born Jan. 27, 1832, Daresbury, Cheshire, Eng.
died Jan. 14, 1898, Guildford, Surrey
pseudonym of Charles Lutwidge Dodgson English logician,
mathematician, photographer, and novelist, especially
remembered for Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (1865) and
its sequel, Through the Looking-Glass (1871). His poem The
Hunting of the Snark (1876) is nonsense literature of the
Dodgson was the eldest son and third child in a family of
seven girls and four boys born to Frances Jane Lutwidge, the
wife of the Rev. Charles Dodgson. He was born in the old
parsonage at Daresbury. His father was perpetual curate
there from 1827 until 1843, when he became rector of Croft
in Yorkshire—a post he held for the rest of his life (though
later he became also archdeacon of Richmond and a canon of
The Dodgson children, living as they did in an isolated
country village, had few friends outside the family but,
like many other families in similar circumstances, found
little difficulty in entertaining themselves. Charles from
the first showed a great aptitude for inventing games to
amuse them. With the move to Croft when he was 12 came the
beginning of the “Rectory Magazines,” manuscript
compilations to which all the family were supposed to
contribute. In fact, Charles wrote nearly all of those that
survive, beginning withUseful and Instructive Poetry (1845;
published 1954) and following with The Rectory Magazine (c.
1850, mostly unpublished), The Rectory Umbrella (1850–53),
and Mischmasch (1853–62; published with The Rectory Umbrella
Meanwhile, young Dodgson attended Richmond School, Yorkshire
(1844–45), and then proceeded to Rugby School (1846–50). He
disliked his four years at public school, principally
because of his innate shyness, although he was also
subjected to a certain amount of bullying; he also endured
several illnesses, one of which left him deaf in one ear.
After Rugby he spent a further year being tutored by his
father, during which time he matriculated at Christ Church,
Oxford (May 23, 1850). He went into residence as an
undergraduate there on Jan. 24, 1851.
Dodgson excelled in his mathematical and classical studies
in 1852; on the strength of his performance in examinations,
he was nominated to a studentship (called a scholarship in
other colleges). In 1854 he gained a first in mathematical
Finals—coming out at the head of the class—and proceeded to
a bachelor of arts degree in December of the same year. He
was made a “Master of the House” and a senior student
(called a fellow in other colleges) the following year and
was appointed lecturer in mathematics (the equivalent of
today'stutor), a post he resigned in 1881. He held his
studentship until the end of his life.
As was the case with all fellowships at that time, the
studentship at Christ Church was dependent upon his
remaining unmarried, and, by the terms of this particular
endowment, proceeding to holy orders. Dodgson was ordained a
deacon in the Church of England on Dec. 22, 1861.Had he gone
on to become a priest he could have married and would then
have been appointed to a parish by the college. But he felt
himself unsuited for parish work and, though he considered
the possibility of marriage, decided that he was perfectly
content to remain a bachelor.
Dodgson's association with children grew naturally enough
out of his position as an eldest son with eight younger
brothers and sisters. He also suffered from a bad stammer
(which he never wholly overcame, although he was able to
preach with considerable success in later life) and, like
manyothers who suffer from the disability, found that he was
able to speak naturally and easily to children. It is
therefore not surprising that he should begin to entertain
the children of Henry George Liddell, dean of Christ Church.
Alice Liddell and her sisters Lorina and Edith were not, of
course, the first of Dodgson's child friends. They had been
preceded or were overlapped by the children of the writer
George Macdonald, the sons of the poet Alfred, Lord
Tennyson, and various otherchance acquaintances. But the
Liddell children undoubtedly held an especially high place
in his affections—partly because they were the only children
in Christ Church, since only heads of houses were free both
to marry and to continuein residence.
Properly chaperoned by their governess, Miss Prickett
(nicknamed “Pricks”—“one of the thorny kind,” and so the
prototype of the Red Queen in Through the Looking-Glass),
the three little girls paid many visits to the young
mathematics lecturer in his college rooms. As Alice
remembered in 1932, they
used to sit on the big sofa on each side of
him, while he told us stories, illustrating them by
pencil or ink drawings as he went along . . . . He
seemed to have an endless store of these fantastical
tales, which he made up as he told them, drawing
busily on a large sheet of paper all the time. They
were not always entirely new. Sometimes they were
new versions of old stories; sometimes they started
on the old basis, but grew into new tales owing to
the frequent interruptions which opened up fresh and
On July 4, 1862, Dodgson and his friend Robinson
Duckworth, fellow of Trinity, rowed the three children up
the Thames from Oxford to Godstow, picnicked on the bank,
and returnedto Christ Church late in the evening: “On which
occasion,” wrote Dodgson in his diary, “I told them the
fairy-tale of Alice's Adventures Underground, which I
undertook to write out for Alice.” Much of the story was
based on a picnic a couple of weeks earlier when they had
all been caught in the rain; for some reason, this inspired
Dodgson to tell so much better a story than usual that both
Duckworth and Alice noticed the difference, and Alice went
so far as to cry, when they parted at the door of the
deanery, “Oh, Mr. Dodgson, I wish you would write out
Alice's adventures for me!”
Dodgson himself recollected in 1887
how, in a desperate attempt to strike out some
new lineof fairy-lore, I had sent my heroine
straight down a rabbit-hole, to begin with, without
the least idea what was to happen afterwards.
Dodgson was able to write down the story more or less as
told and added to it several extra adventures that had been
told on other occasions. He illustrated it with his own
crude but distinctive drawings and gave the finished product
to Alice Liddell, with no thought of hearing of it again.
But the novelist Henry Kingsley, while visiting the deanery,
chanced to pick it up from the drawing-room table, read it,
and urged Mrs. Liddell to persuade the author to publish it.
Dodgson, honestly surprised, consulted his friend George
Macdonald, author of some of the best children's stories of
the period. Macdonald took it home to be read to his
children, and his son Greville, aged six, declared that he
“wished there were 60,000 volumes of it.”
Accordingly, Dodgson revised it for publication. He cut out
the more particular references to the previous picnic (they
may be found in the facsimile of the original manuscript,
later published by him as Alice's Adventures Underground in
1886) and added some additional stories, told to the
Liddellsat other times, to make up a volume of the desired
length. At Duckworth's suggestion he got an introduction to
John Tenniel, the Punch magazine cartoonist, whom he
commissioned to make illustrations to his specification. The
book was published as Alice's Adventures in Wonderland in
1865. (The first edition was withdrawn because of bad
printing, and only about 21 copies survive—one of the rare
books of the 19th century—and the reprint was ready for
publication by Christmas of the same year, though dated
The book was a slow but steadily increasing success, and by
the following year Dodgson was already considering a sequel
to it, based on further stories told to the Liddells. The
result was Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found
There (dated 1872; actually published December 1871), a work
as good as, or better than, its predecessor.
By the time of Dodgson's death, Alice (taking the two
volumes as a single artistic triumph) had become the most
popular children's book in England: by the time of his
centenary in 1932 it was one of the most popular and perhaps
the most famous in the world.
There is no answer to the mystery of Alice's success. Many
explanations have been suggested, but, like the Mad Hatter's
riddle (“The riddle, as originally invented, had no answer
at all”), they are no more than afterthoughts. The book is
not an allegory; it has no hidden meaning or message, either
religious, political, or psychological, as some have tried
to prove; and its only undertones are some touches of gentle
satire—on education for the children's special benefit and
on familiar university types, whom the Liddells may or may
not have recognized. Various attempts have been made to
solve the “riddle of Lewis Carroll” himself; these include
the efforts to prove that his friendships with little girls
were some sort of subconscious substitute for a married
life, that he showed symptoms of jealousy when his
favourites came to tell him that they were engaged to be
married, that he contemplated marriage with some of
them—notably with Alice Liddell. But there is little orno
evidence to back up such theorizing. He in fact dropped the
acquaintance of Alice Liddell when she was 12, as he did
with most of his young friends. In the case of the Liddells,
hisfriendship with the younger children, Rhoda and Violet,
was cut short at the time of his skits on some of Dean
Liddell's Christ Church “reforms.” For besides children's
stories, Dodgson also produced humorous pamphlets on
university affairs, which still make good reading. The best
of these werecollected by him as Notes by an Oxford Chiel
Besides writing for them, Dodgson is also to be remembered
as a fine photographer of children and of adults as well
(notable portraits of the actress Ellen Terry, the poet
Alfred, Lord Tennyson, the poet-painter Dante Gabriel
Rossetti, and many others survive and have been often
reproduced). Dodgson had an early ambition to be an artist:
failing in this, he turned to photography. He photographed
children in every possible costume and situation, finally
making nude studies of them. But in 1880 Dodgson abandoned
his hobby altogether, feeling that it was taking up too much
time that might be better spent. Suggestions that this
sudden decision was reached because of an impurity of motive
for his nude studies have been made, but again without any
Before he had told the original tale of Alice's Adventures,
Dodgson had, in fact, published a number of humorous items
in verse and prose and a few inferior serious poems. The
earliest of these appeared anonymously, but in March 1856
apoem called “Solitude” was published over the pseudonym
Lewis Carroll. Dodgson arrived at this pen name by taking
his own names Charles Lutwidge, translating them into Latin
as Carolus Ludovicus, then reversing and retranslating them
into English. He used the name afterward for all his
nonacademic works. As Charles L. Dodgson, he was the author
of a fair number of books on mathematics, none of enduring
importance, although Euclid and His Modern Rivals (1879) is
of some historical interest.
His humorous and other verses were collected in 1869 as
Phantasmagoria and Other Poems and later separated (with
additions) as Rhyme? and Reason? (1883) and Three Sunsets
and Other Poems (published posthumously, 1898). The 1883
volume also contained The Hunting of the Snark, a narrative
nonsense poem that is rivalled only by the best of Edward
Later in life, Dodgson had attempted a return to the Alice
vein but only produced Sylvie and Bruno (1889) and its
second volume, Sylvie and Bruno Concluded (1893), which has
been described aptly as “one of the most interesting
failures in English literature.” This elaborate combination
of fairy-tale, social novel, and collection of ethical
discussions is unduly neglected and ridiculed. It presents
the truest available portrait of the man. Alice, the perfect
creation of the logical and mathematical mind applied to the
pure and unadulterated amusement of children, was struck out
of him as if by chance; while making full use of his
specialized knowledge, it transcends his weaknesses and
Roger Lancelyn Green
Lewis Carroll - photographer
Edith, Lorina, and
Alice Liddell, c. 1859.
Albumen print. Photography Collection, Humanities Research Center,
University of Texas, Austin.
Edith, Lorina and Alice Liddell
Alice Liddell, 1959
Alice Liddell, 1858
Alice Liddell, 1870
Dante Gabriel Rossetti
Alexander Munro and wife
Annie Rogers and Mary Jackson
Mr. and Mrs. Millais with their two daughters.
Alice Constance Westmacott
Illustrations by Arthur Rackham
Alice's Adventures in Wonderland
Wholly familiar as an integral part of our culture, Carroll's
trip down the rabbit hole is a children's book containing enough
bizarre satire, wordplay, and comedy to satisfy any adult
reader. Indeed, the Surrealist Andre Breton wrote of Alice that
here, "accommodation to the absurd readmits adults to the
mysterious realm inhabited by children." Far from patronizing
children, the book is positively educative for jaded adults.
Published in 1865, the same year as Lautreamont's infernal The
Songs of Maldoror and Rimbaud's A Season in Hell, Alice may be a
radically English, genteel journey into a dream landscape, yet
it is not without its dark side. Dozing on the bank of the River
Isis, seven-year-old Alice spies the waistcoated White Rabbit
anxiously checking his watch and decides, precipitously, to
follow him underground. In her pursuit of the punctilious bunny,
she stumbles into an assortment of odd predicaments. As she
tipples potions and nibbles fungi she grows and shrinks from the
size of a mouse to the size of a house, or sprouts a neck as
long as a snake's. She encounters characters now inscribed on
all our consciousnesses: the Mouse, bobbing in the "Pool of
Tears," whose tale is typographically rendered as a tail; the
hookah-puffing Caterpillar; the horrifying Duchess, nursing a
pig; the disappearing grin of the Cheshire Cat; the tea-drinking
Mad Hatter and March Hare sgueezing Dormouse into a teapot; the
murderous Queen of Hearts who plays croquet with
flamingo-mallets; and the dolorous Mock Turtle, who teaches her
the Lobster Quadrille. Ever the prim ingenue, Alice tries to
confront madness with logic, in a story that digs gently at the
unsympathetic puritanism of Victorian bourgeois child-rearing
practice. This is a book that must be read with Tenniel's
ALICE'S ADVENTURES IN WONDERLAND
Illustrations by Arthur Rackham
Type of work: Imaginative tale
Author: Lewis Carroll (Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, 1832-1898)
Type of plot: Fantasy
Time of plot: Victorian England
Locale: The dream world of an imaginative child
First published: 1865
Illustrations by Arthur Rackham
Carroll's classic fantasy can be read on many levels and
appreciated by diverse audiences: it is at once a biting social and
political satire sufficiently complex to satisfy the most sophisticated
adult, and a delightfully whimsical fairytale to capture the fancy of
the imaginative child.
Illustrations by Arthur Rackham
Alice, a curious, imaginative strong-willed, and honest young
English girl. She falls asleep by the side of a stream in a meadow and
dreams that she follows a White Rabbit down his hole. She has many
adventures in a Wonderland peopled by all kinds of strange characters
The White Rabbit, anxious, aristocratic, dandified. Alice follows him
down his hole, which leads to an enchanted house and garden. The White
Rabbit is a Prime Minister of sorts in this Wonderland, for he has close
contact with the royalty there and carries out their orders, although he
does not institute policy.
The Queen of Hearts, the ill-tempered Queen of Wonderland. She
constantly demands that everyone who crosses her to be beheaded. Fond of
croquet, she orders Alice to take part in a game in which flamingos are
used for mallets and hedgehogs for balls. She issues an order for
Alice's execution at the end of the book, but this order is never
carried out because Alice accuses the Queen and all her company of being
only a pack of cards, an assertion that turns out to be true.
The King of Hearts, a timid, kindly man. Although he is completely under
his wife's power because of her temper, he manages to pardon all her
The Duchess, another member of royalty in Wonderland, a
platitude-quoting, moralizing, ugly old woman who lives in a chaotic
house. Deathly afraid of the Queen, she is ordered to be beheaded, but
the sentence is never carried out.
The Cook, the Duchess' servant. She flavors everything with pepper,
insults her mistress, and throws cooking pans at her.
The Cheshire Cat, the Duchess' grinning cat. Continually vanishing and
reappearing, he is a great conversationalist, and he tells Alice much of
the gossip in Wonderland.
The Duchess' Baby, a strange, howling, little infant. The baby turns
into a pig when the Duchess entrusts it to Alice's care.
The Knave of Hearts, a timid, poetry-writing fellow accused of stealing
some tarts that the Queen has made.
The March Hare, the rude host of a mad tea party to which Alice invites
herself and then wishes that she had not.
The Mad Hatter, a riddle-making, blunt, outspoken guest at the tea
party. He is a good friend of the March Hare, and at the party the two
try to prove to Alice that she is stupid.
The Dormouse, another guest at the tea party. He is a sleepy creature,
aroused long enough to recite for Alice and then pushed headfirst into
The Gryphon, a mythical creature, half bird, half animal, who escorts
Alice to the home of the Mock Turtle so that she may hear the recital of
the Turtle's life story.
The Mock Turtle, an ever-sobbing animal. He recites his life's story to
Alice and everyone else within earshot.
The Caterpillar, a hookah-smoking insect who perches on the top of a
magic mushroom. Officious and easily offended, he tests Alice's
intelligence with a series of ridiculous riddles.
Bill, The Lizard, an unfortunate fellow picked by the other animals to
go down the chimney of the White Rabbit's house and try to force out
Alice, who has assumed gigantic proportions after drinking a magic
potion she found on the table.
The Mouse, who greets Alice in the pool of tears which she had made by
crying while she was of gigantic size. Now of minute proportions, she is
almost overwhelmed by the Mouse, a creature easily offended.
The Lorry, The Duck, The Dodo, The Eaglet, The Crab, and The Baby Crab,
all creatures whom Alice meets in the pool of her tears and who swim
around with her.
Father William and His Son, characters in a poem that Alice recites. The
old man, a former athlete, can still balance an eel on his nose, much to
the amazement of his curious and impertinent son. The poem is a parody
of Robert Southey's "The Old Man's Comforts."
The Pigeon, a bird Alice meets after she has made
herself tall by eating part of the Caterpillar's mushroom.
The Fish Footman, the bearer of a note from the Queen inviting the
Duchess to play croquet.
The Frog Footman, the impolite servant of the Duchess; his wig becomes
entangled with that of the Fish Footman when the two bow in greeting
The Puppy, a playful animal Alice meets while she is in her small state.
The Flamingo, the bird Alice uses for a croquet mallet in the game with
The Hedgehog, the animal that acts as the ball in the croquet game.
Five, Two, and Seven, three quarrelsome gardeners of the Queen. When
Alice meets them, they are painting red all the white roses in the
garden to obliterate the mistake someone had made in ordering white
Elsie, Lacie, and Tillie, three sisters in the Dormouse's story. They
live at the bottom of a well and exist solely on treacle.
Dinah, Alice's pet cat in real life.
Alice's Sister, the wise older sister who is charmed by Alice's tales of
her adventures in Wonderland.
Illustrations by Arthur Rackham
Alice was quietly reading over her sister's shoulder when she saw a
White Rabbit dash across the lawn and disappear into its hole. She
jumped up to rush after him and found herself falling down the rabbit
hole. At the bottom, she saw the White Rabbit hurrying along a corridor
ahead of her and murmuring that he would be late. He disappeared around
a corner, leaving Alice standing in front of several locked doors.
On a glass table, she found a tiny golden key that unlocked a little
door hidden behind a curtain. The door opened upon a lovely miniature
garden, but she could not get through the doorway because it was too
small. She sadly replaced the key on the table. A little bottle
mysteriously appeared. Alice drank the contents and immediately began to
grow smaller, so much so that she could no longer reach the key on the
table. Next, she ate a piece of cake she found nearby, and soon she
began to grow to such enormous size that she could only squint through
the door. In despair, she began to weep tears as big as raindrops. As
she sat crying, the White Rabbit appeared, bewailing the fact that the
Duchess would be angry if he kept her waiting.
The White Rabbit dropped his fan and gloves. Alice picked them up, and
as she did so. she began to grow smaller. Again she rushed to the garden
door, but she found it shut and the golden key once more on the table
out of reach.
Then she fell into a pond of her own tears. Splashing along, she
encountered a mouse who had stumbled into the pool. Alice tactlessly
began a conversation about her cat Dinah, and the mouse became
speechless with terror. Soon the pool of tears was filled with living
creatures— birds and animals of all kinds. An old Dodo suggested that
they run a Caucus Race to get dry. Having asked what a Caucus Race was,
Alice was told that the best way to explain it was to do it, whereupon
the animals ran themselves quite breathless and finally became dry.
Afterward, the mouse told a "Tail" to match its own appendage. Alice was
asked to tell something, but the only thing she could think of was her
cat Dinah. Frightened, the other creatures went away, and Alice was left
The White Rabbit appeared once more, this time hunting for his gloves
and fan. Catching sight of Alice, he sent her to his home to get him a
fresh pair of gloves and another fan. In the Rabbit's house, she found
the fan and gloves and also took a drink from a bottle. Instantly, she
grew to be a giant size and was forced to put her leg up the chimney and
her elbow out of the window in order to keep from being squeezed to
She managed to eat a little cake and shrink herself again. As soon as
she was small enough to get through the door, she ran into a nearby wood
where she found a caterpillar sitting on a mushroom. The caterpillar was
very rude to Alice, and he scornfully asked her to prove her worth by
reciting "You Are Old, Father William." Alice did so. but the words
sounded very strange. Disgusted, he left her after giving her some
valuable information about increasing or decreasing her size. She broke
off pieces of the mushroom and found to her delight that by eating from
the piece in her left hand she could become taller, and from the piece
in her right hand, smaller.
She came to a little house among the trees. There a footman, who looked
very much like a fish, presented to another footman, who closely
resembled a frog, an invitation for the Duchess to play croquet with the
Queen. The two amphibians bowed to each other with great formality,
tangling their wigs together. Alice opened the door and found herself in
the chaotic house of the Duchess . The cook was stirring a large pot of
soup and pouring plenty of pepper into the mixture. Everyone was
sneezing except the cook and a Cheshire cat, which sat on the hearth
grinning. The Duchess herself held a sneezing, squalling baby and sang a
blaring lullaby to it. Alice, in sympathy with the poor child, picked it
up and carried it out into the fresh air, whereupon the baby turned
slowly into a pig, squirmed out of her arms, and waddled into the
Standing in bewilderment, Alice saw the grinning Cheshire cat sitting in
a tree. He was able to appear and disappear at will, and after
exercising his talents, he advised Alice to go to a tea party given by
the Mad Hatter. The cat vanished, all but the grin. Finally, that, too,
disappeared, and Alice left for the party.
There, Alice found she had to deal with the strangest people she had
ever seen—a March Hare, a Mad Hatter, and a sleepy Dormouse. All were
too lazy to set the table properly; dirty dishes were everywhere. The
Dormouse fell asleep in its teacup; the Mad Hatter told Alice her hair
needed cutting; the March Hare offered her wine and then told her there
was none. They asked her foolish riddles that had no answers. Then,
worse, they ignored her completely and carried on a ridiculous
conversation among themselves. She escaped after the Dormouse fell
asleep in the middle of a story he was telling.
Next, she found herself in a garden of talking flowers. Just as the
conversation was beginning, some gardeners appeared with paintbrushes
and began to splash red paint on a rosebush. Alice learned that the
Queen had ordered a red bush to be placed in that spot, and the
gardeners had made a mistake and planted a white one. Now they were
busily and fearfully trying to cover their error before the Queen
arrived. The poor gardeners, however, were not swift enough. The Queen
caught them in the act, and the wretched gardeners were led off to be
decapitated. Alice saved them by shoving them down into a large
flowerpot, out of sight of the dreadful Queen.
A croquet game began. The mallets were live flamingos, and the balls
were hedgehogs which thought nothing of uncurling themselves and running
rapidly over the field. The Duchess cornered Alice and led her away to
the seaside to introduce her to the Mock Turtle and the Gryphon.
While engaged in a Lobster Quadrille, they heard the news of a trial. A
thief had stolen some tarts. Rushing to the courtroom where a trial by
jury was already in session, Alice was called upon to act as a witness
before the King and Queen of Hearts, but the excited child upset the
jury box and spilled out all of its occupants. After replacing all the
animals in the box, Alice said she knew nothing of the matter. Her
speech infuriated the Queen, who ordered that Alice's head be cut off.
The whole court rushed at her, and Alice defiantly called them nothing
but a pack of cards. She awoke from her dream as her sister brushed away
some dead leaves blowing over her face.
Illustrations by Arthur Rackham
One summer afternoon in 1862, the Reverend Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, an
Oxford friend, and three little girls set out on a boat trip. Somewhere
along the way, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland was born. Although it
was not the first story that Dodgson had told the girls, children of
Henry George Liddell, dean of Christ Church, Oxford, it was one that
immediately captured Alice Liddell, the prototype for the fictional
seven-year-old heroine. Her later requests for Dodgson to "write it
down" were to turn him into one of the world's favorite authors, with
his work translated into many languages and part of the heritage of most
Dodgson, who transposed his first two names into the pen name Lewis
Carroll, was on the surface a shy but seemingly conventional Oxford
mathematician. Today, however, his outwardly harmless affinity for
little girls is viewed as the sign of a serious neurosis, an inability
to grow up, which also revealed itself in his writings. Alice was only
one of many young girls who would provide Carroll with the only
love—innocent and sexless as it seemed—to which he could respond. As she
matured, each child was replaced in Carroll's affections by another
young lady who shared the secret world of childhood in which he spent
much of his adult life.
Expressing itself in many ways, this attraction to fantasy gave rise to
Carroll's love of whimsical letters, gadgets, theatricals, toys, and, of
course, to the Alice stories. First prepared in a handwritten manuscript
book for Alice Liddell (then called Alice's Adventures Under Ground),
the book was published in its present form in 1865 and was almost
immediately popular. Adding to its originality were the famous
illustrations by Sir John Ten-niel, who did not use the real Alice for
his model. (She, unlike the pictured child, had short dark hair and
Followed in 1871 by the even more brilliant sequel, Through the
Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There, the book has always been
enjoyed on several levels. Initially, it is a very special children's
story, but it is also a book teeming with fascination for certain
specialists— mathematicians, linguists, logicians, Freudians, and even
those who envision the book as an example of a drug trip. Yet, perhaps
its philosophical suggestions give the work most of its never-ending
appeal for adults.
If readers examine the book as children's literature, readers see that
it offered its young audience a charming new outlook, dispensing with
the moralistic viewpoint then prevalent in almost all tales for
youngsters. Alice is neither continuously nice nor thoroughly naughty,
for she is simply a curious child whose queries lead her into strange
situations, and in the end, she is neither punished nor rewarded. A
moral, proposing that she do this or that, is absent. Departing even
further from the saccharine stories praising standard virtues, Carroll
pokes fun at many of the ideas with which Alice, a well-bred English
child, has been imbued. The Mock Turtle, for example, chides the sacred
subject of learning by terming the branches of arithmetic Ambition,
Distraction, Uglifica-tion, and Derision. Children who read the book are
permitted to see adults quite unlike the perfect beings usually
portrayed. It is the story's adults rather than Alice who are rude,
demanding, and ridiculous.
As a work for the specialist, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland touches
on many puzzles more thoroughly presented in Through the Looking-Glass
and What Alice Found There. Its playfulness with language, for example,
involves puns, parodies, and clever phrasing, but it does not deal as
fully with the basic nature of language as does its sequel. Even in
Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, however, Carroll's casual amusement
with words often has deeper meaning. When he parodies the well-known
poems and songs of his day, he is again questioning their supercilious
platitudes. When he makes a pun (the Gryphon tells the reader that boots
and shoes under the sea are "done" with whiting rather than blacking and
are, of course, made of soles and eels), Carroll is asserting the total
logic of illogic. When he designs a Cheshire cat, he is taking a common
but unclear phrase of his time ("Grin like a Cheshire cat" referred
either to inn signs in the county of Cheshire depicting a grinning lion
or to Cheshire cheeses modeled in the shape of a smiling cat) and
turning it into a concrete reality. Logicians also find a multitude of
tidbits. The Cheshire cat "proves" it is not mad by adopting the premise
that if a dog is not mad, anyone who reacts in ways opposite to a dog
must be. The March Hare offers a nice exercise in logic and language
with his discussion of taking "more" versus taking "less" and his
challenge as to whether "I mean what I say" is the same as "I say what I
For Freudians, the book is also a mass of complicated mysteries.
Freudians see significance in most of the characters and incidents, but
the fall down the rabbit hole, the changes in size, the great interest
in eating and drinking, the obnoxious mature females, and Alice's
continual anxiety are some of the most revealing topics, all of them
suggesting Carroll's neuroses about women and sex.
The larger philosophical questions raised by Alice center on the order
of life as readers know it. Set in the context of the dream vision, a
journey different from a conscious quest, the book asks whether there is
indeed any pattern or meaning to life. Alice is the curious innocent who
compares so favorably with the jaded and even wicked grown-ups. Always
sensible and open to experience, she would seem the ideal messenger to
bring readers a true concept, yet her adventures hint that all readers
may know is the ridiculousness of logic and what readers imagine to be
reality and the logic of nonsense. Readers see that Wonderland is no
more incomprehensible than Victorian England, that the Mad Duchess lives
next door, that as the Cheshire cat says, "We're all mad here."
Alice brings to Wonderland a strong belief in order and certain
concepts, and she must continually refuse to accept the chaos that she
finds there. When Wonderland turns her views askew, she can withstand
the strain for only so long. Then she must rebel. The trial, which is
the last refuge of justice in man's world, is the key factor in Alice's
rejection of Wonderland, for it is a trial of Wonderland itself, with
many of the earlier encountered creatures reassembled to assert
forcefully, once more, that expectations and rules are meaningless. Like
the child of the world that she is, Alice (and Carroll) must deny the
truth that there is no truth. She must shout "Nonsense* to it all. As
one critic has pointed out, she rejects "mad sanity in favor of the sane
madness of the ordinary existence." Facing the same confusion and
frightened by what it hints, the reader also rebels, laughing and
turning to more serious considerations.
Illustrations by Arthur Rackham
Through the Looking Glass, and What Alice Found There
In 1871, six years after Alice in Wonderland, Carroll returned
to the Alice character with a new idea: to follow her into the
world behind the mirror. Having recently taught the real Alice
(Liddell) how to play chess, he used the game as a narrative
device. The Looking Glass world is set out like a chessboard;
Alice begins as a pawn and becomes a queen, with each chapter of
the story dedicated to a move toward this end. As events
progress, a chess problem, shown in a diagram at the start of
the book, is solved correctly.
More schematic than Wonderland, this novel is nevertheless
equally full of memorable characters and ideas, many of which
involve contradiction and inversion. In order to get anywhere in
this topsy¬turvy place, Alice must walk in the opposite
direction; the Red Queen tells her that "here ... it takes all
the running you can do, to keep in the same place." Memory does
not only go "backward"; the White Queen remembers things "that
happened the week after next." We meet the "Contrariwise" twins
Tweedledum and Tweedledee.Language also seems slippery, and
meaning is elusive. Most famously, in the poem "Jabberwocky," we
find Carroll's "portmanteau words," running together
associations and meanings: "frumious," "mimsy," "slithy," and "brillig,"
among many others. Oysters, however, should avoid reading it.
THROUGH THE LOOKING-GLASS, AND WHAT ALICE FOUND THERE
Type of work: Imaginative tale
Author: Lewis Carroll (Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, 1832-1898)
Type of plot: Fantasy
Time of plot: Nineteenth century
Locale: The dream world of an imaginative child
First published: 1871
Illustrations by Arthur Rackham
Its plot structured around moves in a chess game, the story of
this fantasy, which continues Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, is set
in a land peopled by live chessmen and talking insects, a land where
everything happens backwards. Carroll's book may be read as a madcap
children's fairy tale or interpreted as a complex, sophisticated adult
fable laced with subtle ironies and inspired by inimitable humor.
Illustrations by Arthur Rackham
Alice, an imaginative English child who has fantastic adventures in
The White Kitten, a good kitten who is not responsible for Alice's
The Black Kitten, told by Alice to pretend that they can go through the
mirror to Looking-Glass House.
Dinah, the kittens' mother.
The White Queen, a live chess piece. In Alice's adventures she becomes a
sheep, gives Alice some needles, and tells the little girl to knit. She
reappears throughout the story in various guises.
The White King, a live chess piece. He has Alice serve a cake which cuts
Tiger Lily, Rose, and Violet, flowers Alice questions regarding which
path to take.
Gnat, a pleasant insect as big as a chicken. He melts away.
The Red Queen, a live chess piece. She tells Alice that one has to run
to stay in the same place. Later she turns into the black kitten.
Tweedledum and Tweedledee, two odd, fat, little men. They speak in
ambiguities and recite poems to Alice. They fight over a rattle until
frightened away by a crow.
The Red King, a live chess piece. He dreams about Alice, says Tweedledee,
and thus gives her reality.
Humpty Dumpty, who has a conversation in riddles with Alice. He explains
to her the Jabberwocky poem.
The Lion and the Unicorn, who fight over the White King's crown.
The Red Knight, a live chess piece who claims Alice as his prisoner.
The White Knight, a live chess piece who also claims Alice as his
prisoner. He leads Alice to a brook and tells her to jump into the next
square in order to become a queen herself.
Illustrations by Arthur Rackham
Alice was sure the whole thing was not the white kitten's fault. It must
surely have been the fault of the black kitten. Dinah, the mother cat,
had been washing the white kitten's face when it happened; she certainly
had had nothing to do with it. The mischievous black kitten, however,
had been unwinding Alice's yarn and in all ways acting naughty enough to
cause the whole strange affair.
While the black kitten was curled up in Alice's lap playing with the
yarn, Alice told it to pretend that the two of them could go right
through the mirror and into Looking-Glass House. As she talked, the
glass grew misty and soft; in a moment, Alice was through the mirror and
in the Looking-Glass room. The place was very strange; although the room
looked just the same as the real room she had seen in the mirror, the
clock and the fire and the other things in the room seemed to be alive.
Even the chessmen, for Alice loved to play chess, were alive.
When Alice picked up the White Queen and set her on the table, the White
Queen screamed in terror, thinking that a volcano had shaken her about.
The White King had the same fear, but he was too astonished to cry out.
They did not seem to see or hear Alice, and although she wanted to stay
and watch them and read the king's rather funny poetry, she felt she
must look at the garden before she had to go back through the Looking
Glass. When she started down the stairs, she seemed to float, not even
once touching the steps.
In the garden, every path Alice took led her straight back to the house.
She asked Tiger Lily, Rose, and Violet whether there were any other
people in the garden; she hoped they might help her find the right path.
The flowers told her there was only one, and Alice found her to be the
Red Queen—but a very strange chess figure, for the Red Queen was taller
than Alice herself. As Alice walked toward the Red Queen, she once more
found herself back at the door of the house. Then Alice figured out that
in order to get to any place in this queer land, one must walk in the
opposite direction. She did so and came face-to-face with the Red Queen.
The queen took Alice to the top of a hill. There, spread out below them,
was a countryside that looked like a large chessboard. Alice was
delighted and said that she would love to play on this board. Then the
Red Queen told her that they would play and that Alice could be the
White Queen's Pawn. They would start on the Second Square; but at that
moment, the Red Queen grabbed Alice's hand and they started to run.
Alice had never run so fast in her life, but although she was breathless
from such fast running, the things around them never changed a tiny bit.
When they finally stopped running, the queen told Alice that in this
land one had to run as fast as she could to stay in the same place and
twice as fast as she could to get somewhere else. Then the queen showed
Alice the pegs in the Second Square and told her how to move. At the
last peg, the Red Queen disappeared, leaving Alice alone to continue the
Alice started to run down the hill. The next thing she knew she was on a
train filled with insects and having quite an unpleasant time because
she did not have a ticket. All the insects talked unkindly to her, and
to add to her discomfort, the train jumped over the brook and took them
all straight up in the air. When she came down, she was sitting under a
tree, talking to a Gnat. Gnat was as big as a chicken but very pleasant.
He told her about the other insects that lived in the woods; then he too
melted away, and Alice had to go on alone.
Turning a corner, she bumped into two fat little men, called Tweedledum
and Tweedledee, the funniest little creatures she had ever seen.
Everything they said seemed to have two meanings. It was fun to listen
to the merry little men as they recited a long poem about a Walrus and a
Carpenter and some Oysters. While they were explaining the poem to
Alice, she heard a puffing noise, like the sound of a steam engine.
Tweedledee told her it was the Red King snoring. Sure enough, they found
him asleep. Tweedledee told Alice that the Red King was dreaming about
her and that if he stopped dreaming Alice would be gone for good. Alice
cried when they told her she was not real but only a part of the Red
As she brushed her tears away, she saw Tweedledum staring in terror at
something on the ground. It was an old broken rattle, over which the two
foolish men got into a terrible fight—that is, they talked a terrible
fight, but neither seemed very anxious to have a real battle. The Crow
flew over and frightened them so that the funny men ran away into the
wood. Alice ran too, and as she ran, she saw a shawl blowing about.
Looking for the owner of the shawl, Alice saw the White Queen running
toward her. The White Queen was a very queer person; she lived backward
and remembered things before they happened. For example, she hurt before
she pricked her finger. While the queen was telling these strange things
to Alice, the queen turned into a Sheep and was in a shop with Alice. It
was a very curious shop; the shelves were full of things that
disappeared when Alice looked at them. Sometimes the boxes went right
through the ceiling. Then Sheep gave Alice some needles and told her to
As she started to knit, the needles became oars, and she found herself
and Sheep in a little boat rowing in a stream. The oars kept sticking in
the water. Sheep explained that the crabs were catching them. Alice
picked some beautiful, fragrant rushes that melted away as soon as she
picked them. To her surprise, the river and boat soon vanished, and
Alice and Sheep were back in the shop. She bought an egg, although in
this shop two were cheaper than one, but when she started to get the
egg, as Sheep would not reach it for her, the egg began to grow larger
and larger and more and more real, with eyes, a nose, and a mouth. Then
Alice could tell plain as day that the egg was Humpty Dumpty.
She had a queer conversation with Humpty Dumpty, a conversation filled
with riddles. They took turns at choosing the topic to discuss, but most
of the subjects turned into arguments, although Alice tried to be
polite. Humpty Dumpty explained to Alice what the "Jabber-wocky" poem
meant, the one she had seen in the White King's book. Then while
reciting another poem, Humpty Dumpty stopped right in the middle and
said that was all. Alice thought it very queer but did not tell him so.
She thought it time for her to leave, but as she walked away, there was
a terrible crash that shook the whole forest.
Thousands of soldiers and horses came rushing toward her, and the riders
constantly fell off their horses. Frightened, she escaped from the wood
into the open. There she found the White King, who told her that he had
sent the soldiers and horses and that the loud crash she had heard was
the noise of the Lion and Unicorn fighting for the crown. She went with
the king to watch the fight, which was indeed a terrible one. It was
silly of them to fight for the crown, since it belonged to the White
King and he had no notion of giving it away. After the fight, Alice met
the Unicorn and the Lion. At the king's order, she served them cake, a
very strange cake that cut itself when she carried the dish around.
A great noise interrupted the party. When it stopped, Alice thought she
might have dreamed the whole thing until the Red Knight came along,
followed soon by a White Knight. Each claimed her as a prisoner. Alice
thought the whole business silly, since neither of them could do
anything except fall off his horse and climb back on again, over and
over and over. At last the Red Knight galloped off, and the White Knight
told her that she would be a queen as soon as she crossed the next
brook. He was supposed to lead her to the end of the wood, but she spent
the whole journey helping him back on his horse each time he fell off.
The trip was filled with more queer conversation. By that time, Alice
was used to strange talk from her Looking-Glass friends. At last, they
reached the brook. The knight rode away, and Alice jumped over the brook
and into the last square of the chessboard. To her delight, when she
reached that square she felt something tight on her head—a crown! She
was a queen.
Soon she found the Red Queen and the White Queen confronting her; they
were very cross because she also thought she was a queen. They gave her
a test for queens which she must have passed, for before long they were
calling her "Your Majesty" and inviting people to a party that she was
to give. After a time, the Red Queen and the White Queen went to sleep.
Alice watched them until they disappeared. Then she found herself before
a doorway marked "Queen Alice." All of her new friends were there,
including the queens who had just vanished. The party was the most
amazing experience of all. Puddings talked, guests poured wine over
their heads, and the White Queen turned into a leg of mutton. Alice was
exasperated, so much so that she seized the tablecloth and jerked it and
everything on it to the floor. Then she grabbed the Red Queen and shook
her as she would a kitten. But what was this? It was a kitten she was
shaking, the black kitten.
Alice talked to Dinah and both the kittens about the adventure they had
all experienced, but the silly kittens did nothing but purr.
Illustrations by Arthur Rackham
It is rare for the sequel to a highly creative literary work to surpass
the original. Nevertheless, such is the case with Through the
Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There, which in 1871 followed
Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, published seven years earlier. For
most readers, the two books are so closely entwined that they are
considered a unit, and many of Lewis Carroll's most famous Looking-Glass
creations (Tweedledee, Tweedledum, and Humpty Dumpty, for example) are
often mistakenly placed in Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. Each book,
however, is a distinct entity. Through the Looking-Glass is most
attractive to adults, for in this second fantasy Lewis Carroll (the pen
name for Oxford mathematics lecturer and tutor the Reverend Charles
Lutwidge Dodg-son) presented an even more sophisticated puzzle about
reality and logic than he did in the earlier story. It is in Through the
Looking-Glass that one finds conscious suggestion of the cruel questions
rather delicately presented in Alice's Adventures in Wonderland.
The books share many characteristics: each has twelve chapters, and both
merge the fairy tale with science. Alice is seven years old in the first
book and is seven and one-half years old on her second venture. A slight
shift in scene turns the pleasant outdoor summer setting of Alice's
Adventures in Wonderland into the more somber indoor winter stage of
Through the Looking-Glass. Corresponding to the card game of the first
book is chess in Through the Looking-Glass, another game that involves
kings and queens. Within the chess-and-mirror framework of the
Looking-Glass world, Carroll has, however, constructed an intricate
symbolic plan unlike the seemingly spontaneous movement of Wonderland.
Although medieval and Renaissance sportsmen sometimes enjoyed chess that
used human players on a giant field, Carroll was apparently the first to
use the idea in literature. Science fiction has since, of course, often
employed the technique. In the game plan, Alice is a white pawn on a
giant chessboard of life in which the rows of the board are separated by
brooks and the columns by hedges. Alice never speaks to any piece who is
not in a square beside her, as appropriate for the pawn that never knows
what is happening except at its spot on the board. Alice remains in the
queen's field except for her last move, by which time she has become a
queen and captures the Red Queen (and shakes her into a kitten); as a
result, she checkmates the Red King, who has slept throughout the game.
Her behavior complements the personalities assigned to the other pieces,
for each assumes the qualities of the figure it represents. As in chess,
the queens are the most powerful and active beings, and the kings are
impotent. Erratic and stumbling, the White Knight recalls the movement
of the chess knight, which moves two squares in any direction, then
again one square in a different direction.
Critics have noted inconsistencies in the chess game, charging that the
White side makes nine consecutive moves; the White King is placed in an
unnoticed check by the queen's castle; and the White Queen misses a
chance to take the Red Knight. In a later explanatory note, however,
Carroll said that the game is correct in relation to the moves, although
the alternation of sides is not strictly consistent, and that the
"castling" of the queens is merely his phrase to indicate that they have
entered the palace. Not interested in the game as an example of chess
strategy, Carroll conceived of it as a learning experience for a child
who was to be a pawn warring against all the other pieces, controlled by
an adult—an idea apparently stimulated by the chess tales Carroll had
fashioned for Alice Liddell, a young friend who was learning the game.
Alice, the daughter of the dean of Christ Church, Oxford, had also been,
of course, the Alice whom he had placed in Wonderland.
Arising from Carroll's use of this structure has been the proposal that
Alice is Everyman and that chess is Life. Like a human being who exists
from birth to death only vaguely comprehending the forces directing his
moves, Alice never understands her experience. Indeed, none of the
pieces really assimilates the total concept of the game. Even the mobile
queens do not really grasp the idea that beyond the board there is a
room and people who are determining the game. Man's own reality thus
becomes very unreal if he, like the chess pieces, has such a limited
perception of the total environment.
Carroll pursues still another definition of reality when Alice confronts
the Red King and is told that she exists merely as a part of his dreams,
not as an objective being. Upsetting to Alice is the sage advice of
Tweedledum and Tweedledee to the effect that if the king were to wake,
Alice would vanish like the flame of a candle. The incident recalls
Bishop Berkeley's empirical proposal that nothing exists except as it is
perceived. Alice, like Samuel Johnson, who refuted Berkeley by painfully
kicking a stone, insists that she is "real," for she cries "real" tears.
When she leaves the world of the Looking-Glass and supposedly awakens,
Carroll mischievously permits her to ask herself: Which dreamed it? His
final poem apparently provides the answer, for the last words are:
"Life, what is it but a dream?"
In examining the second structural device of the book, the mirror
reversal theme, readers find that Carroll has achieved another tour de
force. The reversals—including, for example, the Tweedle brothers,
Alice's attempt to reach the Red Queen by walking backward, memory that
occurs before the event, and running to stay in the same place—are not
merely mind teasers. Scientists now seriously propose the existence of
antimatter, which is, in effect, a mirror image of matter, just like
Alice's Looking-Glass milk. And again readers wonder: Which is the real
matter, the real milk?
Further developing this continuing paradox are Carroll's damaging
attacks on our understanding of language. Humpty Dumpty (like the
Tweedles, the Lion, the Unicorn, and Wonderland's Jack of Hearts, a
nursery rhyme character) says a person's ideas are formulated in his
mind; to express them, he may use any word he pleases. Alice and the
White Knight debate the difference between the name of the song and the
song, between what the name is and what the name is called. The fawn
becomes frightened of Alice only when it realizes she is a "child." In
these and many more incidents, Carroll explores how our language works,
directly and indirectly making fun of our misconceptions: We see
language as part of a totally objective system of reality, forgetting
how language actually helps create that reality. His nonsense words and
poems are his final jibe at our so-called logical language, for they are
no more and no less disorderly than ordinary table talk.
Illustrations by Arthur Rackham
Alice's Adventures in Wonderland
I Down the Rabbit-Hole
II The Pool of Tears
III A Caucus-Race and a Long Tale
IV The Rabbit Sends in a Little Bill
V Advice from a Caterpillar
VI Pig and Pepper
VII A Mad Tea-Party
VIII The Queen's Croquet-Ground
IX The Mock Turtle's Story
X The Lobster Quadrille
XI Who Stole the Tarts?
XII Alice's Evidence
AND WHAT ALICE FOUND THERE
Chapter 1 "Looking-glass house"
Chapter 2 "The Garden of Live Flowers"
Chapter 3 "Looking-glass Insects"
Chapter 4 Tweedledum and Tweedledee
Chapter 5 Wool and Water
Chapter 6 "Humpty Dumpty"
Chapter 7 "The Lion and The Unicorn"
Chapter 8 "It's my own Invention"
Chapter 9 "Queen Alice"
Chapter 10 "Shaking"
Chapter 11 "Waking"
Chapter 12 "Which Dreamed It?"