Through the Looking-Glass

by: Lewis Carroll

Study Questions

Further study Study Questions

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.