screams in pain and finally pricks her finger on a brooch ( all of which actually should happen in reverse when a person pricks her fingers) . After explaining to Alice that she used to perform this impossible thing daily, she suddenly transforms into a Sheep in a shop and asks a stupefied Alice what she would like to buy. Before Alice can gather her wit and reply to her question the sheep asks Alice if she knows how to row and before Alice can reply to the question, they are already on the boat with Alice rowing down a stream. Then the boat crashes onto a hard surface and sends Alice falling and when she gathers herself up, she finds herself standing inside the shop.

Alice now half frightened and half astonished, purchases an egg from the sheep, and finds herself back in the forest where the egg has changed into Humpty Dumpty. Humpty Dumpty is a proud character, he sits on a wall and criticizes Alice for having a name that has no meaning. He explains that all names should have a meaning. He is arrogant and boasts to Alice that he can explain the meanings of words. When Alice hears of this talent of his, she asks him to explain the words of the poem “Jabberwocky” to her, he defines the words in the first stanza but then recites a portion of his own poem. Alice’s intelligence is questioned by Humpty Dumpty and that makes her a little angry. He is mean to Alice and then abruptly bids her farewell and Alice storms off in anger. As she walks away mumbling to herself, she hears a loud crash that shakes the forest and she watches the soldiers and the horsemen running to Humpty Dumpty trying to put back the shattered Humpty Dumpty again just as it is in the nursery rhyme.

Chapter 7, 8

As Alice walks on, she meets the White King who has sent his men to fix Humpty Dumpty and as they are talking, the King’s messenger Haigha comes and informs the king of the battle in the town. The battle is between the Unicorn and the Lion, so Alice sets off towards the town with her new companion to watch the battle. The Lion and the Unicorn then stop fighting after a while and the king calls for refreshments to be served. The King asks Alice to cut the cake and serve it but Alice fails to do so because the pieces always fuse together when cut, then, the Unicorn tells Alice that Looking glass cakes must be served first and sliced later. Alice distributes the cake again and as they are about to eat the cake a loud noise of drums begins and the deafening noise interrupts the feast and drives the Unicorn and the Lion away. After a while when the noise dies, Alice gradually raises her head to see if the commotion is over, then she finds everyone gone except for the setting of the place and the plum cake that lay at her feet. Then suddenly, the Red Knight gallops up to her and takes her as his prisoner. The White Knight then rescues her and promises to take her safely to the last square to become a queen. As they walk to the destination they talk about all his inventions and the Knight parts from her singing her a song called “Haddocks Eyes” but Alice recognizes the song as “I give thee all, I can no more”.

Chapter 9, 10, 11 and 12

As she crosses the final brook, Alice finds herself sitting on the bank with the crown on her head. Alice then finds herself in the company of the Red Queen and the White Queen who pester her tirelessly criticizing her manners, and how she needs to be examined before becoming a queen as they fall asleep in her lap. The sound of the party and the crashing of plates, dishes, guests and candles on the floor create an uproar that distracts Alice so much so that she does not realize that the two queens have vanished. Alice also discovers that the castle door has a huge “Queen Alice” written on it, she goes through the door and finds a huge banquet in her honour. Alice sits and begins but the party somehow devolves into chaos with the utensils and the two queens shrinking in size and an overwhelmed Alice wakes up from the dream holding Kitty who she believe is the Red Queen and wonders out aloud if her adventures were her own dream or the Red King’s dream.

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