Summary (Masterplots, Fourth Edition)
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....
(The entire section is 1751 words.)
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The Alice stories are among the best and most widely known stories in the world. Through the Looking-Glass, containing the poems "Jabberwocky" and "The Walrus and the Carpenter" and characters like the White Knight and Tweedledum and Tweedledee, have captivated generations of readers. It has also inspired other writers, who have quoted from it, titled their books after phrases in it, and made literary references and allusions to it more frequently than to any other books except Shakespeare's plays and the Bible. "Jabberwocky," indeed, is Carroll's best known and most frequently discussed poem.
What draws both children and adults to Through the Looking-Glass is its combination of fantasy and psychological truth, of wit and nonsense, and its subtle commentary on the real world. Carroll has a gift for telling a dreamlike, illogical tale as if it were natural and ordinary.
Although some readers may prefer Alice in Wonderland, others, like the poet W. H. Auden and early reviewers, preferred Through the Looking-Glass. In the latter book Alice is less a confused child and more a young adult playing at motherhood with her kittens and eager to assert herself to become a "queen."
(The entire section is 192 words.)