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Alice approaches the portly twins Tweedledee and Tweedledum, who
stand side by side with their arms around each other’s shoulders.
Upon seeing them, Alice begins reciting a poem that she knows about
them. The poem describes Tweedledee and Tweedledum fighting over
a broken rattle until a crow frightens them, causing them to forget
their argument. They deny that this has ever happened, and though
they ignore Alice’s questions about how to get out of the wood,
they do extend their hands to her in greeting. Alice does not want
to choose one over the other, so she grabs each man’s hand and the
three begin dancing in a ring. After a short dance, they stop, and
though Alice continues to ask how to get out of the wood, Tweedledee
and Tweedledum ignore her.
Tweedledee begins reciting “The Walrus and the Carpenter,”
a poem that describes the story of a Walrus and a Carpenter who
trick a group of young oysters into leaving their home underwater
and coming to shore with them. Once the oysters get to shore, the
Walrus and the Carpenter eat them. When Tweedledee finishes, Alice states
that she prefers the Walrus because he feels sympathy for the oysters.
Tweedledee points out that the Walrus ate more oysters than the
Carpenter, and Alice changes her mind, stating her new preference
for the Carpenter. Tweedledum observes that the Carpenter ate as
many oysters as he could, which causes Alice to doubt her feelings.
As she tries to sort out her feelings, Alice becomes distracted
by the Red King sleeping under a tree and snoring like a train engine. Tweedledee
tells Alice that the Red King is dreaming about her, and if he stops,
she will vanish. Alice starts to cry at the thought that she is
real, and Tweedledee and Tweedledum try to comfort her by telling
her that her tears are not real.
Alice decides that Tweedledum and Tweedledee are talking
nonsense and that she is indeed real. Alice changes the subject
and starts to leave when Tweedledee grabs her wrists and points
to a broken rattle on the ground. Tweedledum recognizes it as his
new rattle, and explodes in anger while Tweedledee cowers in fear.
Tweedledee calms down and the two agree to a battle to determine
ownership of the rattle. Alice helps them put on their battle gear,
but before they can begin fighting, a great crow comes and scares
them off, and Alice slips away into the wood alone.
Tweedledum and Tweedledee are mirror images of one another, reintroducing
the theme of inversion. With the exception of their names, the two
little fat men are identical in looks, manner, and stance. They
exhibit perfect symmetry, standing together with their arms around
each other, so that when they extend their free hands they each
reflect the other’s body position. Their conversation also displays
a symmetrical position designated by Tweedledee’s favorite expression,
“contrariwise.” “Contrariwise” functions as a transitional word
that flips the premise of the conversation. Tweedledee usually addresses
the other side of whatever Tweedledum just said. The twins’ reversal
of language becomes apparent in the following exchange with Alice:
TWEEDLEDUM: I know what you’re thinking about . . . but
it isn’t so, nohow.
TWEEDLEDEE: Contrariwise . . . if it was so, it might
be . . . That’s logic.
The inversion motif appears on a larger scale in the fight
between Tweedledee and Tweedledum, since it appears at the beginning
of the chapter in Alice’s recitation and ends the chapter as an
actual event. Their scripted quarrel reveals the power of language
to affect outcomes. Language has an almost magical effect on Tweedledee and
Tweedledum in creating a rattle that did not exist before the two met
Alice. Language also seems to cause their battle. Tweedledum and
Tweedledee must play out the events of Alice’s rhyme, and their lives
are destined to imitate the events in the poem.
The episode with the sleeping Red King causes Alice to
question whether or not she actually exists. The possibility that
she may be a figment of the Red King’s dream complicates her already
slippery hold on reality. Tweedledee’s suggestion questions the
stability of reality itself. Alice has already experienced the loss
of her name, a fundamental aspect of her sense of self. Here, she
loses the security of her material existence in the world. If the
Red King is in fact dreaming Alice into existence, then he is the
only thing in Looking-Glass World that truly exists. The only way
to test this hypothesis would be to wake the Red King up, but if
he has imagined Alice, Tweedledum, and Tweedledee, none of them
would be able to ask him about it, since they exist only in his
dreams and thus cannot affect his waking life. Even Alice’s emotions
are artificial, since her tears are only real to her. Though the
tears serve as evidence of real emotion, that real emotion exists
as a figment of the King’s dream.
The episode of the Red King’s dream opens up greater implications
for Alice and the readers about reality and the nature of God. The
presence of the Red King suggests the notion that no person actually
exists, but lives solely as a fragment of a divine imagination. The
chessboard motif makes sense as a tool for organizing the story since
it functions as an allegory for human life in general. The characters
in the story live a deterministic existence in which they have no
free will and move about according to the will of their creator. Free
will is an illusion in this world, since the residents of Looking-Glass
World must follow the rules of the chess game in all of their actions.
The idea of free will as an illusion challenges our understanding
of Alice’s adventures, since we have understood that they exist
as part of Alice’s own imagination. By introducing the possibility
that Alice acts under the manipulation of a larger divine force, Carroll
presents the idea that human life exists as an abstraction of the
imagination of a larger divine force.