Continuing with the classics theme, I read “Through the Looking Glass” by Lewis Carroll. It is, of course, the sequel to “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.” Like the story that preceded it, this one too is a dream. And again, Lewis Carroll fills the story with plenty of dreamy clues and surreal hints.
It begins innocently enough in the living room of Alice’s home where she finds herself wondering about the house on the other side of the looking glass. How it resembles her own home so perfectly—at least, the parts she can see. Soon, she finds herself transported through the glass into Looking-Glass House where she has an encounter with the White King and White Queen and reads an excerpt from a Looking-Glass Book about the fabled Jabberwocky (a creature which makes no appearance in the story except through the reference of some poems, songs, and conversations).
After that, Alice goes out into a garden of living, talking flowers and meets the Red Queen who sets her on a quest to travel across the land (a land designed much like a chessboard) a full eight squares, so she can ascend from pawn to queen. She takes a train to the second square (or would that be the third?) encountering a few random critters here and there. She goes on traveling from square to square, all in a row, encountering strange creatures and beings at every stop. There’s Humpty Dumpty, Tweedledee and Tweedledum, and a well-meaning white knight who keeps falling off his horse. Finally, she reaches the eighth square and is queened by the Red Queen and the White Queen who sit down on either side of her for a nice chat about queen etiquette or some such thing. Then, she is treated to a grand feast, but there is some confusion about whether or not she should actually eat her food—all of it talks and takes offense at being sliced up. Then, of course, she wakes up and finds out it really is all a dream.
Strengths: well, again, Lewis Carroll was able to convey the surreal qualities that mark dreams for what they are. Also, I thought the chess game matrix that overlay the entire dream to be a clever tactic; it provided a loose structure to the dream that might have otherwise been lacking. Weaknesses: well, since it is only a dream, I found that, like in the previous story, it was difficult to get invested in the characters or even the land as it demonstrated a tendency to morph from one scene to another. So, its strength was also its weakness. Other than that, it was a good fanciful yarn that helps one grapple with the whole subject of dreaming and the sleeping mind. There was nothing dark and sinister in it; it was really quite enjoyable and suitable for children.
Overall, I’ll give the book three and half, maybe four stars out of five.
I’ve been kind of in the mood to read classics lately, so I decided to review “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” by Lewis Carroll for this here blog. I’ve never read it before. Yes, can you believe it? A westerner who hasn’t read “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.” I didn’t know what to expect, really. A friend of mine told me once that the Alice in Wonderland series was very dark, but I didn’t get that at all from reading this book. He must have been smoking something, or I totally missed some grand sinister undercurrent.
Anyway, the book tells the story of young Alice who, while sitting outside with her sister, falls asleep and has a dream. I guess that’s a spoiler. The whole thing is a dream. I never knew that growing up (of course, I’d never read it). Every retelling I’ve seen on TV or in the theatre never gave me the impression with certainty that it was only a dream. I was always under the impression that Alice traveled to some strange new mystical world where magical things were commonplace. I guess not. She just nodded off in her sister’s lap.
Anyway, as an adult it was fairly easy to figure out that it was a dream. Lewis Carroll gave plenty of clues. There was a kind of discombobulated nature to the flow of the plot. Alice would be in one spot doing one thing, then things would kind of change in a vague surreal way so that she was now involved with something else: First she’s crying; then she’s swimming in a pool of her own tears with a mouse who showed up out of nowhere. There really isn’t a cohesive plot structure; it’s just a series of unrelated events with fantastical characters—talking animals, sentient playing cards, etc… The highlights were a game of croquet using animals for both mallets and balls, and a trial regarding stolen tarts. The Queen of Hearts, although she quite often yelled to have someone’s head chopped off, was far less sinister than I expected. Then, Alice woke up, and it was over.
Strengths … well, it gets a few points for being unusual. But that’s what you get for writing about a dream. It did capture the surreal nature of dreams fairly well. Well enough that I figured out it was only a dream. Weaknesses … well, since it’s only a dream, I really didn’t get too invested in the story. I found it kind of dull. Alice’s thoughts were interesting and did seem child-like, so that’s another testament to the author’s skill. The events in the story and the story itself were child-safe—not dark at all from what I could tell.
Anyway, I’ll give it three and a half out of five stars.
This review originally appeared on Goodreads on 2/17/13.