Maia (Teresa) Wojciechowska Jean Fritz - Essay

Jean Fritz

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

The theme [of "Through the Broken Mirror with Alice"] is Man Against Man; nature has … been eliminated and, as far as one can see, all good men, including fathers and grandfathers, have been killed off. The scene is Harlem; the heroine is Alice who has been kicked out of her 12th foster home with only an imaginary bee to keep her company and a copy of [Lewis Carroll's] "Through the Looking Glass." Bee and book are both important: the bee to buzz inside Alice's head whenever life becomes too much, the book to convert the unhappy world of Harlem into the chessboard world of Lewis Carroll.

Alice, of course, becomes a pawn; the local librarian is the White Queen, the school history teacher is the Black Queen ("All the black ways around here belong to me," the Black Queen says. "And all the white ways belong to me," the White Queen adds); the school principal and the school psychiatrist become Tweedledum and Tweedledee ("Trust us, child," they tell Alice, "we know better than you who you are"); the welfare worker is Humpty Dumpty who believes in people staying "where they're at."

The most dangerous character, however, who pursues Alice throughout the book (and is finally rejected by her) takes on no Lewis Carroll disguise. In the old days when he felt loved, he was known as Uncle Sam, but now he is simply Sam, the Pusher Man who promises everyone safety inside his castle of dreams. A bitter and clever book with the air of a "West Side Story."

Jean Fritz, "Mostly Losers by Newbery Winners," in The New York Times Book Review (© 1972 by The New York Times Company; reprinted by permission), April, 1972, p. 8.∗