At the mention of the name Alice, one tends to usually think of the children’s stories by Lewis Carroll. Namely, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass are two classic works of children’s literature that for over a century have been read by children and adults alike.
These two stories tell the tale of a young girl named Alice who finds herself in peculiar surroundings, where she encounters many different and unusual characters. Although Alice is at the centre of both stories, each tale is uniquely different in its purpose, characters and style. Carroll first published Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland in 1865, three years after he had first told the story to the young girl Alice Liddell and her sisters, following her request for a story full of nonsense. The creation of this story began on a river picnic as Carroll began telling the tale of Alice in Wonderland to entertain the girls. Unlike the spontaneity in the creation of the first story, Carroll’s Through the Looking Glass was published six years after the first, when Alice was a teenager. This latter story was more logical than the first and clearly differed from it in both its style and direction. The introduction of Alice and how she finds herself in the “other” world is very different in each of the stories. In Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Alice’s curiosity and boredom leads her to follow the White Rabbit as he rushes passed her. She ends up falling down the rabbit hole which takes both her and the reader into a world of magic and disorder. Carroll’s Wonderland is a place where Alice finds many of the characters difficult and odd. She encounters various characters along her journey, many of whom likely represented real people known to the real Alice Liddell.
Throughout the first story, Alice also finds herself growing and shrinking at various stages, something that Carroll does not repeat in Through the Looking Glass. Alice’s curiosity also leads her into the “other” world in Through the Looking Glass. Unlike Carroll’s first story, this world is one that is logical and in that loses some of its magic. As Alice enters through the glass mirror, her surroundings become reversed and Carroll repeats this image of reversal throughout the story in the poem of the Jabberwocky, the mirror images of Tweedledee and Tweedledum, as well as when the White Queen shrieks first and picks herself later. This use of reversal is not found in Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Both of these stories are structured differently in the manner in which Carroll had written them. For Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, there is no direction to the story and one could almost place the chapters in any sequence and the story would still make sense. However, the opposite is true for Through the Looking Glass as Carroll clearly indicated at the beginning with the introduction of the chess game. This image of a chess board is fundamental to understanding the story in Through the Looking Glass and portrays a sense of logic and order to the reader. Throughout the story, the reader has a clear sense of direction as to where the story will go next and each chapter follows in sequence. Alice’s journey in the second story is to go from being a pawn to that of a Queen.
Carroll’s use of the chess board is also important in Alice’s transition to adulthood. Her journey across the chess board from being a pawn to reaching the status of Queen represents the growth of being a child to becoming an adult. This emphasis is conveyed primarily in Through the Looking Glass and Carroll conveys this through the encounters that Alice has with the various characters, mainly the Queens and the Kings. The Queen always seems one step ahead of Alice, similar to what a child feels in an “adult” world. Carroll continues to express the tyranny of adulthood through Alice’s encounters and journey. She soon learns that becoming a Queen was not all she had anticipated it to be. This growth to adulthood is not as evident in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, rather it is in Wonderland that Carroll conveys adulthood from a child’s perspective. This is evident in the way the characters interact with Alice, in that they are always telling her what to do. Through this book, Carroll communicates a real insightful and intuitive view of how children think. In a very illogical world, Alice continues to think logically. Another characteristic primarily found in Through the Looking Glass is the playing with language and the word games that Carroll uses. Although this is evident in both stories, Carroll seems to really use word games in the second story to create humour. When Alice enters the garden of live flowers, she finds that the flowers can speak to her. Here, Carroll demonstrates his ability to play with language through their conversations. Speaking of the tree in the middle of the garden, the flowers respond to Alice. “ ‘It could bark’, said the Rose. ‘It says Bough-Wough!’ cried the Daisy: ‘ that’s why its branches are called boughs!’” (208) This use of word games can also be found in Alice’s encounter with Humpty Dumpty, a well-known nursery rhyme character. In writing Through the Looking Glass, it appears that Carroll was seeking inspiration. Unlike the first story, it did not form in such a magical way and therefore may read more serious than the first. The second story also portrays added images of negativity and pessimism. Alice is speaking to the King as they discuss how she saw nobody on the road. “ ‘I wish I only had such eyes’, the King remarked in a fretful tone. ‘To be able to see Nobody!’” (286) Both stories end in different ways, but with similar emotions. In Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Alice finds herself in court where she begins to argue with the Queen.
The pack of cards come at her, and she the wakes up out of a dream to find her sister. The last page of this story is written by Charles Dodgson, not Lewis Carroll, in his attempts to bring it all back to reality, and through the scene with Alice’s sister he apologises for the fantasy and may be worried about his reputation. This is especially evident in the heaviness of the language and the sentimental ending. In Through the Looking Glass Alice grows angry after being at the feast that was allegedly in celebration of her becoming a Queen and upsets the table. She grabs the Queen and then awakes to find that she is shaking her cat. Carroll ends the story with a question to the reader - who had really dreamed the dream, Alice or the Red King? This ending is open to the reader to conclude. There exists several differences between Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass.
These differences may be due to the disparity in time between the writing of both stories and the circumstances that surrounded Carroll’s writing, as well as the intention that Carroll possessed when he began to tell the tale. However, these differences are essential to the distinctive nature of each story and convey to the reader a different portrayal of the view that Carroll had of the relationship between child and adult. Whether it was the difference between characters in the stories, or the style in which the story was written, they play an important role in the development of Alice and in the depiction that Carroll intended.