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As Alice runs through the forest, she comes across a shawl
blowing about in front of her. She grabs the shawl and bumps into
the White Queen, who has been chasing through the wood after her
missing shawl. In thanks, the White Queen offers Alice a job as
her maid, promising “twopence a week, and jam every other day.”
Alice respectfully declines. The White Queen tells Alice that she
lives backward and remembers events before they happen. She goes
on to inform Alice that the King’s Messenger will be in prison the
week after next, that his trial begins next Wednesday, and that
his crime will come last of all. As the two discuss the merits of
punishment for a crime that may not be committed, the White Queen
starts screaming like an engine whistle. She tells Alice she will
prick her finger, and then pricks it as she refastens her shawl.
Alice feels lonely and begins to cry. The White Queen
cheers her up by telling her to consider things such as her age
before admitting that she is over one hundred years old. When Alice
states that to live to a hundred is impossible, the White Queen
counters that Alice cannot believe the impossible because she has
not had any practice. The White Queen’s shawl blows away again,
and she chases after it over a brook. As Alice crosses the brook
to catch up with her, the White Queen transforms into a sheep, and
Alice finds herself suddenly in a shop.
The Sheep asks Alice what she would like to buy and Alice
begins looking around the shop. Though filled with curious items,
every shelf that Alice sets her eyes upon appears to be empty. The
Sheep then tells Alice she must begin “feathering,” which means
rowing. Alice looks around and finds herself in a boat with the
Sheep on a river. Alice rows until the boat reaches sweet-scented
rushes, which she pulls up from the water and lays at her feet.
She begins rowing again, but the oar gets caught, jarring the boat
so that Alice falls down to the floor of the boat. When she stands
up again, Alice finds herself back in the shop, where the Sheep
asks her again what she would like to buy. Alice pays for an egg,
which the Sheep places on a shelf for her. Every time Alice moves
toward the egg on the shelf, it seems to get progressively farther
away from her. She continues to walk toward the egg as the shop
transforms back into the wood.
Time moves backward in Looking-Glass World, further challenging the
assumption that people have control over the choices they make. Time
does not move backward toward a final point of origin. Instead,
characters move forward while the order of events moves backward.
The White Queen illustrates this principle by explaining that the
King’s Messenger will be sentenced before he commits his crime.
Her wounds heal and she experiences pain before she becomes injured.
All of the characters, the White Queen included, “remember” both
the past and the future. They have knowledge of events before they
happen, which reinforces the deterministic aspect of Looking-Glass
World. Causal relationships are inverted, so that every effect experienced
leads back to a cause that eventually occurs. Characters commit
actions for which they have already experienced the consequences.
Because of this, the concept of free will in Looking-Glass World
becomes tenuous at best.
As the White Queen attempts to cheer Alice up, she points
some of the arbitrary conventions that Alice lives by. The White
Queen chastises Alice for refusing to believe that she is over a
hundred years old on the grounds that it is “impossible.” Alice
does not know what is possible in this fantasy world, especially
since her adventures thus far have repeatedly challenged her preconceived
expectation. Even under the assumption that Alice’s doubts are justified,
the White Queen’s claim to be a hundred years old is not impossible,
merely unlikely. Regardless, Alice should know by now that individuals
in Looking-Glass World are capable of doing the impossible.