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Study Questions & Essay Topics

Study Questions

1. In what way does chess in Through the Looking‑Glass suggest a deterministic conception of life?

The motif of the chess game in Through the Looking-Glass suggests the presence of an intelligent force that exists outside of the world of the chessboard, guiding the actions of Alice and the other characters according to the rules of the game of chess. As the author of the story, Carroll becomes the intelligent force that bends the character’s actions to his will. As a result, the character’s perception of individual free will exists as an illusion. Alice exemplifies this determinism when she arbitrarily changes her mind from seeing the bee‑like elephants in favor of moving along the course laid out by the Red Queen. This moment of self restraint is atypical of the insatiably curious Alice, but her decision seems unconvincing. Carroll’s hand as author and “chess player” emerges here, as he bars Alice from becoming sidetracked from her prescribed goal. As Alice begins walking the path of the pawn, moving directly from square to square, she loses the profound sense of curiosity that might potentially lead her astray. Alice’s resolve to complete the game demonstrates the role of determinism in the story, for Alice’s actions are not her own but stem from the will of a guiding force.

Suggested Essay Topics

1. Contrast the role of dreams in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass.

2. Discuss Alice’s treatment by the different characters she encounters in the books. Why do you think they act they way they do, and what does their behavior say about Alice?

3. Discuss the role of poetry in both books. What are the differences between the poems in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass?

4. What is the significance of Alice’s fluctuations in size and shape in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland?

5. Throughout both stories, there are occasional oblique references to death. What purpose do these references serve in the stories, and why might Carroll include them?

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