Tony Grist (poliphilo) wrote,
Tony Grist
poliphilo

Through The Looking-Glass

Through the Looking-Glass is an autumn tale.  While Alice dozes in front of the fire with her cat and kittens the boys are building a bonfire outside- presumably for Guy Fawkes night. And it's snowing. Snow in early November? Well, why not? Perhaps someone somewhere has looked at the weather records for Oxford in the mid-19th century and can tell us exactly which year this is.

The dimness of snowy November informs the book. We are in dark woods (like Dante) a whole lot of the time. Things are often blurry and hard to see. In the railway carriage we know there's a horse on the seat opposite- beyond the man in white paper and the goat- but we can't see him; in the shop a shapechanging object evades our direct view and eventually disappears upwards through the ceiling. The rushes that Alices pick fade away. A note of valediction and loss is constantly being sounded. The sorrowful gnat sighs itself into oblivion, the fawn- in an allegory of lost innocence- leaps away in alarm when it realises its loving companion is a human child; we pause for reflection as the White Knight- the most loveable character in either book- rides slowly away.

Where Wonderland ripples with anxiety, Through the Looking-Glass is pervaded with quiet melancholy. Alice herself is older and less threatened. We know from the start- when she is invisible and messing with the little chess people-  that she is the controlling intelligence- that this is her dream.

Or is it? How cruel of the Tweedles to suggest that it may in fact be the red king who is dreaming her! This is a deeper fear than any in Wonderland. The sadness rests upon existential dread. Look again, and the book is haunted by death- the jabberwock is cut down, the gnat is extinguished, the oysters are massacred, Humpty Dumpty will fall and be smashed- and all the king's horses and all the king's men won't be able to put him "in his place again".

I love both books, but Through The Looking-Glass best-  because it moves me more. 
 

Subscribe
  • Post a new comment

    Error

    default userpic

    Your reply will be screened

    When you submit the form an invisible reCAPTCHA check will be performed.
    You must follow the Privacy Policy and Google Terms of use.
  • 4 comments