Through the Looking Glass

Through the Looking Glass Summary and Analysis of Chapter 4


Alice comes upon Tweedledum and Tweedledee, and she immediately knows which is which because they have their names on their collars. They chastise her for not beginning a conversation with them, but she is distracted by the poem about the two engaging in a battle. She tries to elicit directions from them, but they continue to advise her on how properly to begin a conversation. When she tries to shake both of their hands at once, they grab her and begin to dance.

Once they stop, they decide to recite poetry for Alice. They recite "The Walrus and the Carpenter," which is basically a tale of a walrus and a carpenter who take a walk on a beach one day and invite some oysters to come along. Many of the young oysters agree and end up getting devoured by the walrus and the carpenter.

After the recitation, Alice admits that she prefers the Walrus because he at least showed remorse for eating the oysters. Tweedledee and Tweedledum argue that even so, he ate significantly more than the carpenter. When Alice changes her mind, they argue that the carpenter ate as many as he could. Alice is left confused about which character she prefers.

Alice hears a rumbling noise and fears that it is coming from some great beast in the woods. The two little men assure Alice that it is just the Red King snoring, and they go to look upon him. Alice is disappointed to see that he is just a rumpled mess. The men then try to convince her that she is just a character in the King's dream and that she is therefore not real. This makes Alice exceedingly upset.

They notice a white rattle on the ground, and this incites the battle between the two men that Alice was originally anticipating. She helps them get dressed in ridiculous outfits for their battle, and when they both complain about injuries, she uses the opportunity to encourage them to save their fighting for another time. At this, they agree to have a shorter fight, but then a monstrous crow flies overhead, and they all run for cover.


Tweedledum and Tweedledee are enantiomorphs, which, according to mathematicians, are forms that are mirror images of one another. This is emphasized by the frequent use of the word "contrariwise." It is possible that the original nursery rhyme is an allusion to the rivalry between two composers, Handel and Bononcini.

The poem about the walrus and the carpenter is an important one, especially considering the discussion that follows it. The brothers want to know which Alice thinks is more contemptible, and it appears that she is unable to decide. The question poses a difficult moral dilemma, that involving whether it is right to judge a man by his actions or instead, by his intentions.

This chapter also poses metaphysical problems, for Tweedledum and Tweedledee claim that Alice is only a figment of the Red King's dream. This is more deeply interpreted as the philosophy that things are not real in an of themselves; Bishop Berkeley wrote that things exist only as "sorts of things" in the mind of God. Alice takes the more practical point of view.

Also, this idea of who is dreaming of whom shares an interesting parallel with the idea of mirrors. It is postulated that Alice is dreaming of the King, who is also dreaming of Alice, who still is dreaming of the King, which ends up being an infinite regress. The image is strikingly similar to two mirrors facing one another, reflecting infinitely themselves inside the other mirror. This idea also relates back to Tweedledee and Tweedledum themselves, who have been established as mirror images of one another.