9/24 Through the Looking-Glass (2)

1. “‘But it certainly was funny,’ (Alice said afterwards, when she was telling her sister the history of all this,) ‘to find myself singing ‘Here we go round the mulberry bush.’ I don’t know when I began it, but somehow I felt as if I’d been singing it a long long time!’” (AA 182).

I didn’t completely love this unexpected reference to harsh reality, post-Wonderland. Even though Alice sometimes mentions her sisters and her cat in Alice’s Adventures, I don’t recall Carroll including any direct references to her time after leaving. The entire narrative (until the very end, of course) remains in Wonderland. However, now, in Through the Looking-Glass Carroll drags us a little back to reality with this parenthetical note during the midst of a fantastical dancing scene with Tweedledum and Tweedledee and musical tree branches. What is his purpose in including this note? Is this to draw back in the “practical” reader whose suspension of disbelief is dwindling?

However, despite my grumblings about this parenthetical note, it’s promising that Carroll uses the word “history” rather than “story,” as the former adds a sort of credence and sincerity to the event, as if Alice were definitely recounting fact, not fiction.

2. “‘If I wasn’t real,’ Alice said—half-laughing through her tears, it all seemed so ridiculous—‘I shouldn’t be able to cry’” (AA 189).

I had to stop for a moment after I read this passage because it seemed like something I would read in a regular fiction novel. After Tweedledum and Tweedledee force her to confront the possibility that she’s a figment of the King’s dream, Alice responds like any mature young woman – both crying at subconscious fear and laughing to hide feeling overwhelmed. I wonder if this is a sign that Alice has matured since the first book.

Additionally, this passage is quite interesting, for in saying, “If I wasn’t real…I shouldn’t be able to cry,” Alice suggests that sorrow is a true marker of reality. In contrast, to Alice, unreality or imagination represents a state/place in which sadness cannot exist, only joy.

3. “‘You know,’ [Tweedledee] added very gravely, ‘it’s one of the most serious things that can possibly happen to one in a battle—to get one’s head cut off’” (AA 191-2).

Much like in Wile E. Coyote and the Three Stooges, it appears that Carroll uses the threat of lethal violence to create humor. Alice responds just as children did by laughing right after Tweedledee’s understatement concerning decapitation.

4. “I daresay you haven’t had much practice,’ said the Queen. ‘When I was your age, I always did it for half-an-hour a day. Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast’” (AA 199).

I clearly remember this last line in Tim Burton’s reproduction of Alice in Wonderland (2010). However, in the film it first appears when Alice remarks to her unappealing suitor, “My father said he sometimes believed in six impossible things before breakfast” (Burton, 6:40). Thus, I was surprised that the line actually comes from the mouth of the White Queen, and not Alice, in Carroll’s book. In the context of the book, it makes sense that the White Queen would say it, for the phrase epitomizes the fantastical nature of Wonderland, separate from Alice. On the other hand, in having Alice say it in the movie, it serves to tie Alice to Wonderland by emphasizing her wild imagination. Burton takes the phrase and runs with it, actually bringing it back in Alice’s final fight with the Jabberwocky, where she recounts six impossible things to give her courage.

5. “‘Let’s hear it,’ said Humpty Dumpty. ‘I can explain all poems that ever were invented—and a good many that haven’t been invented just yet’” (AA 214).

Is Carroll suggesting that most poems, or at least the poems of his time, had the same messages, said the same thing? Thus, in a world full of identical poetry, he had create some nonsense to stand out?

Or perhaps, Humpty Dumpty’s statement is simply another nonsensical remark?


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