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Through the Looking-Glass

Lewis Carroll

Chapter 8: “It’s My Own Invention”

Chapter 7: The Lion and the Unicorn

Chapters 9–12: Queen Alice; Shaking; Waking; Which Dreamed I?

Summary

As the pounding of the drums dies away, Alice starts to wonder if she still exists as part of the Red King’s dream. At this moment, the Red Knight barrels toward her, screaming “Check!” The White Knight comes to Alice’s rescue, and the two chess pieces fight furiously until the Red Knight gallops off. The White Knight happily tells Alice that he will bring her safely to the next brook, explaining that once she crosses the brook she will become a queen. As they walk, the White Knight describes all of the items that he carries with him. He carries a box to keep clothes and food, a beehive for keeping bees, a mousetrap to protect his horse from mice, and horse-anklets to guard against shark-bites. As he speaks to Alice, he repeatedly falls off of his horse. She questions his riding ability, which offends him. The White Knight explains that he has practiced riding frequently, which is the key to good horsemanship. Alice finds his claims to be ridiculous.

As the White Knight and Alice continue traveling toward the brook, he explains several of his inventions to Alice. He has developed a new kind of helmet, several ways to jump a fence, and a new kind of pudding, which he considers to be his greatest invention. All of the White Knight’s inventions seem to have something wrong with them. Alice becomes increasingly puzzled by his explanations as they approach the forest’s border. The White Knight mistakes Alice’s confusion for sadness, and proposes that he sing a song that has several different names. Upon finishing the song, the White Knight points to the brook that she must jump over to become a queen. He asks her to wait to jump until he reaches a turn far off down the road. Alice waits for him to pass out of sight, waving her handkerchief after him, and jumps over the brook. On the other side, she finds herself sitting on a lawn wearing a crown.

Analysis

With the exception of the White Knight, the characters of Looking-Glass World have no understanding of the rules of the chess game that organize their lives. Alice has finally reached the seventh square and will become a queen with her next move. Since she moves as a pawn, she has no sense of the squares around her. She learns of her impending transformation into a queen from the White Knight, who comes to rescue her from the Red Knight. With the help of the chessboard diagram provided by Carroll, it becomes obvious that Alice faced no danger from the Red Knight, who had recently moved to the square adjacent to Alice. The Red Knight’s cry of “Check!” is not intended for Alice, whom, based on the rules of chess, he cannot capture, but for the White King, whom the Red Knight has put in check. The Red Knight has no understanding of the game, and upon seeing Alice, believes that he is meant to capture her. The White Knight arrives and enters the Red Knight’s square, defeating the Red Knight. The White Knight guides Alice to the eighth square, but before leaving she must see him off in his next move. Carroll follows the rules of chess closely, requiring Alice to watch the White Knight as the turns the bend in the road, following the one-across, two-over movement of the Knight in chess.

The White Knight appears as a fictional manifestation of Lewis Carroll. Critics have pointed out similarities between the two, noting the physical resemblance between them. Both the White Knight and Carroll have shaggy hair, mild blue eyes, and kindly smiles. Like Carroll, the Knight invents curious contraptions to help provide for any contingency. While the White Knight readies himself for a shark attack, Carroll created devices such as an object to allow him to take notes in the dark. More importantly, Alice finds in the White Knight and individual who truly esteems and cares for her. He soothes her loneliness, but this does not stop her from leaving him to become a queen. This decision imitates how Alice Liddell grew apart from Carroll as she matured. The song that the White Knight sings to Alice serves as Carroll’s heartfelt, if misdirected, tribute to the real life Alice. Carroll implies that Alice does not feel sadness, only confusion. Alice’s dismissal of the White King in her final remark about him affirms that she has grown up: “‘I hope it encouraged him,’ she said, as she turned to run down the hill.” Alice dismisses the White Knight’s offer of love and friendship as she goes off to become a queen, just as Alice abandoned Carroll when she became a young woman.

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