Study Guide

Through the Looking-Glass

by Lewis Carroll

Through the Looking-Glass Summary

Summary (Critical Survey of Literature for Students)

Alice is sure the whole thing is not the white kitten’s fault. It must surely be the fault of the black kitten. Dinah, the mother cat, who has been washing the white kitten’s face, certainly has nothing to do with it. The mischievous black kitten, however, has been unwinding Alice’s ball of yarn and in all ways acting naughty enough to cause the whole strange affair.

While the black kitten is curled up in Alice’s lap, playing with the yarn, Alice tells it to pretend that the two of them can go right through the mirror and into the looking-glass house. As she talks, the glass of the mirror grows misty and soft, and in a moment Alice is through the mirror and in the looking-glass room. The place is very strange; although the room looks just the same as the real room she had seen in the mirror, the clock and the fire and the other things in the room seem to be alive. Even the chessmen (Alice loves to play chess) are alive.

When Alice picks up the White Queen and sets her on the table, the White Queen screams in terror, thinking that a volcano has shaken her about. The White King has the same fear, but he is too astonished to cry out. They do not seem to see or hear Alice, and although she wants to stay and watch them and read the king’s rather funny poetry, she feels she must look at the garden before she has to go back through the looking glass. When she starts down the stairs, she seems to float, not even once touching the steps.

In the garden, every path Alice takes leads her straight back to the house. She asks Tiger Lily and Rose and Violet whether there are other people in the garden, hoping they might help her find the right path. The flowers tell her there is only one person, and Alice finds her to be the Red Queen—but a very strange chess figure, for the Red Queen is taller than Alice herself. As Alice walks toward the Red Queen, she once more finds herself back at the door of the house. Then Alice figures out that in order to get to any place in this queer land, one must walk in the opposite direction. She does so and comes face-to-face with the Red Queen.

The queen takes Alice to the top of a hill. There, spread out below them, is a countryside that looks like a large chessboard. Alice is delighted and says that she would love to play on this board. The Red Queen tells her that they will play; Alice will be the White Queen’s pawn, and they will start on the second square. At that moment, however, the Red Queen grabs Alice’s hand and they start to run. Alice has never run so fast in her life, but although she is breathless, the things around them never change at all. When they finally stop running, the queen tells Alice that in this land one has to run as fast as one can to stay in the same place and twice as fast as one can to get somewhere else. Then the queen shows Alice the pegs in the second square of the chessboard and tells her how to move. At the last peg, the Red Queen disappears, leaving Alice alone to continue the game.

Alice starts to run down the hill, but the next thing she knows she is on a train filled with insects and having quite an unpleasant time because she does not have a ticket. All the insects talk unkindly to her, and, to add to her discomfort, the train jumps over the brook and takes them all straight up in the air. When Alice comes down, she is sitting under a tree talking to Gnat, who is as big as a chicken and very pleasant. He tells her about the other insects that live in the woods; then he too melts away, and Alice has to go on alone.

Turning a corner, she bumps into two fat little men called Tweedledum and Tweedledee, the funniest little creatures she has ever seen. Everything they say seems to have two meanings. They recite a long poem about a walrus and a carpenter and some oysters. Then, while they are explaining the poem to Alice, she hears a puffing noise, like the sound of a steam engine. Tweedledee tells her that it is the Red King snoring, and, sure enough, they find him asleep. Tweedledee tells Alice that the Red King is dreaming about her and that if he stops dreaming Alice will be gone for good. Alice cries when they tell her she is not real but only a part of the Red King’s dream.

As she brushes her tears away, she sees Tweedledum staring...

(The entire section is 1751 words.)

Through the Looking-Glass Overview

The Alice stories are among the best and most widely known stories in the world. Through the Looking-Glass, containing the poems...

(The entire section is 192 words.)