Through the Looking-Glass
Chapter 2: The Garden of Live Flowers
Once outside, Alice climbs a nearby hill to get a better look at the garden near the house. However, every time she begins to follow the path to the hill, she finds herself back at the door to the house. Dismayed, she mentions her frustration to Tiger-lily, who surprises her by responding in perfect English. The Tiger-lily explains that all flowers can talk. The Rose chimes in and mentions that Alice does not look very clever. Alice asks them if they feel at all vulnerable. They explain to her that they are protected by a nearby tree that will bark at any approaching threats. The Daisies begin caterwauling and Alice silences them by threatening to pick them.
The Rose and the Violet continue to insult Alice, but the Tiger-lily reprimands them for their rudeness. Alice learns from the flowers that there is another person like her in the garden. They describe the Red Queen, who now looks human and stands a head taller than Alice. The Rose advises Alice to walk the other way, but Alice sets off toward the Red Queen, ending up back at the door of Looking-Glass House. Once she sets off in the opposite direction, she eventually reaches the Red Queen.
The Red Queen is friendly but overbearing when she strikes up a conversation with Alice. Alice explains her plight to the Red Queen and mentions the garden, which prompts the Red Queen to remark that she has seen gardens that would make this one seem like a wilderness. When Alice mentions the hill, the Red Queen states that she has seen hills to make this hill look like a valley. Frustrated, Alice tells the Red Queen that she speaks nonsense, but the Queen responds that she has heard nonsense that would make her claims seem as sensible as a dictionary. The Red Queen takes Alice to the hill, where she notices that the surrounding countryside resembles a giant chessboard. Alice spots a game of chess happening on the chessboard and expresses her desire to join the game. The Red Queen tells Alice that she may stand in for the Tiger-lily as a White Pawn. The two begin a brisk run but remain in the same place. Once finished with their run, the Red Queen explains the chess game to Alice. Alice starts at the second square and must travel through the other squares. A different character owns each square, and once Alice reaches the eighth square she will become a queen herself. With a few final words of advice, the Red Queen bids Alice goodbye and disappears.
Just like in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Alice acts as an explorer in Looking-Glass World, recalling other explorers discovering new territories in the late Victorian era. Like the English Imperialist explorers of Carroll’s time, Alice intrudes on foreign lands with preconceived notions about language, manners, and the way the world works. When she meets the living flowers, she discovers not only that others do not share her assumptions, but that the native population perceives her as foolish. Alice’s lack of knowledge about Looking-Glass World creates a culture clash in which her confusion over the flowers’ explanation of why trees have “bark” and “boughs” inspires scorn in the flowers.
Alice fails to understand that in Looking-Glass World she must do everything backward. She gets confused when the Rose advises her to “walk the other way” to reach the Red Queen. Alice relates to the Red Queen how she is “lost” because she does not realize that in the mirror one has to move away from an object to get closer to it. The path seems to actively punish her for failing to understand the properties of Looking-Glass World, deliberately rearranging itself to get her off track. The principles of inversion do not solely affect space and distance, but also movement. The faster Alice moves, the less distance she covers, so that when she runs she never seems to leave her initial position.
Alice becomes a pawn in the game of chess and discovers that Looking-Glass World closely follows the strict rules of chess. Alice can only move forward one “square” at a time, despite the fact that she seems to wield a degree of imaginative control over Looking-Glass World. While the Queen seems to “vanish” because she can travel quickly across the board, just as a Queen has greater mobility in a game of chess. As a pawn, Alice has much more restricted mobility and line of vision. Alice is not only a pawn in the game of chess, but also in the text of the book. The author has absolute control over Alice’s actions and can move her around at will in the context of the story as if she were a pawn.