A girl named Alice gets her wish when she falls through a looking glass in her living room and meets a cast of strange characters during a life-sized chess game. Seven-and-a-half-year-old, Alice, plays with her old cat Dinah's new kittens, Snowdrop, who's particularly good, and Kitty, who's particularly naughty. To punish Kitty for undoing a ball of yarn Alice spent the whole day winding, she insists the kitten fold its arms like the Red Queen on the chessboard Alice begins playing with. When the cat, cannot do it, Alice holds it up to the large looking glass over her fireplace. She tells the kitten that she will push it through as punishment. Then she rattles on about the way the looking glass has everything opposite from their house and how she wishes should could go through it. Next, she imagines the glass becoming soft and soon, Alice is on the other side. Her kitten is no longer with her, but she is quickly distracted by the need to save the White Queen who is falling from the chessboard before her eyes. She picks her up before she falls, but the queen cannot tell Alice is there and thinks she is floating when saved. Before long, Alice spots a book near the chessboard, picks it up and reads a poem aloud, “The Jabberwocky." She has no idea what any of its nonsensical words mean.
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Later, Alice wanders outside and meets a bed of talking flowers. They tell her she reminds them of another kind of flower with spikes on its head. At that moment, she turns to see the Red Queen, walking around life-sized. Alice tries to talk to her but can't because the path keeps taking her back to the house's front stoop. The flowers explain that everything is backwards there and she has to try to walk away from where she wants to go. Alice tries this, and it actually works. After a very strange race with the Red Queen that pretty much has Alice running in place, the queen explains to her that she'll have to play a chess game now. Alice, deemed a pawn, starts on the second square, but when she reaches the eighth square she will be a queen and presumably go home.
Staring over the hill toward the third square, Alice sees enormous bees that she realizes can't be any such thing. Upon further inspection, she realizes they are elephants, which she doesn't like at all. She travels down the hill another way, thinking that she might want to talk to the elephants later on but not at the moment. At the third square, Alice boards a train and meets a group of talking insects. She learns that insects are different through the looking glass. For example, they have bugs called rocking-horse flies and bread and butterflies. A gnat, who tells her all of these things while humming lightly in her ear, finishes up with a sad sigh then melts away from Alice. When she leaves the gnat, she ends up on the fourth square and meets a fawn in the forgetful wood.
Immediately, Alice and the fawn forget who they are and cling to each other while they walk further into the forest. Eventually, the fawn remembers he's a deer-like creature, and Alice is a human girl. Scared of this reality, the fawn runs away. Alice then comes upon the home of Tweedledee and Tweedledum. The twin brothers recite several poems, including “The Walrus and the Carpenter.” Alice does not want to hear this poem at the moment as she wants to move on in the game. The silly round brother's with their names embroidered on their bow-ties do not care what Alice wants. They continue with the story. In the end, Alice seems to like the poem and wonders which character is her favorite when a loud snoring his heard. They tell her it's the Red King. However, instead of finding the Red King, a shadow from a huge crow looming above them frightens all three of them into hiding. Soon, Alice finds a shawl floating through the forest and snaps it up before returning it to the owner who appears before her, the White Queen. Grateful, the White Queen takes Alice to the fifth square and morphs into a sheep who runs a shop. After a strange boating incident in the store, Alice is told to buy an egg. She goes after the egg, but it keeps getting further from her until it's life-size and sitting on a wall – Its name? Humpty-Dumpty.
Atop the sixth square, Humpty Dumpty, after telling Alice her name is stupid and that because she thinks he looks like an egg, she has no more sense than a baby, he explains the Jabberwocky poem to Alice. Alice loves the explanation but worries about him falling, knowing the famous nursery rhyme well. Humpty Dumpty assures Alice that all the King's horses and all the King's men will come and save him if he does indeed fall. When Alice heads for the seventh square, she hears a loud crash. It is obviously Humpty Dumpty. Soon, she passes the White King's army and learns that most of the men have gone to save Humpty Dumpty.
Before Alice can get to the seventh square, the White King and his remaining cavalry watch a fight between the Lion and the Unicorn. Before the fight can get anywhere, the two competitors stop to have tea and plum cake with everyone, which Alice can't seem to figure out how to break since you have to eat it before breaking it in pieces in this backwards world. When a loud drumming beats across the forest, Alice is frightened out of the woods and onto the seventh square. The Red Knight appears and captures Alice, but then the White Knight rescues her. Before escorting her to the eighth square, the White Knight sings Alice a lovely tune then bids her goodbye.
At the eight square, a magical crown materializes on Alice's head. Soon, she sits between the Red and White Queens who complain about her being rude for not inviting them to a party she had no idea she was having. The Red Queen invites the White Queen and the White Queen invites the Red Queen. Alice thinks she should be the one to invite the guests to her own party. They say they gave her the chance and it's too late to teach her the manners needed for such proper behavior. Soon, they are rattling off strange math problems, and before long the queens are snoozing in Alice's lap. Later at dinner, everything runs amok, causing Alice to rip a long white table cloth off from her dinner party table. The Red Queen suddenly becomes very tiny, and Alice picks her up and shakes her. “I'll shake you into a kitten, that I will!” With that, Alice is back home with her Kitty in her living room. She asks the cats if they dreamed what she'd seen or if it was her. She ends the story never knowing, and neither do we.
Best part of story, including ending:
I love Carroll's use of mathematics and the complexities of chess in the story. I also like that he highlights the backward notions of society. He also seems to note the way adults do not listen to children and try to teach them in ways that make absolutely no sense at all.
Best scene in story:
After Tweedledee and Tweedledum recite the Walrus and the Carpenter, Alice can't seem to decide which character is the most sympathetic. She first thinks its the Walrus because he was a bit sympathetic to the oysters, but when she's reminded he ate more than the Carpenter, then she can't decide. In the end, she says it's a puzzler. Sometimes you can't choose who is the most fiendish of fiends.
Opinion about the main character:
Alice is extremely flighty and careless. She is also a bit mean to her kitten, which is definitely not a good personality trait. Her dream is quite insane, but Carroll does a great job of reflecting the insanity of the world as he saw it.