Sunday, February 04, 2007

Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass by Lewis Carroll

Publishers: Parragon Publishing, U.K.

Text: Unabridged


Illustrations: June Goulding

First Published: 1865

This Edition: 2006

I just finished reading the very weird, but extremely wonderful "Alice in Wonderland" and its sequel, "Through the Looking Glass" by Lewis Carroll for booklogged's "Winter Classics Challenge". My edition includes an unabridged text and is published by Parragon Publishing in the UK, with illustrations by June Goulding. I think "Alice In Wonderland" is one of those books that must always be accompanied by illustrations or pictures, because, as Alice herself said: "And what is the use of a book, without pictures or conversations?"

I have always maintained that everyone should read "Alice in Wonderland" atleast twice in the their lives, once as a kid to enjoy the nonsensical tale with its wonderful characters,poems and jokes and once as an adult to enjoy the satire, the puns and the cultural references. Having said that however, I wonder if kids are still reading "Alice in Wonderland" today?

I'm sure almost everyone here has read Alice in Wonderland,but to refresh the memory, here's a tiny synposis:

Alice, a little girl with bright blonde hair and a blue dress with a white apron, is sitting with her sister who is reading a book. Having nothing to do she pursues a White Rabbit (wearing a waistcoat and carrying a pocket watch) passing by down a rabbit hole. She falls a long, long way and lands in Wonderland. Whilst there, she experiences a host of puzzling changes and meets some very strange characters who guide her through Wonderland:

(Alice plays crouquet with the Red Queen on the most curious croquet-ground ever)

The Cheshire Cat, who is always grinning and vanishing and reappearing mysteriously.To say a person looks like a Cheshire Cat is to say that he or she is grinning from ear to ear, looking mysterious and feeling quite pleased with himself or herself.

The Mad Hatter, The March Hare, and the sleepy Dormouse whom Alice joins uninvited at a Tea Party. They make her dizzy with their riddles, their conversations filled with puns and other delicious nonsense. Carroll did not invent the term "Mad Hatter", it was already in existence. Truth is, Hatters really did go mad. The chemicals used in hat-making included mercurous nitrate which caused mercury poisoning. Victims developed hallucinations and other psychotic symptoms. In the case of our Hatter, time has stopped working for him so he is always on tea time!

The curmedgeonly, but wise, Caterpillar who smokes a hookah and gives Alice the valuable gift of the mushroom (one side making her bigger, and the other making her small), which gives her control of her size in Wonderland.

The Queen of Hearts who when crossed in any way, screams "Off with his head!" or "Off with her head!"!!!

The Mock Turtle, a very melancholy character. The Mock Turtle is always crying, and he and the Gryphon tells stories loaded with puns.

In Alice Through the Looking Glass, the sequel, written by Carroll seven years later, Alice wonders what life must look like through a mirror and is able to climb through it to find a world in reverse. Interestingly, Alice's adventures in "Through the Looking Glass" are like a game of chess, in which she starts as a white pawn and finally comes out a queen "in the eighth square" where she gives a very mad dinner party in honour of the event.

Some of the well known characters from the sequel include:

Alice with Tweedledum and Tweedledee

Tweedledum and Tweedledee: The two brothers that Alice meets in the forest. They are pictured as fat twins who are identical in speech, attitude, and appearance. Today Tweedledum and Dee have come to mean two people who are so alike they are indistinguishable.

"Don't you think you'd be much safer down on the ground?" Alice went on.."That wallk is so very narrow".

Humpty Dumpty: Yes, the same guy from the Mother Goose nursery rhyme. He and Alice have a wonderful discussion about semantics, also, Humpty Dumpty claims to be able to interpret all kinds of poetry.

The White Knight: is the kindliest of Alice's guides and advisers, indeed the truest hero of her story; and it is their encounter, we are told, that she will always remember most clearly. Some experts say that Lewis Carroll meant for the White Knight to be him.

Alice and the kindly White Knight

Through the years, critics and psychologists believing the work to have many levels of interpretation, have dissected "Alice in Wonderland" in a quest to decipher its hidden, deeper meanings. However, as a result, this work is now surrounded by so much mystery and hoopla that it is a difficult book to traverse on one's own, without the aid of interpreters. I found myself constantly referring to the Alice page on Wikipedia. It's a useful guide on the plot summary, the character allusions and for the interpretation of the songs and poetry.

However, if you just want to read it as a tale of inspired nonsense, go ahead, suspend disbelief and enjoy it. I guarantee it will make you laugh and if you don't, well, "Off with your heads!'


Sai said...

Wow I am the first one to comment!

Anyway I agree with you completely about reading Alice in Wonderland twice in their lives. I read this as a child and would definitely read it again.

It is so uncanny that you should say this as I have thinking the same lately. I recently found an unabridged version of "David Copperfield" and will be reading it soon.

Sai said...

Oh btw about today's kids....yes my 13 year old nephew has read all the books that we used to read as children.

Beloved Dreamer said...

Lotus, I must start my reviews. I am on the last book and will be finished in a day or two. After reading your wonderful review of A in WL ans TTLG I am really worried about the quality of my reviews. I already have some of the book covers so I am ready to go.
Great review as always my friend.


Maggie said...

Wonderful review! I love the "off with your head" comment. I admit, I have never read the book. *blush* Please, don't tell anyone. ;)

beenzzz said...

Lotus, I have an embarrassing thing to admit to....I've never read Alice in Wonderland. Ok, I'm blushing now. I saw the Disney movie, does that count??? I liked the tea party scene. D. used to have an old version of this book, but regretably, it was lost in our last move. Too bad, it was worth some money!!!! Great review as always!

lalitha said...

Loved your review.It is true that you have to read this book twice.Did not understand it much when I read it as a child. Understood it a little more when I read it to my child ,Think I have to read it again.I was very condfused a t times with the characters.

Lotus Reads said...

Hi Sai! Oh, yes, David Copperfield was definitely one of my favorite reads as a child. I haven't read it as an adult, but I sure would love to hear if you felt differently about the story the second time around.

Beloved You'll do great on the reviews, don't worry! I am looking forward to them!

Maggie I won't tell anyone you haven't read "Alice" just so long you don't tell anyone I haven't read "Charlotte's Web" or any other EB White book! They're such a staple of American children's literature, that I feel quite embarrassed about not having read them!

Beenzzz! Ofcourse the Disney movie counts! ;) Hey, I have an idea - if Zoe's willing, you two could read it together, it's a great book to read aloud, btw!

Hi Lalitha Yes, it's truly confusing. To get maximum enjoyment and understanding out of it, I honestly think it should be read with a guide of sorts. Did your kid enjoy it? They usually love all those crazy characters that Alice bumps into in Wonderland and sometimes they seem to "get" the nonsense much better than we adults can! :)

booklogged said...

I have a proposition: From now on, if we read the same book, how 'bout you writing the review and I pay you for a copy!? This was a wonderful review. I still need to read Through the Looking Glass. I didn't read Alice as a child. As an adult, it was fun, but confusing. We are not seeing it with the same eyes, that's for sure, but your views have helped me appreciate it more than I originally did. Thanks, Lotus. Love your reviews.

Lauren said...

I read Alice in Wonderland for the very first time in my last year of my undergrad! And that's only because BBC viewers put it in their top 100 books that should be read (it's #30).
All symbolism aside it was a great, fun book!
I released the book at my university where it was picked up by someone saying they had read the book a while ago and loved it and thought it was wonderful to get the chance to read it again!

Radha said...

I used to own a classic unabridged version of 'Alice In Wonderland' as a kid. Heres some trivia: its very important to read this book with the ORIGINAL illustrations. Apparently Carroll insisted on approving all illustrations in the book personally. He depicted a lot of the characters as real-life political & historical people thru the illustrations.

Never got around to reading the sequel. Should get myself a copy!

Lotus Reads said...

LOL Booklogged You do say the nicest things! When I set out to read "Alice..." this time I was determined to get to the bottom of all this symbolism, but to tell you the truth, it got a little tedious and now I want to go back and read the child's version.

Hi Lauren That's cool! So you must understand "Alice..." better than the rest of us for sure. Did this include "Through The Looking-Glass"? Thanks for the BBC tidbit, I hadn't realized "Alice..." was in the top 100 best- loved books, that's wonderful! So glad you stopped by!

hi Radha Nice to see you again! Originally I had wanted to include Tenniel's illustrations, but then I realized the book I read had its own. Interesting what you said about Carroll being particular about the illustrations, infact, I think the original copy of Alice had drawings by Carroll himself where he drew Alice as a dark-haired child, very much in the image of Alice Liddel for whom he wrote the story. Not sure how or why, Alice is golden-haired today.

Sanjay said...

Loved your review and the interpretations you offer. I am due for a second read, and I barely remember my first.
I learnt something new about the chemicals used in making hats.

I guess each one should take whatever meaning they can from these two works, which is cool.
So here is my interpretation of the mushroom the Caterpillar hands Alice. You wanna bet they were "hallucinogenic"? ;-)
Sorry I know that is not quite one might call a mainstream sorta iterpretation. :-/

ML said...

Lotus, I read both books when I was about 11. I absolutely loved them! I found the strangeness so enjoyable - it was like I was escaping into another world.

Thanks for the great review! I probably should read both books again!

jenclair said...

The Queen of Hearts was really frightening to me when I was young. Actually, much of it was frightening. I really AM due for a re-read! And a first read for Through the Looking Glass. Thanks for the inspiration!

jacob said...

hey Lotus. awesome review as always. i've only read the abridged version, and that too in school. and i love the illustrations there. perhaps it's time i read the unabridged version, eh?

jacob said...

and i borrow the neoearth idea from your blog. it's good fun! thanks.

Ally Bean said...

I adore Alice in Wonderland, but my copy is an old paperback without color pics. After seeing these images, I think that it's time to upgrade my book.

Dawn said...

Funny how you remember things, or don't. I'm sure I've read Alice, but yet wonder if I'm really remembering watching it in cartoon form....or in picture book. I guess that will have to go on my reading list for the future.....I know I've never read "Through the looking glass" though, funny that....

Happy Reader said...

Lovely review and pictures! Those illustrations are so beautiful they want me to reread this book again!

varske said...

I have to confess I have never read either of the Alice books. I was so mortified aged 11 or 12 to find my friends were all talking about a book I had never read: me, who had read masses of other books they had never read, that I have never been able to get over the shame!

Somehow I never read it to my kids either, though we did have a copy.

Clearly time to grow up and read it now. Lovely illustrations.

Sruthi said...

hey lotus i'm backkkkk!! i remember reading alice in wonderland a long long time ago but i can't remember most of it now. I really would like to go back and read it! Right now, I'm reading "flowers for algernon" by daniel keyes and in the process of writing a review for " the memory keeper's daughter". Thanks for the review and for the pictures!:)

joanna said...

A beautiful written, and beautifully presented synopsis of a magical book. Thanks Lotus!

Milan-zzz said...

Alice in Wonderland is my first book I took from library. I remembered very clearly the cover but reading experience very vaguely. Of course that copy was full of illustrations. Funny, few months ago I visited friend who works in that library and as for that book, it’s still there.

Lovely story and indeed you’re probably right; it is a book that should be read twice so maybe next time when I go in my childhood town I’ll search for that copy. Sadly we don’t have library sales here, imagine how wonderful would be to have your very first book taken from library?!

Lotus Reads said...

Hi Sanjay lol, yes, coming from an opium-addicted caterpillar, they must have been! ;)

Hi ml Yes, I must have been around the same age when I first read "Alice...". This was my first time reading "Through the Looking Glass" tho'

Hi Jenclair Yes, when I read the books this time I realized that they are really quite frightening for children, however, I don't have a clear recollection of whether or not I was frightened when I read them as a child...perhaps because the abridged versions are gentler?

Hi Jacob I knew you'd appreciate the illustrations! ;)

Hi Allybean There are such wonderful characters in these two novels that the pictures become a delight to look at!

Hi Dawn It's true, when something's been around long enough it is difficult to say if you've actually read or if you "think" you have read it because it's been discussed so much!

Hi Chitts I hope you do!

Hi Varske It's never too late. Read it to see what the fuss is all about! :)

Sanjay said...

Lotus.. lol.

Ash said...

Beautiful review!

Lavanya said...

Lotus! I am squealing in delight! I have been intending to do the very same exercise you've done. Later this year I was telling myself. But now the urge is rather strong. And I do love the White Knight.

May I also suggest Alberto Manguel's Into the Looking Glass Wood as related mood reading. The book is a collection of essays and the very first one is on Through the Looking Glass.

Lotus Reads said...

Hey Sruthi Welcome back! Gosh, girl, where have you been??? Ok, I will look for "Memory Keepers Daughter" sometime today!

Hey Joanna Yes, that's "Alice in Wonderland" in a single word - magical!

Hey Milan What a great story associated with "Alice..." So glad you thought to share that with us. I think Alice's appeal was its mix of science fiction, nonsense and fantasy. It has something in it for every child.

Hey Sanjay ;)

Thanks Ash! GOod of you to stop by!

Lavanya What a sweet comment, thank you! Ohhh, the White Knight, he was my favorite character, too. I just want to pick him up and protect him rather than the other way around! lol Thanks also for the great reading suggestion...I read his book on "Reading" and enjoyed it, so I know this will be a great one,too. Thanks so much!

Pam said...

A marvelous review! I enjoyed this book as a child but even more so as an adult reading it with my daughters.

btw, Thanks for visiting American Spoken Here : )

Susan in Italy said...

I've read Alice as a child ans as an adult and you're right, it was well worth both reads. Rare books entertain both kids and adults, I find.

About all the academic work surrounding Alice, I bet you're right that it might reduce most readers' enjoyment, but I have to say tht for literature scholars, it's all the more fun!

J said...

Hi Lotus, have you seen this book?

It's an AMAZING pop up version of Alice in Wonderland. If you're not a pop-up book collector, I wouldn't spend the money on it, but it's worth looking at while you're at the bookstore. It's an amazing piece of work. :)

I haven't read the Alice books, though I own them in paperback...I may try them soon.

Praveen G K said...

There are some books which you just don't feel like reading for no reason. Even as a kid, i never had the motivation to read this book. Maybe one day I have to grab this book and see what it actually contains!!!!

Angela in Europe said...

I've really gotta tell you how much I loved Alice when I was a kid and no, I wasn't thinking it was drug influenced. I liked it a lot better as a child than when I read it as an adult and I had to think about sybolism, the phasmaghoric, etc.

gautami tripathy said...

I bought 2 copies and gifted those to my niece and my nephew. They can't thank me enough.

I love Alice too much. My copy is tattered and dog eared..:)

Asha said...

WOW!! Lot of kiddie books!
I was addicted to some of these but mainly monthly magazine with new stories!! I read them and re-read them eagerly.Well..those days are gone,back to my short stories now!Thanks Lotus for all pics and reviews.

A Reader from India said...


Your review brought back fond memories of a beloved book. Alice can be read as a fairy tale or a social satire, it is truely a work of genius. I love the Red queen's quote from Through the looking glass - "It takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place. If you want to get somewhere else, you must run at least twice as fast as that"

I just stumbled on your excellent blog and read a few of your posts. The related links to music for The Good Earth was cool!

Best Wishes.

hellomelissa said...

i have my mom's copies of these books and read them every few years. soon, i'll be able to share them with the kids! third generation's a charm, right?

Lotus Reads said...

@Pam, thanks,I enjoyed your post on pearls and will definitely visit again!

@Susan - Oh, I agree, there are so many layers to Alice in Wonderland it really can be quite enjoyable to peel them back to see what they reveal. I thought so much of you when I read the poem "Jabberwocky", you spoke of it a long time ago on my blog somewhere! :)

@J, many thanks for the link, it is an amazing book, really! I know I could spend hours enjoying the art. Thanks so much!

@Praveen, "Alice..." is actually a satire on the political situation in England in the late 17th century...I mentioned that because it might make you feel differently about the book. Also, although at first glance it appears to be mostly nonsense, there is so much wisdom in there - it's fun looking for it!

@Angela, true, "Alice.." does lose some of its charm when read as satire and that's why it's so nice if you can read it twice - once to just enjoy the nonsense verse and conversations and the second time to try and decipher its hidden meanings.

@Gautami, you described it so well, I also love Alice "too" much! :) I'll bet your nephew and niece consider you their favorite aunt!

@Asha, you're welcome. Always happy when you can stop by!

@A Reader From India - how wonderful of you to leave me such a nice comment! I took a quick look at your blog and I will definitely come back for a longer visit on the weekend. Oh, yes, that quote from the Red Queen is one of my favorites, too. Here's another one I love:

Alice laughed, "There's no use trying," she said, "one can't believe impossible things."

"I daresay you haven't had much practice," said the Queen. "When I was your age, I always did it for half-an-hour a day. Why, sometimes I've believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast."

Nothing is impossible, I love it!

@Melissa, hang on to those books, there is something so special about old books - the fonts, the illustrations, the quaint and charming.

Carl V. said...

I agree completely. Not sure if kids still read this one but it is too bad if they don't. The basic structure of Alice seems to be the backbone of so many young adult and adult stories today. It adds depth to those stories when you know the tale or tales that inspired them.

contentmentindia said...

Dear Lotus,

As a children's writer myself, I must say that I never really looked at Alice in Wonderland as anything but a string of unbelievable craziness--absolutely fun!

This time round I'm going to look at it with a more curious eye and uncover its hidden secrets.

Got to rush now, off to a Madhatter's theme party.


carra said...

Alice in wonderland is my all time favourite I must admit I read it more than twice and in my eyes it is a masterpiece! My favourite charachter is the Cheshire cat. It is a book everyone should read if they haven't yet. I would love to be able to read as much as you do!

Steve said...

Alice in Wonderland was written by Charles Dodgson while high. It lampoons British society in such a way as to endear children. Its subtle humor helps us to realize that the sun has yet to set on English humor.

Mellowdrama said...

I really enjoy your blog and you voiced my thoughts! Honestly what the hell do kids read besides the stupid Goosebump series!!! No one has heard of Judy Blume, or What Katy Did, or Lewis C for that matter. Btw I have this collection which includes these crazy math puzzles (not associated with Alice in Wonderland) but just part of a complete works - Lewis C collection. 'Tis a blast. And you are so right, I enjoyed it a lot more as an adult, as a kid I thought it was rather silly and the QUeen of Hearts seemed like such a brat! Hmmm..

Menchie said...

I read Alice when I was young but have yet to read it as an adult.

I remember:
- did not like Tweedledum and Tweedledee -- thought they were a bit creepy

- loved the Cheshire cat, especially after seeing the Disney film

- also like the walrus and the oyster

- creeped out by the caterpillar (from the cartoon) but fascinated by Jabberwocky. I remember standing in front of the mirror and reading it.

mohita said...

this was such an idiotic book i had ever read.i cnt beleive in this unbelieveable stuf.may b smal kids enjoy this bt particularaly this book is nt for adults