Quotations from Through the Looking Glass

This post follows Quotations from Alice in Wonderland. Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll is the sequel to Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, and is just as nonsensical and witty as the original Likewise, the full text can be found online at Project Gutenberg.

I. Looking-Glass House

[Alice:] ‘How would you like to live in Looking-glass House, Kitty? I wonder if they’d give you milk in there? Perhaps Looking-glass milk isn’t good to drink—’

“Perhaps” is an understatement. Martin Gardner, writer of The Annotated Alice, points out in The Ambidextrous Universe that left-right reversed foods can be indigestible to a normal living things. That is, digestive proteins in the body are designed to break down right-handed organic particles, and, due to structure, cannot break down left-handed versions of them, even if the chemical formulas are the same. For instance, a left-handed trumpet has all the same dimensions of valves and slides as a right-handed trumpet, but the two are different because one is oriented the other way. In other words, drinking Looking-glass milk probably wouldn’t be a good idea.

Through the Mirror
"She was up on the chimney-piece while she said this, though she hardly knew how she had got there. And certainly the glass WAS beginning to melt away, just like a bright silvery mist."

In another moment Alice was through the glass, and had jumped lightly down into the Looking-glass room.

The line itself might not seem remarkable, but it is one of the most drastic twists in all of literature.

II. The Garden of Live Flowers

This sounded a very good reason, and Alice was quite pleased to know it. ‘I never thought of that before!’ she said.

‘It’s MY opinion that you never think AT ALL,’ the Rose said in a rather severe tone.

This resembles a passage in the original at the mad tea-party in which Alice says, “I don’t think—,” causing the Hatter to respond, “Then you shouldn’t talk.”

‘I only wanted to see what the garden was like, your Majesty—’

‘That’s right,’ said the Queen, patting her on the head, which Alice didn’t like at all, ‘though, when you say “garden,”—I’VE seen gardens, compared with which this would be a wilderness.’

Alice didn’t dare to argue the point, but went on: ‘—and I thought I’d try and find my way to the top of that hill—’

‘When you say “hill,”‘ the Queen interrupted, ‘I could show you hills, in comparison with which you’d call that a valley.’

‘No, I shouldn’t,’ said Alice, surprised into contradicting her at last: ‘a hill CAN’T be a valley, you know. That would be nonsense—’

The Red Queen shook her head, ‘You may call it “nonsense” if you like,’ she said, ‘but I’VE heard nonsense, compared with which that would be as sensible as a dictionary!’

A wonderful section that begins a very witty conversation from Alice and the Red Queen.

‘Are we nearly there?’ Alice managed to pant out at last.

‘Nearly there!’ the Queen repeated. ‘Why, we passed it ten minutes ago! Faster!’

Logical nonsense at its finest! Alice and the Queen run, only to stay in the same location.

‘Well, in OUR country,’ said Alice, still panting a little, ‘you’d generally get to somewhere else—if you ran very fast for a long time, as we’ve been doing.’

‘A slow sort of country!’ said the Queen. ‘Now, HERE, you see, 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!’

Alice’s retort is quite logical, but the Queen’s statement seems to make no sense.

III. Looking-glass Insects

‘Better say nothing at all. Language is worth a thousand pounds a word!’

An interesting way to look at word economy.

All this time the Guard was looking at her, first through a telescope, then through a microscope, and then through an opera-glass. At last he said, ‘You’re travelling the wrong way,’ and shut up the window and went away.

The succession of telescope, microscope, and opera-glass is very startling.

‘I don’t REJOICE in insects at all,’ Alice explained, ‘because I’m rather afraid of them—at least the large kinds. But I can tell you the names of some of them.’

‘Of course they answer to their names?’ the Gnat remarked carelessly.

‘I never knew them do it.’

‘What’s the use of their having names,’ the Gnat said, ‘if they won’t answer to them?’

‘No use to THEM,’ said Alice; ‘but it’s useful to the people who name them, I suppose. If not, why do things have names at all?’

Of course, the argument lies in that Alice and the Gnat have different reasons for assigning names.

‘However, I know my name now.’ she said, ‘that’s SOME comfort. Alice—Alice—I won’t forget it again.

This is referenced to at the end of Resident Evil: Apocalypse, where Alice, after recovering from amnesia, says in revelation, “My name is Alice and I remember everything.”

IV. Tweedledum and Tweedledee

‘I know what you’re thinking about,’ said Tweedledum: ‘but it isn’t so, nohow.’

‘Contrariwise,’ continued Tweedledee, ‘if it was so, it might be; and if it were so, it would be; but as it isn’t, it ain’t. That’s logic.’

I enjoyed Tweedledee’s use of “contrariwise” as well as his amusing explanation of logic.

‘I like the Walrus best,’ said Alice: ‘because you see he was a LITTLE sorry for the poor oysters.’

‘He ate more than the Carpenter, though,’ said Tweedledee. ‘You see he held his handkerchief in front, so that the Carpenter couldn’t count how many he took: contrariwise.’

‘That was mean!’ Alice said indignantly. ‘Then I like the Carpenter best—if he didn’t eat so many as the Walrus.’

‘But he ate as many as he could get,’ said Tweedledum.

This was a puzzler. After a pause, Alice began, ‘Well! They were BOTH very unpleasant characters—’

A moral paradox! Now, a moral paradox does not have to bend logic as logical paradoxes do; rather, moral paradoxes often occur in which one must choose the lesser of two evils, but either choice would be considered “wrong.” Here, we see the distinction between amount and proportion—this truly is a puzzler.

‘Why, about YOU!’ Tweedledee exclaimed, clapping his hands triumphantly. ‘And if he left off dreaming about you, where do you suppose you’d be?’

‘Where I am now, of course,’ said Alice.

‘Not you!’ Tweedledee retorted contemptuously. ‘You’d be nowhere. Why, you’re only a sort of thing in his dream!’

‘If that there King was to wake,’ added Tweedledum, ‘you’d go out—bang!—just like a candle!’

‘I shouldn’t!’ Alice exclaimed indignantly. ‘Besides, if I’M only a sort of thing in his dream, what are YOU, I should like to know?’

‘Ditto’ said Tweedledum.

‘Ditto, ditto’ cried Tweedledee.

This is a very profound philosophical thought, for what if the Looking-glass world was not Alice’s dream, but somebody else’s? Tweedledum’s warning, that we would go out like a candle, is quite frightening.

So the two brothers went off hand-in-hand into the wood, and returned in a minute with their arms full of things—such as bolsters, blankets, hearth-rugs, table-cloths, dish-covers and coal-scuttles.

What curious things to bring back from the wood!

V. Wool and Water

Alice couldn’t help laughing, as she said, ‘I don’t want you to hire ME—and I don’t care for jam.’

‘It’s very good jam,’ said the Queen.

‘Well, I don’t want any TO-DAY, at any rate.’

‘You couldn’t have it if you DID want it,’ the Queen said. ‘The rule is, jam to-morrow and jam yesterday—but never jam to-day.’

‘It MUST come sometimes to “jam to-day,”‘ Alice objected.

‘No, it can’t,’ said the Queen. ‘It’s jam every OTHER day: to-day isn’t any OTHER day, you know.’

‘I don’t understand you,’ said Alice. ‘It’s dreadfully confusing!’

Great wordplay on “every other day” versus “any other day.”

‘That’s the effect of living backwards,’ the Queen said kindly: ‘it always makes one a little giddy at first—’

‘Living backwards!’ Alice repeated in great astonishment. ‘I never heard of such a thing!’

‘—but there’s one great advantage in it, that one’s memory works both ways.’

‘I’m sure MINE only works one way,’ Alice remarked. ‘I can’t remember things before they happen.’

‘It’s a poor sort of memory that only works backwards,’ the Queen remarked.

‘What sort of things do YOU remember best?’ Alice ventured to ask.

‘Oh, things that happened the week after next,’ the Queen replied in a careless tone. ‘For instance, now,’ she went on, sticking a large piece of plaster [band-aid] on her finger as she spoke, ‘there’s the King’s Messenger. He’s in prison now, being punished: and the trial doesn’t even begin till next Wednesday: and of course the crime comes last of all.’

‘Suppose he never commits the crime?’ said Alice.

‘That would be all the better, wouldn’t it?’ the Queen said, as she bound the plaster round her finger with a bit of ribbon.

What is time, after all?

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.’

The Queen’s last sentence here is popularly quoted.

The shop seemed to be full of all manner of curious things—but the oddest part of it all was, that whenever she looked hard at any shelf, to make out exactly what it had on it, that particular shelf was always quite empty: though the others round it were crowded as full as they could hold.

What a curious store!

‘I should like to buy an egg, please,’ she said timidly. ‘How do you sell them?’

‘Fivepence farthing for one—Twopence for two,’ the Sheep replied.

‘Then two are cheaper than one?’ Alice said in a surprised tone, taking out her purse.

‘Only you MUST eat them both, if you buy two,’ said the Sheep.

‘Then I’ll have ONE, please,’ said Alice, as she put the money down on the counter. For she thought to herself, ‘They mightn’t be at all nice, you know.’

Bulk buying—extreme discount edition?

VI. Humpty Dumpty

‘My NAME is Alice, but—’

‘It’s a stupid enough name!’ Humpty Dumpty interrupted impatiently. ‘What does it mean?’

‘MUST a name mean something?’ Alice asked doubtfully.

‘Of course it must,’ Humpty Dumpty said with a short laugh: ‘MY name means the shape I am—and a good handsome shape it is, too. With a name like yours, you might be any shape, almost.’

The issue of naming shows up again. This time, we have another conflict between two interpretations on the purpose of naming.

‘Why do you sit out here all alone?’ said Alice, not wishing to begin an argument.

‘Why, because there’s nobody with me!’ cried Humpty Dumpty. ‘Did you think I didn’t know the answer to THAT? Ask another.’

Humpty Dumpty’s reply is logically valid, but it doesn’t answer Alice’s question in the conventional way—a peculiar twist on logic.

‘So here’s a question for you. How old did you say you were?’

Alice made a short calculation, and said ‘Seven years and six months.’

‘Wrong!’ Humpty Dumpty exclaimed triumphantly. ‘You never said a word like it!’

‘I though you meant “How old ARE you?”‘ Alice explained.

‘If I’d meant that, I’d have said it,’ said Humpty Dumpty.

Humpty Dumpty is again taking English too literally.

‘You seem very clever at explaining words, Sir,’ said Alice. ‘Would you kindly tell me the meaning of the poem called “Jabberwocky”?’

‘Let’s hear it,’ said Humpty Dumpty. ‘I can explain all the poems that were ever invented—and a good many that haven’t been invented just yet.’

“Jabberwocky” appears earlier in the book, in the Looking-glass house, left-right reversed. Alice holds the book up to a mirror to read it properly. It is a nonsensical poem.

Jabberwocky
"’Twas brillig, and the slithy toves // Did gyre and gimble in the wabe; // All mimsy were the borogoves, // And the mome raths outgrabe."

VII. The Lion and the Unicorn

‘I see nobody on the road,’ said Alice.

‘I only wish I had such eyes,’ the King remarked in a fretful tone. ‘To be able to see Nobody! And at that distance, too! Why, it’s as much as I can do to see real people, by this light!’

Wordplay on “nobody.”

‘The other Messenger’s called Hatta. I must have TWO, you know—to come and go. One to come, and one to go.’

‘I beg your pardon?’ said Alice.

‘It isn’t respectable to beg,’ said the King.

‘I only meant that I didn’t understand,’ said Alice. ‘Why one to come and one to go?’

‘Didn’t I tell you?’ the King repeated impatiently. ‘I must have Two—to fetch and carry. One to fetch, and one to carry.’

The King’s answer just leads to the same question.

‘Who did you pass on the road?’ the King went on, holding out his hand to the Messenger for some more hay.

‘Nobody,’ said the Messenger.

‘Quite right,’ said the King: ‘this young lady saw him too. So of course Nobody walks slower than you.’

‘I do my best,’ the Messenger said in a sulky tone. ‘I’m sure nobody walks much faster than I do!’

‘He can’t do that,’ said the King, ‘or else he’d have been here first.’

Continuing the pun on “nobody.”

‘It didn’t hurt him,’ the Unicorn said carelessly, and he was going on, when his eye happened to fall upon Alice: he turned round rather instantly, and stood for some time looking at her with an air of the deepest disgust.

‘What—is—this?’ he said at last.

‘This is a child!’ Haigha replied eagerly, coming in front of Alice to introduce her, and spreading out both his hands towards her in an Anglo-Saxon attitude. ‘We only found it to-day. It’s as large as life, and twice as natural!’

‘I always thought they were fabulous monsters!’ said the Unicorn. ‘Is it alive?’

‘It can talk,’ said Haigha, solemnly.

The Unicorn looked dreamily at Alice, and said ‘Talk, child.’

Alice could not help her lips curling up into a smile as she began: ‘Do you know, I always thought Unicorns were fabulous monsters, too! I never saw one alive before!’

‘Well, now that we HAVE seen each other,’ said the Unicorn, ‘if you’ll believe in me, I’ll believe in you. Is that a bargain?’

The Unicorn is skeptical of sensory-perception as a way of knowing.

VIII. ‘It’s my own invention.’

‘So I wasn’t dreaming, after all,’ she said to herself, ‘unless—unless we’re all part of the same dream. Only I do hope it’s MY dream, and not the Red King’s! I don’t like belonging to another person’s dream,’ she went on in a rather complaining tone: ‘I’ve a great mind to go and wake him, and see what happens!’

Another philosophical moment about dreams. Alice believing she is in her own dream brings up the idea of lucid dreaming, or dreaming with the knowledge that one is dreaming.

He was dressed in tin armour, which seemed to fit him very badly, and he had a queer-shaped little deal box fastened across his shoulder, upside-down, and with the lid hanging open. Alice looked at it with great curiosity.

‘I see you’re admiring my little box.’ the Knight said in a friendly tone. ‘It’s my own invention—to keep clothes and sandwiches in. You see I carry it upside-down, so that the rain can’t get in.’

‘But the things can get OUT,’ Alice gently remarked. ‘Do you know the lid’s open?’

‘I didn’t know it,’ the Knight said, a shade of vexation passing over his face. ‘Then all the things must have fallen out! And the box is no use without them.’

A very silly passage, but nonetheless interesting.

He let go the bridle, and stretched out both his arms to show Alice what he meant, and this time he fell flat on his back, right under the horse’s feet.

‘Plenty of practice!’ he went on repeating, all the time that Alice was getting him on his feet again. ‘Plenty of practice!’

‘It’s too ridiculous!’ cried Alice, losing all her patience this time. ‘You ought to have a wooden horse on wheels, that you ought!’

‘Does that kind go smoothly?’ the Knight asked in a tone of great interest, clasping his arms round the horse’s neck as he spoke, just in time to save himself from tumbling off again.

‘Much more smoothly than a live horse,’ Alice said, with a little scream of laughter, in spite of all she could do to prevent it.

‘I’ll get one,’ the Knight said thoughtfully to himself. ‘One or two—several.’

Again pointing out the silliness of the White Knight.

‘Well, just then I was inventing a new way of getting over a gate—would you like to hear it?’

‘Very much indeed,’ Alice said politely.

‘I’ll tell you how I came to think of it,’ said the Knight. ‘You see, I said to myself, “The only difficulty is with the feet: the HEAD is high enough already.” Now, first I put my head on the top of the gate—then I stand on my head—then the feet are high enough, you see—then I’m over, you see.’

Very curious logic in the last idea.

IX. Queen Alice

‘Speak when you’re spoken to!’ The Queen sharply interrupted her.

‘But if everybody obeyed that rule,’ said Alice, who was always ready for a little argument, ‘and if you only spoke when you were spoken to, and the other person always waited for YOU to begin, you see nobody would ever say anything…’

A good logical point by Alice. At this point, we have reached the most logic-twisting chapter of the book. This chapter is comparable to chapter seven, the Mad Tea-party, of the original.

The Red Queen broke the silence by saying to the White Queen, ‘I invite you to Alice’s dinner-party this afternoon.’

The White Queen smiled feebly, and said ‘And I invite YOU.’

‘I didn’t know I was to have a party at all,’ said Alice; ‘but if there is to be one, I think I ought to invite the guests.’

‘We gave you the opportunity of doing it,’ the Red Queen remarked: ‘but I daresay you’ve not had many lessons in manners yet?’

The Red Queen’s jump in logic is hilarious.

‘Manners are not taught in lessons,’ said Alice. ‘Lessons teach you to do sums, and things of that sort.’

‘And you do Addition?’ the White Queen asked. ‘What’s one and one and one and one and one and one and one and one and one and one?’

‘I don’t know,’ said Alice. ‘I lost count.’

‘She can’t do Addition,’ the Red Queen interrupted. ‘Can you do Subtraction? Take nine from eight.’

‘Nine from eight I can’t, you know,’ Alice replied very readily: ‘but—’

‘She can’t do Subtraction,’ said the White Queen. ‘Can you do Division? Divide a loaf by a knife—what’s the answer to that?’

‘I suppose—’ Alice was beginning, but the Red Queen answered for her. ‘Bread-and-butter, of course. Try another Subtraction sum. Take a bone from a dog: what remains?’

Alice considered. ‘The bone wouldn’t remain, of course, if I took it—and the dog wouldn’t remain; it would come to bite me—and I’m sure I shouldn’t remain!’

‘Then you think nothing would remain?’ said the Red Queen.

‘I think that’s the answer.’

‘Wrong, as usual,’ said the Red Queen: ‘the dog’s temper would remain.’

The Red and White Queens have very different takes on logic than we do. I would fail this test.

Here the Red Queen began again. ‘Can you answer useful questions?’ she said. ‘How is bread made?’

‘I know THAT!’ Alice cried eagerly. ‘You take some flour—’

‘Where do you pick the flower?’ the White Queen asked. ‘In a garden, or in the hedges?’

‘Well, it isn’t PICKED at all,’ Alice explained: ‘it’s GROUND—’

‘How many acres of ground?’ said the White Queen. ‘You mustn’t leave out so many things.’

The White Queen is quite punning.

‘Do you know Languages? What’s the French for fiddle-de-dee?’

‘Fiddle-de-dee’s not English,’ Alice replied gravely.

‘Who ever said it was?’ said the Red Queen.

Alice thought she saw a way out of the difficulty this time. ‘If you’ll tell me what language “fiddle-de-dee” is, I’ll tell you the French for it!’ she exclaimed triumphantly.

But the Red Queen drew herself up rather stiffly, and said ‘Queens never make bargains.’

‘I wish Queens never asked questions,’ Alice thought to herself.

The Queens give Alice an impossible task and expect her to do it.

‘Don’t let us quarrel,’ the White Queen said in an anxious tone. ‘What is the cause of lightning?’

‘The cause of lightning,’ Alice said very decidedly, for she felt quite certain about this, ‘is the thunder—no, no!’ she hastily corrected herself. ‘I meant the other way.’

‘It’s too late to correct it,’ said the Red Queen: ‘when you’ve once said a thing, that fixes it, and you must take the consequences.’

‘Which reminds me—’ the White Queen said, looking down and nervously clasping and unclasping her hands, ‘we had SUCH a thunderstorm last Tuesday—I mean one of the last set of Tuesdays, you know.’

Alice was puzzled. ‘In OUR country,’ she remarked, ‘there’s only one day at a time.’

The Red Queen said, ‘That’s a poor thin way of doing things. Now HERE, we mostly have days and nights two or three at a time, and sometimes in the winter we take as many as five nights together—for warmth, you know.’

‘Are five nights warmer than one night, then?’ Alice ventured to ask.

‘Five times as warm, of course.’

‘But they should be five times as COLD, by the same rule—’

‘Just so!’ cried the Red Queen. ‘Five times as warm, AND five times as cold—just as I’m five times as rich as you are, AND five times as clever!’

Alice sighed and gave it up. ‘It’s exactly like a riddle with no answer!’ she thought.

A riddle with no answer, of course, was what the Hatter asked in the original book (chapter seven). The rest of this passage is quite humorous as well, with wordplay and sentence twisting on time and dates.

Here the White Queen began again. ‘It was SUCH a thunderstorm, you can’t think!’ (‘She NEVER could, you know,’ said the Red Queen.) ‘And part of the roof came off, and ever so much thunder got in—and it went rolling round the room in great lumps—and knocking over the tables and things—till I was so frightened, I couldn’t remember my own name!’

Alice thought to herself, ‘I never should TRY to remember my name in the middle of an accident! Where would be the use of it?’ but she did not say this aloud, for fear of hurting the poor Queen’s feeling.

The White Queen’s story is indeed absurd.

XII. Who Dreamed it?

Life, what is it but a dream?

Who knows?

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