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Review: Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll

Friday, July 25, 2014




Through the Looking Glass
Lewis Carroll


Genre: FantasyLiterary Nonsense
Paperback: 208 Pages
Publication: March 17, 2011 (originally 1871)
by Puffin




Synopsis

Nothing is quite what it seems once Alice journeys through the looking-glass, and Dodgson's wit is infectious as he explores concepts of mirror imagery, time running backward, and strategies of chess-all wrapped up in the exploits of a spirited young girl who parries with the Red Queen, Tweedledee and Tweedledum, and other unlikely characters.

Review

Much like Wonderland, we’ve probably all heard at some point the basic story of Through the Looking Glass. Alice is in her family’s drawing room when she climbs onto the mantel, slips through the drawing room mirror, and finds herself in the Looking Glass world, a place with the loose structure of a chess game and where things happen in reverse. Just like in the previous story Carroll wrote, Alice wakes up and finds that her adventure was all a dream.

Like its predecessor, there wasn’t a firm plot in the story. Alice’s driving motivation seemed to be her desire to become a queen, a feat she could accomplish by arriving to the eighth square. Like I said before, the Looking Glass world is supposed to be structured like a game of chess, hinted at by the fact that some of the secondary characters are game pieces brought to life, and the pieces' behavior is different according to their color (the red pieces are more aggressive, while the white ones are more meek).

The tone of the story seemed rather different than the one in Wonderland. Where the previous story came across as colorful and had a few more fun characters, the denizens of the Looking Glass world seemed more aggressive, and the world itself seemed darker to me. The biggest problem I had with the story was that it felt too confused. Even though there was the whole deal of Alice wanting to become a queen, there didn’t seem to be a real payoff when she accomplished it. Where in Wonderland there are several memorable characters, some of whom return during the trial at the end, there weren’t as many in the Looking Glass world. The majority were just quick cameos that, in my opinion, could easily have been cut.

The saving grace for this book, I think, was the portrayal of the few memorable characters. The Tweedles were absolutely fun, and the sibling rivalry between them is nonsensical but still funny to watch. There were brief cameos made by the March Hare and Mad Hatter from Wonderland, though in Looking Glass, they went by different names. The White Knight was easily my favorite character in the book. Despite his clumsiness and tendency to invent unusual and mostly useless utensils, he was gallant and chivalrous, and he wasn’t offensive nor easily offended, making his company more enjoyable for Alice and, in turn, for the reader. Even though he only appears for one chapter, I would’ve loved to have seen more of him. I personally think he would’ve been a great companion for Alice through the rest of her journey.

Again, I would recommend you watch the Disney film if you haven't done so in a while. Though it mostly adheres to the storyline of Wonderland, it does include some bits from this story as well. (The edition of the book I read for this review contained both stories. If you would like to check it out, click here.) Among the iconic elements associated with Alice present in Looking Glass include the Tweedles, the Walrus and the Carpenter, the concept of an unbirthday, and the Jabberwocky poem. The fun part will be spotting these elements in the film and seeing how they were blended in with the other story. Though Wonderland is the better known (and in my mind, the better done) of the two Alice stories, Looking Glass does have some strong bits that make it worth checking out.




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