Alice Question #23 ~ The White Knight

by Lewis Carroll

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Alice Question #23 ~ The White Knight

Unread postby Liz » Tue Feb 23, 2010 1:09 pm

Let’s discuss the White Knight and his significance to the story of Through the Looking Glass and What Alice Found There.
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Re: Alice Question #23 ~ The White Knight

Unread postby gemini » Tue Feb 23, 2010 6:13 pm

Why do I think that Carroll thought of himself as the White Knight? He said that Alice would remember for years afterwards the mild blue eyes and kind smile of the Knight. The fact that he fell off his horse constantly seems like a reference to Carrolls awkwardness with women. He fought a duel with the Red Knight over Alice. The White Knight thought himself an inventor. My favorite was anlets to protect his horse from sharks. He sang Alice a song about an aged old man that he remembered. Also maybe himself as he thought Alice might remember him.
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Re: Alice Question #23 ~ The White Knight

Unread postby DeppInTheHeartOfTexas » Tue Feb 23, 2010 6:36 pm

I thought the White Knight was one of the most memorable characters in the story. He seemed to be close to "normal" but just one smidgen off in everything he said or did. I thought he was great fun.

gemini, you are not alone in your supposition that Carroll considered himself as the White Knight. In The Annotated Alice, Martin Gardner writes in his notes:


"Many Carrollian scholars have surmised, and with good reason, that Carroll intended the White Knight to be a caricature of himself. Like the Knight, Carroll had shaggy hair, mild blue eyes, a kind and gentle face. Like the knight, his mind seemed to function best when it saw things in a topsy-turvy fashion. Like the knight, he was fond of curious gadgets and a 'great hand at inventing things.' He was forever 'thinking of a way' to do this or that a bit differently. Many of his inventions, like the knight's blotting-paper pudding, were very clever but unlikely ever to be made (though some turned out to be not so useless when others reinvented them decades later).

It is noteworthy also that, of all the characters Alice meets on her two dream adventures, only the White Knight seems to be genuinely fond of her and to offer her special assistance. He is almost alone in speaking to her with respect and courtesy, and we are told that Alice remembered him better than anyone else whom she met behind the mirror. His melancholy farewell may be Carroll's farewell to Alice when she grew up (became a queen) and abandoned him. At any rate, we hear loudest in this sunset episode that 'shadow of a sigh' that Carroll tells us in his prefatory poem will 'tremble through the story'.

Gardner also quotes an article by Jeffrey Stern titled, "Carroll Identifies Himself at Last" in the newsletter Jabberwocky, Summer/Autumn 1990). In the article, Stern describes a game board hand drawn by Carroll that was recently discovered. The nature of the game is unknown, but on the underside of the cardboard sheet Carroll had written, (to) "Oliver Butler, from the White Knight. Nov. 21, 1982. So at last, Stern comments, we know for certain that Carroll did portray himself as the White Knight."
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Re: Alice Question #23 ~ The White Knight

Unread postby nebraska » Tue Feb 23, 2010 8:10 pm

Good answers. I also found the White Knight to be one of the most memorable and endearing characters. He was so helpless/hopeless but there didn't appear to be anything but kindness and good will in his being. :cool:

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Re: Alice Question #23 ~ The White Knight

Unread postby fansmom » Tue Feb 23, 2010 8:11 pm

DeppInTheHeartOfTexas wrote:Nov. 21, 1982
When? :perplexed:

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Re: Alice Question #23 ~ The White Knight

Unread postby DeppInTheHeartOfTexas » Tue Feb 23, 2010 8:33 pm

Let's try that one again...1892! :lol: :blush:
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Re: Alice Question #23 ~ The White Knight

Unread postby Buster » Tue Feb 23, 2010 8:34 pm

The White Knight's whole conversation about "the name of the song is called "Haddocks' Eyes" ....the song is called "Ways and Means"....the song is "A-sitting on a Gate" makes me agree that Carroll is caricaturing himself.

Don't you wish he included a conversation between Humpty Dumpty and the White Knight?

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Re: Alice Question #23 ~ The White Knight

Unread postby DeppInTheHeartOfTexas » Tue Feb 23, 2010 8:37 pm

That would have been fun! :cool:
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Re: Alice Question #23 ~ The White Knight

Unread postby deppaura » Wed Feb 24, 2010 3:45 pm

Read a couple of things. Tenniel resembled White Knight. Also, White Knight reminded some of Don Quixote. That's All Folks!!

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Re: Alice Question #23 ~ The White Knight

Unread postby DeppInTheHeartOfTexas » Wed Feb 24, 2010 11:29 pm

deppaura, do you have a copy of The Annontated Alice? These are Gardner's notes in that regard:

"Although Carollinians agree that Carroll intended the White Knight to represent himself, other candidates have been proposed. Don Quixote is an obvious choice, and the parallels are ably defended in John Hinz's "Alice Meets the Don," in the South Atlantic Quarterly (Vol. 52, 1953, pages 253-66)...

Another candidate for the White Knight is a chemist and inventor who was a friend of Carroll's, and is often mentioned in Carroll's diary. See "The Chemist in Allegory: Augustus Vernon Harcourt and The White Knight," by M. Christine King, Journal of Chemical Education (March 1983). Other candidates are considered in Chapter 7 of Michael Hancher's The Tenniel Illustrations to the "Alice" books. Because Tenniel in later life had a handlebar mustache (and his nose resembled that o the White Knight), it has been suggested that Tenniel drew the Knight as a caricature of himself. This seems farfetched because at the time that he drew the White Knight he did not have a mustache.

Tenniel's frontispiece picture of the White Knight in many ways resembles Albrecht Durer's etching of the Knight in the presence of Death and The Devil. Was this intentional? When I wrote to Michael Hancher for his opinion, he called my attention to Tenniel's cartoon in Punch (march 5, 1887), titled "The Knight and His Companion (Suggested by Durer's famous picture)." The Knight represents Bismarck and his companion is Socialism. "Obviously Tenniel had a copy of the Durer in front of him when he drew this cartoon," Hancher wrote. "My hunch is that he did not when he drew the Looking-Glass frontispiece, but that he called it up out of his remarkable visual memory."


Image

Tenniel's White Knight

Image

Durer's White Knight


Image

Tenniel


Image

Carroll


"The White Knight," Carroll wrote to Tenniel, "must not have whiskers; he must not be made to look old." Nowhere in the text does Carroll mention a mustache, nor does he indicate the knight's age. Tenniel's handlebar mustache and Newell's bushy mustache were the artists' additions. Perhaps Tenniel, sensing that the White Knight was Carroll, gave him a balding, elderly look to contrast his age with that of Alice.
Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming -

Wow! What a ride!

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Re: Alice Question #23 ~ The White Knight

Unread postby deppaura » Thu Feb 25, 2010 2:01 pm

Thanks, DITHOT..I did have a library copy of the book long ago returned...

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Re: Alice Question #23 ~ The White Knight

Unread postby Liz » Thu Feb 25, 2010 10:17 pm

The White Knight is one of my favorite characters because I consider him to be one of the most lovable, tragic and interesting characters, as are all of your answers—interesting, that is.

I think Carroll gave him very much significance, based on Gardner’s notes. Here is what I find to be the most interesting of the notes because of its significance, not only to the chess game, but to Carroll’s life and Alice’s. It is based on the following quote from the story:


"I shan't be long. You'll wait and wave your handkerchief when I get to that turn in the road? I think it'll encourage me, you see."

"Of course I'll wait," said Alice: "and thank you very much for coming so far -- and for the song -- I liked it very much."

"I hope so," the Knight said doubtfully: "but you didn't cry so much as I expected."

So they shook hands, and then the Knight rode slowly away into the forest. "It won’t take long to see him off, I expect," Alice said to herself, as she stood watching him. "There he goes! Right on his head as usual! However, he gets on again pretty easily -- that comes of having so many things hung round the horse -- -" So she went on talking to herself, as she watched the horse walking leisurely along the road, and the Knight tumbling off, first on one side and then on the other. After the fourth or fifth tumble he reached the turn, and then she waved her handkerchief to him, and waited till he was out of sight.

"I hope it encouraged him," she said, as she turned to run down the hill: "and now for the last brook, and to be a Queen! How grand it sounds!" A very few steps brought her to the edge of the brook. "The Eighth Square at last!" she cried as she bounded across and threw herself down to rest on a lawn as soft as moss, with little flower-beds dotted all about it here and there. "Oh, how glad I am to get here!


Note 21: The White Knight has returned to KB5, the square he occupied before capturing the Red Knight.

Because knight moves are L-shaped, the White Knight’s move is the “turn in the road” to which he referred a few paragraphs earlier.

This scene, in which Carroll clearly intends to describe how he hopes Alice will feel after she grows up and says good-bye, is one of the great poignant episodes of English literature. No one has written more eloquently about it than Donald Rackin in his essay, “Love and Death in Carroll’s Alices”: “The fleeting love that whispers through this scene is, therefore, complex and paradoxical: it is a love between a child all potential, freedom, flux, and growing up and a man all impotence, imprisonment, stasis, and falling down.”
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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