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Themes are the fundamental and often universal ideas
explored in a literary work.
Alice’s journey through Looking-Glass World is guided
by a set of rigidly constructed rules that guide her along her path
to a preordained conclusion. Within the framework of the chess game,
Alice has little control over the trajectory of her life, and outside
forces influence her choices and actions. Just as Alice exerts little
control of her movement toward becoming a queen, she has no power
over her inevitable maturation and acceptance of womanhood. At the
beginning of the game, Alice acts as a pawn with limited perspective
of the world around her. She has limited power to influence outcomes
and does not fully understand the rules of the game, so an unseen
hand guides her along her journey, constructing different situations
and encounters that push her along toward her goal. Though she wants to
become a queen, she must follow the predetermined rules of the chess
game, and she frequently discovers that every step she takes toward
her goal occurs because of outside forces acting upon her, such
as the mysterious train ride and her rescue by the White Knight. By
using the chess game as the guiding principle of the narrative, Carroll
suggest that a larger force guides individuals through life and
that all events are preordained. In this deterministic concept of life,
free will is an illusion and individual choices are bound by rigidly
determined rules and guided by an overarching, unseen force.
In Through the Looking-Glass, language
has the capacity to anticipate and even cause events to happen.
Alice recites nursery rhymes on several occasions, which causes
Tweedledum and Tweedledee, Humpty Dumpty, and the Lion and the Unicorn
to perform the actions that she describes in her rhymes. Rather
than recording and describing events that have already happened,
words give rise to actions simply by being spoken. Tweedledum and
Tweedledee’s quarrel begins only after Alice recites the rhyme about
the broken rattle. Similarly, Humpty Dumpty’s fall does not happen
until Alice describes the events in the classic nursery rhyme. Language
covers actions in Looking-Glass World, rather than simply describing them.
The flowers reinforce this principle by explaining that a tree can
scare enemies away with its “bark.” In our language, there is no relationship
between the bark of a dog and the bark of a tree, but in Looking-Glass
World, this linguistic similarity results in a functional common
ground. Trees that have bark are thus able to “bark” just as fiercely
Throughout her adventures, Alice feels an inescapable
sense of loneliness from which she can find no relief. Before she
enters Looking-Glass World, her only companions are her cats, to
whom she attributes human qualities to keep her company. Once she
enters Looking-Glass World, she seeks compassion and understanding from
the individuals that she meets, but she is frequently disappointed.
The flowers and Humpty Dumpty treat her rudely, the Red Queen is
brusque, and the Fawn flees from her once it realizes that she is
a human. She receives little compassion from others and often becomes
sad. The one character who shows her compassion is the White Knight,
who must leave her when she reaches the eighth square and must take
on her role of Queen. Alice’s dreams deal with the anxieties of
growing up and becoming a young woman. Since Alice believes that
loneliness is an inherent part of growing up, even in her dreams
she must face the transition into womanhood alone.