Through the Looking Glass

Author: Lewis Carroll (Charles Dodgson)
Published: 1871
Website: Wikipedia Page

It is a well established rule that by and large, sequels do not measure up to the originals. They extend a pleasurable or fanciful world, the develop characters, but they do not add depth in original ways and create elements which influenced a generation. None of this is true of Through the Looking Glass (and what Alice Saw There), though it must be admitted that Looking Glass hardly acknowledges its role as a sequel, maintaining nothing from book to book except the main character, the cat and a powerful imagination.

The most enjoyable aspect of reading Through the Looking Glass, was the discovery of the context surrounding literary tidbits familiar to me because they have so ingrained themselves in our culture. Furthermore, the context was illuminating in a way that was not the case with Alice, because there was a semblance of structure, provided handily by the chess motif, in which Alice, as the pawn, made her way to the eighth square to become a queen. The Jabberwocky (a fantastic poem everyone should memorize), is not on its own, but a memorandum in the Red King’s notebook. The classic quote about thinking of six impossible things before breakfast is not a standalone from the inimitable Lewis Carroll but rather part of the White Queen’s personal worldview.

What all this adds up to is an impassioned defense of creativity, silliness and a touch of insanity in everyday life. Even the premise, that of going through a mirror, is part of everyone’s quotidian fantasies about what lies just on the other side, whereas almost no one I know ponders about the mysteries of what might be beyond the depths of a rabbit hole. The math and the wordplay are all important too, of course, but this other aspect is wound craftily throughout the storyline in a way that is never obvious. The subtle message is there, however, telling the readers to indulge their fantasies of talking to themselves, playing both sides of a croquet match or a chess board, and thinking about math, logic, language and fantasy in all sorts of new ways.

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