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Analysis

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass Plot Analysis

Most good stories start with a fundamental list of ingredients: the initial situation, conflict, complication, climax, suspense, denouement, and conclusion. Great writers sometimes shake up the recipe and add some spice.

Wonderland: Initial Situation

Alice is bored. She's lying on the riverbank while her sister reads and she's feeling too lazy even to pick daisies.

Here's where it all begins. Alice is drowsy and can't decide what to do, and an adventure comes along and sweeps her up!

Wonderland: Conflict

Alice wants to get into the beautiful garden but can't find a way to reach it.

In the tradition of all good quest narratives, Alice has somewhere that she wants to reach – a beautiful garden full of greenery, flowers, and fountains. Of course, she can't get into it right away, or we wouldn't have a story to read.

Wonderland: Complication

While Alice searches for a route into the garden, she encounters many strange creatures and keeps changing sizes.

Not just one but many complications come between Alice and the beautiful garden. First, she falls into a pool of her own tears and gets involved in a "Caucus-race" with a Mouse and a group of birds and other animals. Then, she gets mistaken for the White Rabbit's maid, tries to do an errand, and ends up stuck in the Rabbit's house. She escapes, only to encounter the Caterpillar and find a way to change sizes. Next, it's on to the pepper-filled house of the Duchess and the Mad Tea Party. It's just one thing after another, and soon the complications start to seem more interesting than the goal of the journey!

Wonderland: Climax

Alice finally makes it into the garden.

There's not much to explain with this one: Alice achieves the goal that she set for herself at the beginning of the adventure and is finally the right size, in the right place, and with the right key to get into the beautiful garden. There's an anachronistic video game feel to this climax – Alice had to collect the right tools (pieces of the mushroom and the little golden key) and then bring them back to the right place in order to get to the next "level," as it were.

Wonderland: Suspense

Alice becomes entangled in the court of the Queen of Hearts.

Once Alice makes it into the garden, she's not really able to enjoy herself. She protects some foolish gardeners from the bloodthirsty Queen of Hearts, only to end up involved in a croquet game in which all the pieces are alive. After a detour with the Gryphon, she attends a trial, and things seem to be getting serious.

Wonderland: Denouement

Alice grows back to her correct size and realizes that the creatures around her are merely a pack of cards.

Just as we think that Alice is going to be held in contempt of court or beheaded, she begins to grow back to her regular size. As she grows, she realizes that the fantastic world around her is no more or less than a card game, and the creatures she has met are (mostly) simple playing cards. The danger isn't serious – it isn't even real!

Wonderland: Conclusion

Alice wakes up on the bank beside her sister, brushing leaves away, and tells the story of her adventure.

This is one of those books where you find out at the end that it was all a dream. What's interesting, however, is that Alice's sister picks up on the dream and starts imagining the characters herself, causing the story to live on in more than one memory.

Looking-Glass: Initial Situation

Alice is inside on a snowy day, looking into a mirror and wishing she could get to the other side.

With the snow outside, Alice is cooped up in the house playing with her cats, trying to find a way to amuse herself. Knowing Alice, it won't take long for her imagination to find a path to a new adventure.

Looking-Glass: Conflict

Alice, who is now playing the role of a White Pawn in a giant chess game, needs to get from the second square to the eighth square, where she will become a Queen.

Once again, the "conflict" that Alice faces is a journey – she needs to get somewhere, this time to the eighth square of the chess board. As in Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, the goal isn't imposed on her, but something that she chooses to do. She asks the Red Queen if she can be a player in the chess game, and she accepts her goal with relish. So even though there's a conflict of sorts here (Alice against everything and everyone that stands in her way), it's a friendly, jolly conflict, and we don't think she'll have much trouble winning.

Looking-Glass: Complication

As she travels through the squares, Alice is delayed by a variety of strange characters and adventures.

The complications come thick and fast; in fact, we could describe this plot as "episodic," since each adventure seems to be self-contained and separate from the others. First, Alice finds herself on a strange train, then among a group of weird insects. Her other adventures include a meeting with Tweedledum and Tweedledee, a shopping trip with a sheep, a conversation with Humpty Dumpty, a meal with the Lion and the Unicorn, and a ringside seat at a knights' joust.

Looking-Glass: Climax

Alice reaches the eighth square.

Shepherded along by the White Knight, Alice makes it safely to the eighth square, where she finds a crown on her head. Everything seems to be over, since she has finally become a Queen. But then…

Looking-Glass: Suspense

Alice's coronation is delayed while she is "examined" by the Red and White Queens.

The Red and White Queens appear on either side of Alice and begin quizzing her on all sorts of things, including math and cooking. Unfortunately, the answers they're expecting in this makeshift final exam are just as strange as Looking-Glass World itself. Will Alice pass their test and get to attend her coronation?

Looking-Glass: Denouement

A bizarre banquet is held in Alice's honor.

Finally, Alice does become a Queen, and all the creatures she's met in her travels attend a feast in her honor. However, nobody gets much to eat, since the Red Queen insists on introducing Alice to each dish as it comes along.

Looking-Glass: Conclusion

Alice returns to the "real world" and is left with her cats and her memories.

When Alice gets tired of her adventure, she starts shaking the Red Queen by the shoulders – only to discover that the Red Queen is really her black kitten. This transfiguration is one of many as Looking-Glass World melts around her and Alice returns to the hearth in her home. But now she has to wonder: which world is more real? Was Looking-Glass World a dream of her own, or did the Red King dream her?

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