Tuesday, December 22, 2009

306. Through the Looking Glass – Lewis Carroll

History: This book was written in 1871 and is a sequel to Alice in Wonderland.
Plot: Alice is playing with her kittens—a black and a white kitten, the offspring of Dinah, Alice's cat in the first book—when she ponders what the world is like on the other side of a mirror (the reflected scene displayed on its surface), and to her surprise, is able to pass through to experience the alternate world. There, she discovers a book with looking-glass poetry, "Jabberwocky", which she can read only by holding it up to a mirror. Upon leaving the house, she enters a garden, where the flowers speak to her and mistake her for a flower. There, Alice also meets the Red Queen, who offers a throne to Alice if she moves to the eighth rank in a chess match. Alice is placed as the White Queen's pawn, and begins the game by taking a train to the fourth rank, acting on the rule that pawns in chess can move two spaces on their first move.
She then meets Tweedledum and Tweedledee, whom she knows from the famous nursery rhyme. After reciting to her the long poem "The Walrus and the Carpenter," the two proceed to act out the events of their own poem. Alice continues on to meet the White Queen, who is very absent-minded and later transforms into a sheep in a shop, then they find themselves on a small boat.
The following chapter details her meeting with Humpty Dumpty, who explains to her the meaning of "Jabberwocky," before his inevitable fall from the wall. This is followed by an encounter with the Lion and the Unicorn, who again proceed to act out a nursery rhyme. She is then rescued from the Red Knight by the White Knight. He repeatedly falls off his horse, and recites a poem of his own composition to her.
At this point, Alice reaches the eighth rank and becomes a queen, and by capturing the Red Queen, puts the Red King (who has remained stationary throughout the book) into checkmate. She then awakes from her dream, holding the black kitten, whom she believes to have been the Red Queen, the White kitten being the White Queen.
Review: Whereas the first book has the deck of cards as a theme, this book is based on a game of chess, played on a giant chessboard with fields for squares. Scholars describe this book as "literary nonsense." That means it doesn't have to make sense, and it's perfectly okay to enjoy the poems and the book as they'd seem to a child - pretentious and silly.
Opening Line: “One thing was certain, that the white kitten had had nothing to do with it – it was the black kitten’s fault entirely.”
Closing Line: “Which do you think it was?”
Quotes: “Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gamble in the wabe;
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.”
Rating: Okay.

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