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Through the Looking-Glass

Lewis Carroll

Analysis of Major Characters

Character List

Themes, Motifs & Symbols

Alice

In Through the Looking-Glass, Alice is a child not yet eight years old. She has been raised in a wealthy Victorian household and is interested in good manners, which she demonstrates with her pet, Kitty. Alice treats others with kindness and courtesy, as evidenced in her various interactions with the Looking-Glass creatures. She has an extremely active imagination but seeks order in the world around her. Alice fights to understand the fantastic dream world that has sprung from her own imagination, trying her best to order her life experiences and connect them to the unusual situations she encounters in Looking-Glass World. Alice’s maturation transforms into a game of chess, in which her growth into womanhood becomes a quest to become a queen.

Alice feels lonely, which motivates her to seek out company that she can sympathize and identify with. She creates a structured imaginary world that she can control, and creates Looking-Glass World in order to connect with other individuals and seek out company that she feels comfortable with. She desires a family and in the beginning of the book uses her pets as a substitute family in the “real” world. Alice knows that these are not genuine relationships, as seen when she breaks off conversation with her cats to have an aside to herself. Alice creates Looking-Glass World and desires to become a queen because she craves a sense of control over her surroundings. She relates to the residents of Looking-Glass World in the same way that she relates to her pets, taking on the manner of a good-natured mother figure who behaves with solicitude and deference despite her authority. Alice has occasional bouts of sadness and loneliness throughout her travels, when she acknowledges to herself that the characters that populate Looking-Glass World are not real and cannot show her true compassion or provide her with real companionship.

The Red Queen

The Red Queen behaves like the quintessential Victorian governess. She is overbearing, meticulously obsessive about manners, and civil in a self-righteous and supercilious way. Like the vast majority of the characters in Through the Looking-Glass, the Red Queen makes definitive statements with little regard for an abiding logic that would support them. Her assertions are often arbitrary recitations of strict behavioral advice, such as, “Speak when you’re spoken to!” When Alice reveals the inadequacy of the logic behind the Red Queen’s statements, the Red Queen asserts her arbitrary position of authority as a justification. The Red Queen’s constant badgering of and competition with Alice indicates profound feelings of antagonism. She fits into the framework of Alice’s dream as representative arbitrary authority, serving as a caricature of an overbearing governess figure at odds with her young charges.

The White Knight

Carroll modeled the character of the White Knight after himself, and the White Knight’s compassionate behavior toward Alice demonstrates Carroll’s feelings toward the real-life Alice Liddell. Like the White Knight, Carroll had shaggy hair, blue eyes, and a mild face. Also like Carroll, the White Knight has a penchant for inventing and compulsively preparing for any kind of contingency, no matter how ridiculous. The White Knight sweeps in at a moment of crisis to rescue Alice from the clutches of the Red Knight, before he helpfully escorts her to the point at which she no longer needs protection and can claim her new title of queen. As he guides her, he sings a song that conjures up feelings of wistful longing, calling attention to the idea of Alice’s transformation into a queen as a metaphor for her sexual awakening into womanhood. The White Knight represents a figure from her childhood who can bring her to the point at which she reaches adulthood before he must let go. The scene between the White Knight and Alice is marked by feelings of nostalgia tinged with regret, since Alice must eventually leave the White Knight and claim her new role alone.

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