The Intertwined Lives of Alice, Alice, and Lewis Carroll

[(essay dated June 13, 2015) In the following essay E.T. analyzes the development of the female character, Alice, in Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking Glass during her journey to womanhood. E.T. also notes the parallels between Carroll’s friendship with Alice Liddell and his character Alice.]

Lewis Carroll grew up an outcast from his peers, with a speech impediment. He communicated clearly with younger children, but struggled to do the same with his peers. He befriended Alice Liddell, whom he bases his ever famous fictional Alice from.

The book is prefaced with a chessboard. The chess game that Alice participates in becomes the motive for her adventure in Looking-Glass World. “’I declare it's marked out just like a large chessboard!’ Alice said at last… It’s a great huge game of chess that's being played all over the world- if this is the world at all, you know. Oh what fun it is! How I wish I was one of them! I wouldn't mind being a Pawn, if only I might join- though of course should like to be a Queen best (Carroll 15).” Alice’s journey closely follows the rules of a traditional game of chess, never straying. The roles and movements of the individual characters correspond to the movements of their respective chess pieces. The pieces are red and white instead of a traditional black and white, but the rules remain the same. The Red and White Queens have an unlimited view of the board, since queens can move in any direction and as many spaces as they want in a single turn. The Red and White Kings can only move one space at a time in any direction, so while having the same perspective as the queens, they have limited mobility. As a pawn, Alice can only move forward once space at a time. When Alice wins the game of chess she moves from pawn to nobility, becoming queen and having full array of the chess board.

In the opening chapter, Alice plays with the kittens. The novel ends with Alice suggesting that she might have fallen asleep, or might have fallen into one of the kittens' dreams. The characters and scenes that she encounters exist as both her memories and impressions of the world and the fantasies of her dreaming mind. Carroll emphasizes the dream motif by basing some of the inhabitants of Looking-Glass World on individuals from the life of his friend, Alice Liddell. The Red Queen is based on Alice’s instructor, Miss Prickett, while the White Knight is closely based upon Lewis Carroll himself. Carroll pulls from his life and the life of his own Alice to create the magical world beyond the looking glass.

In conclusion, throughout Alice’s adventures she feels an unavoidable sense of loneliness. She cannot escape the feeling. Before she enters Looking-Glass World, her only companions are her cats. She personifies the cats, giving them human characteristics, to keep her company. Once she enters Looking-Glass World, she seeks companionship and understanding from the individuals that she meets. More often than not she is disappointed. The flowers and Humpty Dumpty treat her indecently, the Red Queen is abrupt, and the Fawn runs far and fast once it realizes that she is a human. She receives little compassion from others and often becomes sad. The one character who shows her compassion is the White Knight, who must leave her when she reaches the eighth square and must take on her role of Queen. Alice’s dreams deal with the apprehensions of growing up and becoming a young woman. Since Alice believes that loneliness is an integral part of growing up, even in her dreams she must face the move into womanhood alone.

(E.T. 2015)