Study Guide

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

By Lewis Carroll

  • Tone

    Playful, Tongue-in-Cheek, Sympathetic

    Above all, the narrator's tone in the Alice books is playful – taking up jokes and kicking them around until they go somewhere absolutely crazy. We get the feeling that this narrator would do anything for a laugh, even if it means completely abandoning one plotline in order to follow up on a pun or a double meaning. Sometimes the tone is playful in an innocent way, such as when the narrator tells us about Alice's two kittens at the beginning of Through the Looking-Glass:

    "One thing was certain, that the white kitten had had nothing to do with it: – it was the black kitten's fault entirely. For the white kitten had been having its face washed by the old cat for the last quarter of an hour (and bearing it pretty well, considering); so you see that it couldn't have had any hand in the mischief." (Looking-Glass 1.1)

    In other places, the narrator is tongue-in-cheek, which is a fancy way of saying mocking or humorous in a lighthearted way. For example, Alice's astonishment at tumbling down the rabbit hole becomes a morbid joke between the narrator and the reader:

    "Well!" thought Alice to herself, "after such a fall as this, I shall think nothing of tumbling down stairs! How brave they'll all think me at home! Why, I wouldn't say anything about it, even if I fell off the top of the house!" (Which was very likely true.) (Wonderland 1.7)

    In other places, the narrator feels sympathy for Alice's bewilderment and difficulties. When Alice despairs of ever getting into the beautiful garden, the narrator pities her:

    "Poor Alice! It was as much as she could do, lying down on one side, to look through into the garden with one eye; but to get through was more hopeless than ever: she sat down and began to cry again." (Wonderland 2.5)

    Overall, the narrator is gentle, even when making fun of Alice or enjoying a private joke with the reader. We feel chummy with this narrator, who tells us secrets that Alice herself doesn't know, creating dramatic irony.

  • Genre

    Children's Literature, Fairy Tale, Fantasy, Quest, Satire and Parody

    The Alice books are children's literature by the strict definition – that is, they are literature originally intended for child readers and listeners. Of course, that doesn't mean that adults can't enjoy them, too, and they have since the first publication of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland in 1865. Even dignified Queen Victoria was reputed to love the tale of little Alice. Today, the Alice books are probably more popular with adult readers – who can appreciate all the subtle sarcasm, wordplay, and details of Carroll's clever writing – than with young readers. Still, the various film adaptations, picture-book versions, toys, games, and other tie-ins keep the classic story alive for even the youngest children.

    In a broad sense, the Alice books are also fairy tales. While Shmoop defies to you find any actual fairies in them, the books present fantasy and adventure to a child audience in a way that we understand as the essence of the fairy tale. Lewis Carroll himself described Through the Looking-Glass as "a fairy-tale" in the poem he wrote as an epigraph for that book. While we know that authors aren't always the final authorities about the literary qualities of their own work, in this case, we're willing to take his word for it.

    A better term to describe the genre of the Alice books than "fairy tale" is fantasy. Definition-wise, this makes a lot of sense. A world where playing cards come to life, animals can talk, and magic potions make you shrink is definitely fantastic. Calling the book a fantasy also allows us to put it into a category with other classic fantasies, such as the Chronicles of Narnia, the Harry Potter series, The Wizard of Oz, and Peter Pan, which seem like obvious points of comparison.

    As you'll notice if you check out the "Classic Plot Analysis" section, both Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass are quest narratives. In each book, Alice is trying to get to a specific location – either the beautiful garden in Wonderland or the eighth square of the chess board in Looking-Glass World – in order to conclude her adventure.

    Finally, we'll throw one more genre into the mix for you to think about in connection with Alice – satire and parody. Neither of the Alice books is a sustained parody of one specific thing, but there are definitely several moments where the books become highly satirical. For example, when Alice needs to get dry, the Dodo organizes a "Caucus-race," which is clearly a parody of the electoral process and politics. The satirical elements in the books give them a more adult feel and also suggest that there's more here than meets the eye – perhaps nonsense can be a kind of sense.

  • What's Up With the Title?

    Let's be really clear about this – there are two titles here, since there are two books. The first is Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, which is exactly what it sounds like – a series of wacky exploits by our heroine, Alice, in a strange fantasy realm known as Wonderland. Describing the book as "Adventures" is telling, since it clues us in to the fact that the plot is episodic (lots of little adventures, often one for each chapter) instead of one long story arc (like most novels). It's also important that the title tells us the imaginary world in the book is called "Wonderland," since Alice never learns the name of this strange place during her adventures. In fact, the only time that the word "Wonderland" occurs in the book is in the second-to-last paragraph of the last chapter, when Alice's sister reflects upon Alice's adventures. So the title of the book also clues us in to the fact that we are focused on Alice, but that we as readers know things she doesn't about her experiences.

    The title of the second book is Through the Looking-Glass, or, if you want to get really specific (and we know you do!), Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There. A looking-glass is a mirror – you know, because a mirror is a piece of glass with a foil backing in which you can look at yourself. In a literal sense, of course, there's nothing "through the looking-glass," because it has no other side; but in another way, the other side of the looking-glass is a reflected world, a place that's the backwards or opposite version of the "real" world. So this title indicates that the book will constantly play with the relationship between something and nothing, fantasy and reality.

    We're going to call these stories "the Alice books," just to give ourselves an easy short way to refer to them. You may also have heard one or both of the books referred to as Alice in Wonderland, which is the title given to many of the film adaptations of the stories. It's important to realize that (a) this is a different version of the title than the one Carroll gave his book and (b) taking out the word "Adventures" removes some of the episodic feel, suggesting a more unified plot and organization.

    There's one more title that lurks behind the Alice books, the title of a book that never got published because it turned into Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. We're talking about Alice's Adventures Underground, which was the title that Lewis Carroll gave to the first draft of his manuscript. It's interesting to think about this change, since Carroll seems to have decided that he wanted Alice to journey through a world that was totally fantastic, a "Wonderland," instead of a world that had a literal relationship to reality. You can even view pages from the manuscript of Alice's Adventures Underground online – check out our "Best of the Web" section.

  • What's Up With the Ending?

    At the end of both of the Alice books, we awake with a start from the fantasy world and find ourselves dropped back into "real life" with a solid thump. Well, OK, there's not a literal thump – at the end of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, the playing cards throwing themselves at Alice turn to dead leaves falling on her face as she sleeps under a tree next to her sister, and at the end of Through the Looking-Glass, Alice shakes the Red Queen into her black kitten Kitty. But in each case, we have a sense of realizing that "it was all a dream": despite everything that's happened, nothing has really changed.

    The end of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland includes one additional scene. After Alice wakes up, she tells her adventures to her sister. Alice herself runs off gleefully, and for a moment the reader is left alone with the sister, recalling all the strange characters and weird happenings of Wonderland. Carroll uses the sister as a guide for the reader, teaching the reader how to appreciate Alice's imagination even while realizing that it's just a fantasy.

    The end of Through the Looking-Glass is rather different: Alice continues to wonder whether Looking-Glass World was her own dream or the Red King's. While we're pretty sure it was hers, this reminds us of a logic problem. You know, the way that you can see the world in terms of a chicken crossing the road or a road crossing a chicken, depending on your frame of reference. The difference between the books – ending on a note of appreciation for the imagination of a child versus ending with a logical puzzle – suggests a development in Carroll's own preoccupations.

  • Setting

    England, Wonderland, and Looking-Glass World


    In each of the Alice books, we begin with a brief glimpse of the "real world" where Alice lives a humdrum domestic life with her older sister, nurse, and other family members. It's important to remember that this "real world" isn't our world today. Instead, it's Victorian England – the regimented life of an upper-middle-class British child in the nineteenth century.

    As a girl in the England of the mid-1800s, Alice would have been sheltered from most of the realities of the world around her, like industrialization and poverty, and anything that might have been considered odd, awkward, improper, or silly. She would always have been primly dressed in lots of complicated uncomfortable clothes. She would have learned lessons, partly from a tutor and partly at school, but they would have been almost entirely rote learning – memorizing poems to improve her morals, memorizing songs to entertain adults, and memorizing sums to make her a useful housekeeper when she grew up and married. These arbitrary, stuffy rules sound lame, don't they? Lewis Carroll thought so, too. That's why this boring "real world" quickly dissolves away into a fantasy world of Alice's own creation.


    In Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, the fantasy world is, you guessed it, Wonderland. Wonderland is just what it sounds like – a land of wonders, of strange and curious creatures doing strange and curious things. It's also a place where sense and nonsense meet, where a turn of phrase becomes a literal thing in the world. For example, when Alice talks about "beating time" in her music class, the characters in the Mad Tea Party think she's literally talking about hitting a man who personifies Time. Basically, in Wonderland, if you can speak it, you can see it.

    Wonderland also seems to have a physical location – underground, where Alice falls after tumbling down the rabbit hole – as indicated by the book's original title, Alice's Adventures Underground. Yet Wonderland may just be a dream-world, since Alice wakes up at the end of her journey.

    On occasion, Wonderland becomes a parody of the ridiculous strictures of the Victorian England that Alice inhabits. For example, when Alice and a group of animals need to get dry after falling into a pool, the Dodo arranges a "Caucus-race," a political convention, which he says is the driest thing he knows. That's Lewis Carroll nudging you in the ribs, saying "Isn't politics dull and boring?"

    Again, at the Mad Tea Party, Carroll is satirizing the Victorian tradition of afternoon tea – a highly formalized occasion on which every aspect of the mini-meal was ordered by social custom, from who got to pour the tea to who got the first plate of little cakes. Carroll throws this fussiness overboard as he depicts the Hatter, Hare, and Dormouse (not to mention Alice herself) eating and drinking from dirty plates, spilling things, and making rude remarks right at the table. To us, it seems a little silly; to Victorians, it would have been an almost shocking breach of propriety, saved only by how fantastic the situation is – the fact that we're in Wonderland, where anything goes.

    Looking-Glass World

    Looking-Glass World is similar to Wonderland, but perhaps not quite the same. Wonderland is quirky, but Looking-Glass World is actually backwards in many ways. The White Queen's memory works in both directions, and she experiences time in reverse, bleeding before she pricks herself with a pin. The print in books is backwards, and in order to stay still you have to run furiously. Like a bad science fiction story, Through the Looking-Glass is inconsistent with these different kinds of backward-ness. Alice doesn't always have to run to stand still – it just happens once, because it's funny. And yet there's something different about the mirror-image world in this book, something that depends more on a silly kind of inverted logic than the madness of Wonderland.

  • What's Up With the Epigraph?

    Alice's Adventures in Wonderland

    All in the golden afternoon
    Full leisurely we glide;
    For both our oars, with little skill,
    By little hands are plied,
    While little hands make vain pretence
    Our wanderings to guide.

    Ah, cruel Three! In such an hour,
    Beneath such dreamy weather,
    To beg a tale of breath too weak
    To stir the tiniest feather!
    Yet what can one poor voice avail
    Against three tongues together?

    Imperious Prima flashes forth
    Her edict 'to begin it':
    In gentler tone Secunda hopes
    'There will be nonsense in it!'
    While Tertia interrupts the tale
    Not more than once a minute.

    Anon, to sudden silence won,
    In fancy they pursue
    The dream-child moving through a land
    Of wonders wild and new,
    In friendly chat with bird or beast –
    And half believe it true.

    And ever, as the story drained
    The wells of fancy dry,
    And faintly strove that weary one
    To put the subject by,
    'The rest next time –' 'It is next time!'
    The happy voices cry.

    Thus grew the tale of Wonderland:
    Thus slowly, one by one,
    Its quaint events were hammered out –
    And now the tale is done,
    And home we steer, a merry crew,
    Beneath the setting sun.

    Alice! A childish story take,
    And, with a gentle hand
    Lay it where Childhood's dreams are twined
    In Memory's mystic band,
    Like pilgrim's wither'd wreath of flowers
    Pluck'd in a far-off land.

    The epigraph to Alice's Adventures in Wonderland is an original poem by Lewis Carroll himself. If you aren't "in the know" about the context in which he wrote this book, the poem probably seems vague and unclear. What's really going on? Well, Carroll began making up stories about the adventures of a fictional little girl named Alice in order to please three real-life little girls, Lorina, Alice, and Edith Liddell, who were the daughters of his friend and Oxford colleague, Dean Liddell.

    The story goes that Dodgson, the three Liddell girls, and Dodgson's friend Reverend Duckworth (parodied as the Duck in Chapter 3) went on a boat trip up the river together on a summer afternoon in 1862. To amuse the little girls, Dodgson began telling silly stories about a pretend Alice, to the delight of the real Alice Liddell sitting in front of him. He continued telling these nonsense stories to the girls on several different occasions, and eventually he wrote them down in manuscript titled Alice's Adventures Underground.

    Finally, in 1865, he published a revised version of this manuscript as Alice's Adventures in Wonderland under the pseudonym Lewis Carroll. In order to preserve some of the personal feel of the original oral stories for the Liddells, he composed this poem as an epigraph, telling the story of the trip along the river and explaining how the "the tale of Wonderland" grew "slowly, one by one" – which also explains why the story is episodic.

    Through the Looking-Glass

    Child of the pure unclouded brow
    And dreaming eyes of wonder!
    Though time be fleet, and I and thou
    Are half a life asunder,
    Thy loving smile will surely hail
    The love-gift of a fairy-tale.

    I have not seen thy sunny face,
    Nor heard thy silver laughter:
    No thought of me shall find a place
    In thy young life's hereafter –
    Enough that now thou wilt not fail
    To listen to my fairy-tale.

    A tale begun in other days,When summer suns were glowing –
    A simple chime, that served to time
    The rhythm of our rowing –
    Whose echoes live in memory yet,
    Though envious years would say 'forget.'

    Come, hearken then, ere voice of dread,With bitter tidings laden,
    Shall summon to unwelcome bed
    A melancholy maiden!
    We are but older children, dear,
    Who fret to find our bedtime near.

    Without, the frost, the blinding snow,
    The storm-wind's moody madness –
    Within, the firelight's ruddy glow,
    And childhood's nest of gladness.
    The magic words shall hold thee fast:
    Thou shalt not heed the raving blast.

    And though the shadow of a sigh
    May tremble through the story,
    For 'happy summer days' gone by,
    And vanish'd summer glory –
    It shall not touch with, breath of bale,
    The pleasance of our fairy-tale.

    Just as he did for Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, Lewis Carroll composed an original poem as the epigraph to Through the Looking-Glass. However, while the epigraph to the first book tells the story of how Carroll composed the Wonderland stories to amuse the real-life Alice Liddell, the epigraph to the second book describes Carroll's sorrow at Alice's fleeting youth.

    This poem is much more emotional and formal than the first epigraph; we might even call it sappy. Carroll uses antiquated language – "I and thou," "Thou shalt not heed," and "pleasance," for example – to give a sentimental tone to the poem, and we can feel his anxiety about the fact that the real-life Alice has grown up and that "childhood's nest of gladness" has given way to a "melancholy maiden."

    However, the poem suggests that the book itself can preserve a feeling of childishness. The summer must give way to the winter, and people have to age, but this "shall not touch" the power of the fairy tale that Carroll composes in memory of the little girl he used to know. Not that she's died – but in his eyes, growing up is almost as bad.

  • Writing Style

    Simple, Clever, Poetic

    Although the Alice books are stories for children, they're probably above the reading level of children of Alice's own age (seven in Through the Looking-Glass). The introduction of longer vocabulary words and Victorian customs also adds to the difficulty for twenty-first-century readers. Still, for the most part, the books are written in simple language that most readers can understand. Most sentences are relatively short and straightforward, and when the language does become complicated, the narrator usually makes fun of it for us before it gets too heavy.

    However, despite the use of simple syntax and short sentences, the style of both books is extremely clever. Plays on words, puns, homophone confusion, and metaphors becoming literal embellish and embroider Lewis Carroll's otherwise simple prose. These clever permutations of language add richness to the text and another level of enjoyment for adults or more educated readers.

    In addition, both books incorporate poetic language, in the form of parodies of nursery rhymes and songs, as well as Carroll's own original nonsense poetry. The most famous poem in the Alice books is "Jabberwocky," which appears in the first chapter of Through the Looking-Glass. We've got a lot to say about "Jabberwocky" in Shmoop Poetry (and we think our critique is a bit more insightful than Humpty Dumpty's). Each novel also has a poem by Carroll as its epigraph – just take a look at the "What's Up with the Epigraph?" section.

  • Symbolism, Imagery, Allegory

    The Rabbit Hole

    Going "down the rabbit hole" has become a common metaphor in popular culture, symbolizing everything from exploring a new world to taking drugs to delving into something unknown. (Think The Matrix, for example, where "following the white rabbit" and later choosing the "red pill" starts Neo off on a journey of philosophical realization from which he cannot return.) In Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, the rabbit hole is the place where it all begins. It's Alice's unthinking decision to follow the White Rabbit that leads to all of her adventures. The pop culture version of this symbol perhaps doesn't take into account the "unthinking" nature of this choice quite enough. After all, Alice's decision is pretty foolhardy; if this weren't a magical fantasyland, she'd probably be killed by the fall, and she has no idea where she's going, what she's facing, or how to get home. You may also notice that going down the rabbit hole is a one-way trip – the entry, but not the exit, to the fantasy world.

    The Looking-Glass

    "Looking-Glass" is the Victorian name for a mirror – since, you know, it's a piece of glass (with a foil back) that you use to look at yourself. Mirror images are reflections – reproductions, with a difference, of the real world. They're the opposite, or the backwards version, of normal things, and throughout Through the Looking-Glass Lewis Carroll will play with different kinds of reversal, reflection, and opposition. Sometimes it's time that seems to work backwards, such as when the White Queen bleeds first and then pricks her finger. Sometimes it's distance, as when Alice has to walk toward Looking-Glass House in order to get away from it. Sometimes cause and effect are themselves reversed, such as when Alice and the Red Queen have to run in order to stand still.

    What's most important to notice about these different forms of reflection and reproduction is that they're not consistent. Carroll introduces each of them for a moment or scene, but they're just throwaway jokes. Alice doesn't have to run to stand still for the entire book, for example. This tells us that we're reading satire and parody, which make the most of a pun or a conceit and then let it drop, rather than science fiction, in which we'd have to worry about the consistency of the rules of this new backwards world.

    Size and Growth

    In Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, Alice changes size constantly. When she first arrives in Wonderland, she's too large to make it through the little door into the beautiful garden; after she drinks from the mysterious bottle, she's too small to reach the key. Once she eats the special cake, she's enormous, but the White Rabbit's fan makes her small again. In the rabbit's house, another bottle of mystery cordial makes her swell up and get stuck in the room; pebbles thrown in the window turn to cakes and eating them shrinks her. At this point, Alice meets the Caterpillar, who teaches her to use pieces of mushroom to control her size – nibbling a bit from one side to get larger and a bit from the other side to get smaller. Just when we think she's finally in control of her size, she begins growing in the courtroom, getting larger and larger until she eventually realizes that the characters around her are just a pack of cards.

    Why all these changes in size? What does it all mean?

    Well, we have to make the obvious connection between size, age, and maturity. Even back in the real world, Alice is constantly changing in size because she's a growing girl, getting a little bigger and a little older all the time. This is an arbitrary process that she can't control; all children grow up. (Unless you're reading a different book called Peter Pan.) It's also a process that makes Lewis Carroll, who was fond of children but not of adults, nervous. Alice changes size – and changes in relation to everyone around her – because Carroll wants to show us that growing up is unpredictable, sometimes just making you feel awkward, sometimes actually putting you or others around you in danger.

    In Through the Looking-Glass, Alice doesn't really change in size, although the chess pieces and game themselves grow large. However, Carroll draws our attention to her age and process of maturing. When Humpty Dumpty tells Alice, who is seven and a half, that she should have "left off at seven," he seems to be speaking Carroll's own thoughts. Couldn't she just stay a cute little girl, ready to listen to fairy tales, forever? Of course not – the only way to freeze your age in time is by dying!



    Through the Looking-Glass is structured like a chess game: the pieces become characters, Alice herself a pawn, and all her adventures are simply complicated dramatizations of different moves in the game. In fact, most editions of the book include a chart of the chessboard and the moves, which Lewis Carroll himself put together. As he explains in his note, the red and white pieces don't take proper turns, but otherwise the moves in the game are directly related to the moves the characters make in the book.

    This explains, for example, why Alice has to cross six brooks: as a pawn, she starts in the second square and has to cross into the next six before getting "promoted" to queen. She moves through the third square rapidly on a train journey because pawns can move two squares on their first move, essentially skipping or flying through a square. The chess metaphor also explains why the Queens move so quickly and erratically, since Queens can move in any direction and in any number of squares in chess, and why the White Knight has trouble riding in a straight line, since chess Knights move in an L-shape.

    If traveling on a bizarre and uncertain journey in order to become a queen instead of a pawn sounds a bit like a metaphor for growing up, well, who are we to say no? And that might also explain why the White Knight is so sad to see Alice cross over into the eighth square, where he can't follow. It's more than a little reminiscent of Lewis Carroll's own reluctance to let go of the real-life Alice Liddell when she grows up. Beyond that more specific, biographical connection, the book implies that life is just a game, full of arbitrary rules and not nearly as meaningful as we like to pretend.


    Alice's Adventures in Wonderland also makes references to a game underlying the action – in this case, cards. The Queen, King, and courtiers that Alice meets are all in the suit of hearts, while, fittingly, the spades end up as gardeners and the clubs as soldiers. However, unlike Through the Looking-Glass, the first Alice book isn't structured by the moves of a game. There isn't any particular card game being "played," metaphorically or literally, behind the scenes of Alice's experience in Wonderland. Instead, the personified cards mingle with talking animals as part of the childish fantasy context. Playing cards, pet mice, wild rabbits, and housecats are all elements of Alice Liddell's everyday life that Lewis Carroll draws on to populate the fantasy world.


    Games crop up in other areas of Wonderland, too – for example, in the strange game of croquet that everyone plays in Chapter 8. In this case, instead of life resembling a game, a game comes to life. All the pieces, from the croquet hoops (soldiers) to the mallets (flamingos) to the balls (hedgehogs) are living creatures. This seems rather cruel to us today, but Carroll means for it to be funny. As the croquet game proceeds, the complexity of the situation is delightfully silly. And, of course, the croquet game is rigged, since the Queen of Hearts arrests and sentences to death anyone who might beat her. Talk about being a sore loser!

  • Narrator Point of View

    Third Person (Limited Omniscient)

    The narrator of the Alice books hovers at a distance from the action of the story, a disembodied figure who sees all. However, there are limitations on this impersonal storytelling voice. The narrative is focused entirely on Alice; she's never offstage, so we don't see any action that she doesn't know about. We're also privy to her thoughts, which the narrator can probe and examine. But make no mistake – we're not getting the story from her perspective. We are told how she feels about things, but we, like the narrator, keep at arm's length from her, watching what happens instead of experiencing it with her. This adds to the feeling that Alice is a two-dimensional character; even though we're interested in her adventures, we're not really invested in her personally.

  • Plot Analysis

    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?