Essay Topic 1
The character of Alice was based on a real girl, an acquaintance of Lewis Carroll’s. In what way can we see the ‘real’ person’s characteristics?
Essay Topic 2
The Duchess and the Queen are both noble characters by title, but not temperament. Compare and contrast the two characters, highlighting their significance in the story.
Essay Topic 3
Alice’s journey through Wonderland is rarely, if ever, prosaic and every-day. In what way might the book be read as a metaphor for real life? Are there aspects of the novel that refuse such a reading?
Essay Topic 4
Alice’s cat, Dinah, never appears as a character herself in the book, but is often mentioned by Alice. What is Dinah’s significance, to the story and to Alice? What does she mean for other characters, and what does this indicate?
Essay Topic 5
Alice changes sizes many times throughout...
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Name examples in the book that indicate Alice is playing a game of chess. How do these examples correspond with important steps in her metaphorical journey to adulthood?
When she meets the White Queen in the garden in the beginning of the book, she is instructed to advance eight squares. She is told that she will become a queen when she reaches the final square. A chess board is eight squares across and when a pawn advances to the opposite edge, it becomes a queen. The Red Knight battles the White Knight for Alice, wanting to take her prisoner and in so doing prevent her from moving to the final square. Before crossing the final brook to the final square, the White Knight sings a sad song about an old and a young man, which is meant to warn young Alice about what lies ahead.
Describe situations in which Alice seems to be the adult rather than the characters she is talking to. Remark on the importance of this portrayal of Alice as a little adult in the context of Victorian perspectives on childhood.
Alice seems much more able and sensible than the White Knight, who cannot even ride his own horse. She also makes more sense than Humpty Dumpty, who claims to be a master linguist. When she is sitting with her cats, she lectures them as if she is their mother. She scolds her kitten, Dina, for misbehaving with the yarn and milk. She also mediates the fight between Tweedledee and Tweedledum.
Which characters are helpful to Alice on her journey and which are hurtful? Explain.
This question has a bit of a gray answer, because many of the characters in the book communicate with Alice via riddles. Often these riddles simply confuse Alice, but sometimes they contain important lessons and pieces of information. But a clear distinction between antagonists and protagonists exists along the lines of red and white characters. Alice is a white pawn, so she is obviously allied with the other white characters in the game.
The metaphysical question encouraged by Tweedledee and Tweedledum about Alice's existence is disturbing yet important. Explain what they might have meant by posing this idea and how it fits into Carroll's broader message.
The twin brothers suggest that Alice does not, in fact, exist at all, and that she is merely a figure of the Red King's imagination. This idea fits in with Carroll's experiments in logic, and his employment of the "null set" idea. One example of this is the White King's observation that Alice has keen sensations if she is able to notice "Nobody" traveling on the road. The fact that Alice might not exist is also consistent with the theme of identity and its discovery. Alice is traveling in a backwards world, so she is technically an inversion of herself. The end of the journey coincides with her assertion of her character even while in the looking-glass world.
How does I [Through the Looking Glass] differ from Alice in Wonderland? How are the two books similar?
Carroll's sequel is rather different from the first installment. It is automatically darker, for it begins in winter and inside Alice's house. It also deals with heavier questions in a more direct way, such as the discovery of identity and the progression towards maturity. However, Carroll does recycle a few characters, and he does still have Alice moving through several stages in a strange world before she can return home. The characters speak in riddles in both books, and Alice is still trying to make sense of a fantastical environment.
What is the meaning or moral of "The Walrus and the Carpenter"?
This is a trick question, in some ways, because there is no definitive interpretation of the poem. Some scholars have ventured to say that it is merely another example of fantastical whimsy in the book, and that it is not meant to be analyzed, but instead left to the imagination of children. However, there is a sense that the innocence of the oysters led them to ruin, which could be tied to the larger theme of childhood and innocence that pervades the book.
What role does poetry play in Through the Looking Glass?
This depends on the situation and the characters. The introduction of "Jabberwocky" allows the author to play with the theme of mirrors and reversal. "The Walrus and the Carpenter" provides an opportunity for Tweedledee and Tweedledum to confuse Alice. They have a debate following the recitation of the poem, in which Alice cannot decide who is the moral character. This puzzlement is consistent with the toying nature of the twins. The White Knight's poem/song is an expression of Alice's transition from childhood to adulthood. Finally, the poem at the conclusion of the book is a tribute to Carroll's inspiration, Alice Liddell, and more generally, the imagination and innocence of children.
Do you get the sense that Alice is in control of her own destiny in the book, or are there stronger forces at play moving her towards a predetermined fate?
Alice is told at the beginning of her journey that she must get to the eighth square. The White Queen gives her instructions for what she must do, but it seems that Alice is basically pushed and directed by other characters in most cases towards her ultimate goal. At the same time, Alice seems very much in charge at the end of the feast, but this seems to be what removes her from the dream and lands her back in reality.
Respond to Carroll's question at the conclusion of the book.
It is suggested at one point in the book that Alice is a figment of the Red King's dream. And in the last chapter, the reader gets a sense that Alice was dreaming the entire time and that she has just woken up. However, when the narrator poses the question, and then includes the final poem, it appears that the greater message is that the story was inevitably the author's dream.
Comment on the characters' overall treatment of Alice. What does this say about the nature of her journey?
Most of the characters in the Looking Glass world are ridiculous and somewhat rude or abrasive. They confuse, debate and make demands of Alice. The only character that shows Alice sincere and consistent kindness is the White Knight. Alice is progression along the chessboard, which represents her path to adulthood. The inconsiderate treatment she receives highlights the loneliness and alienation of this particular kind of journey.