Through the Looking Glass

Writing style and themes


The themes and settings of Through the Looking-Glass make it a kind of mirror image of Wonderland: the first book begins outdoors, in the warm month of May (4 May),[a] uses frequent changes in size as a plot device, and draws on the imagery of playing cards; the second opens indoors on a snowy, wintry night exactly six months later, on 4 November (the day before Guy Fawkes Night),[b] uses frequent changes in time and spatial directions as a plot device, and draws on the imagery of chess. In it, there are many mirror themes, including opposites, time running backwards, and so on.

The White Queen offers to hire Alice as her lady's maid and to pay her "Twopence a week, and jam every other day." Alice says that she doesn't want any jam today, and the Queen tells her: "You couldn't have it if you did want it. The rule is, jam tomorrow and jam yesterday- but never jam to-day." This is a reference to the rule in Latin that the word iam or jam meaning now in the sense of already or at that time cannot be used to describe now in the present, which is nunc in Latin. Jam is therefore never available today.[1]


Whereas the first book has the deck of cards as a theme, this book is based on a game of chess, played on a giant chessboard with fields for squares. Most main characters in the story are represented by a chess piece or animals, with Alice herself being a pawn.

The looking-glass world is divided into sections by brooks or streams, with the crossing of each brook usually signifying a notable change in the scene and action of the story: the brooks represent the divisions between squares on the chessboard, and Alice's crossing of them signifies advancing of her piece one square. Furthermore, since the brook-crossings do not always correspond to the beginning and ends of chapters, most editions of the book visually represent the crossings by breaking the text with several lines of asterisks ( * * * ). The sequence of moves (white and red) is not always followed. The most extensive treatment of the chess motif in Carroll's novel is provided in Glen Downey's The Truth About Pawn Promotion: The Development of the Chess Motif in Victorian Fiction.[2]

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