Alice Question #11 ~ The Looking Glass

by Lewis Carroll

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Alice Question #11 ~ The Looking Glass

Unread postby Liz » Thu Feb 11, 2010 11:39 am

What is the significance of the looking glass?
You can't judge a book by its cover.

The only thing that matters is the ending. It's the most important part of the story.

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Re: Alice Question #11 ~ The Looking Glass

Unread postby fansmom » Thu Feb 11, 2010 2:15 pm

What, like a mirror usually presents us as we are, but by Alice passing through it, she enters a unreal world? Or do you want a really long over-analytical monologue involving Victorian class structure and the uses of topsy-turvy plot elements in late 19th century entertainment? Because I'm snowed in. I could do that. :whistle:

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Re: Alice Question #11 ~ The Looking Glass

Unread postby Buster » Thu Feb 11, 2010 3:27 pm

Or do you want a really long over-analytical monologue involving Victorian class structure and the uses of topsy-turvy plot elements in late 19th century entertainment?

Go for it.

I actually suspect he was a topologist delighted by words. Having found an audience, he couldn't restrain himself.

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Re: Alice Question #11 ~ The Looking Glass

Unread postby fansmom » Thu Feb 11, 2010 5:13 pm

Buster wrote:Or do you want a really long over-analytical monologue involving Victorian class structure and the uses of topsy-turvy plot elements in late 19th century entertainment?Go for it.
Well, I just spent way longer than I should have trying to get my non-computer-savvy parents on a flight to Phoenix, so I don't have as much time as I did when I wrote that, but--

Victorian society in England was very rigid. (I'd say it was less so in America; we place some value on the Horatio Alger self-made man, but that's a digression.) Born into a class, you stayed in that class. Your clothing and your accent were dead giveaways to your status; anyone could pigeonhole anyone else at a glance or upon hearing a sentence. (There was a pecularly Victorian insistence upon "taking the appearance of a thing for the thing itself," which makes me think of "Much more better. It is a drawing of a key," but that's another digression.) Imagine the fun, the humor to be found in turning that rigid world upside down. Lewis Carroll was not alone: W.S. Gilbert of Gilbert and Sullivan urged his musical partner to write an opera in which each character would take a love potion and fall in love with the first person he or she saw. Edward Lear was a master of nonsense, with his unlikely couple of the owl and the pussycat, going to sea.

Victorians were also self-aware, and aware that their world was changing. Having thought themselves the pinnacle of a God-created world, Darwin had just punctured their self-esteem. Instead of being the epitome of creation, they were kin to apes. It seemed that the bedrock institution of church was on the verge of being overthrown. Technology was everywhere: suddenly, after a galloping horse being the fastest anyone had ever moved and lived to tell about it, there were trains. Telegraphs, and five years after "Looking Glass," there were telephones.

Perhaps literary nonsense was a way of dealing with the shift between a rigid, norm-bound society and what was on the horizon . . .

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Re: Alice Question #11 ~ The Looking Glass

Unread postby gemini » Thu Feb 11, 2010 5:28 pm

I never put as much thought into it as fansmom. I am really impressed. I took it a bit more simple.

I thought the significiance of the looking glass was to make the world a mirror image, backwards, or opposite in every way from the real world. Carroll loved games, and thought problems and the mirror image gave him plenty to use. Many of the characters seemed to use this theme except the ones who were from the chess game.
I just didn't think to associate it with the era of society at the time but as fansmom says it most likely affected Carrolls thoughts at the time.
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Re: Alice Question #11 ~ The Looking Glass

Unread postby deppaura » Thu Feb 11, 2010 11:05 pm

Well, obviously not having a mind of my own (come to think of it, maybe appropriate in this discussion) ONCE again I refer to my mentor (?) Mr. Lin whose psych gibberish refers to the Looking Glass.."an analogue for the confusion of things that are knowable" Also, how the writing coincided with the Liddell sisters learning chess. Whether right or wrong, if I didn't have his lead-in to the story I would have been pretty confused. And, I realize that's just his hit!!

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Re: Alice Question #11 ~ The Looking Glass

Unread postby Buster » Thu Feb 11, 2010 11:27 pm

There was a peculiarly Victorian insistence upon "taking the appearance of a thing for the thing itself," which makes me think of "Much more better. It is a drawing of a key," but that's another digression.
I think the rigidity you mentioned makes that kind of play easier. If everyone knows how it is supposed to be, it is not hard to lampoon the status quo. Tempting, in fact.

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Re: Alice Question #11 ~ The Looking Glass

Unread postby Liz » Fri Feb 12, 2010 12:09 am

Great answers all around. And they all seem plausible. I will add one more to the mix. I think of the looking glass as an entrance into another world, a parallel world. And this might fit into fansmom’s explanation….that it “was a way of dealing with the shift between a rigid, norm-bound society and what was on the horizon . .” another way of looking at reality.”

It also may fit into what gemini said…. That “the significance of the looking glass was to make the world a mirror image, backwards, or opposite in every way from the real world.”

And I wonder if Carroll was trying to find a way to deal with his reality….with fantasy.

Deppaura, my mentor has been Martin Gardner. I don’t think I could have ever found much to analyze in these two stories without him.

Buster, that would be me. I'm not a big fan of the "status quo".
You can't judge a book by its cover.

The only thing that matters is the ending. It's the most important part of the story.

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Re: Alice Question #11 ~ The Looking Glass

Unread postby DeppInTheHeartOfTexas » Sun Feb 14, 2010 9:33 pm

I'm just catching up here after a few days away. EXCELLENT answers all around. fansmom, I'm glad you had all that time on your hands and I hope your parents had a safe trip home. I think each one is very plausible and supportable. My only thought to add was that as his original audience was Alice and her sisters his intent was to take things they would be familiar with, societal conventions familiar to children, and turn them upside down to make them amusing for the girls while at the same time making things interesting to his mind, the puzzles and games.
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