Through the Looking Glass, and What Alice Found There is a bit of a tricky beast to talk about in terms of its own merits. Adaptations so often merge it with Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland that they’ve reached the point in many people’s minds, including my own, where they’ve become indistinguishable from each other. They’ve been blended together so many times that it’s become rather difficult to pull them apart. It almost seems surprising to think, for example, that Tweedledum and Tweedledee appear in Through the Looking Glass and not Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Based on the adaptations I’ve seen, I was sure they’d appear in both.
Through the Looking Glass doesn’t hold quite the same level of charm for me as Wonderland. As the title suggests, this time Alice’s portal of choice to Wonderland is a mirror, which she steps through to find a place that’s ‘opposite’. She becomes involved in a giant game of chess with the Red and White Queens, and travels through Wonderland to move across the board, encountering various weird and wonderful creatures on the way.
Like Wonderland, Through the Looking Glass is filled with lots of funny little poems and songs, including the all too familiar poem of the Jabberwocky (which is written backwards in this ‘opposite’ world, and must be read with the aid of a mirror). The flow of it is very similar to Wonderland in the sense that it’s essentially a dream sequence and moves from unexpected scene to unexpected scene, with plenty of whacky characters and odd scenarios – the White Queen suddenly turns into a talking sheep, for example (much like the Duchess’ baby turning into a pig in Wonderland).
I did enjoy it, but it just wasn’t as memorable for me as Wonderland. Perhaps that’s because the adaptations I’ve seen have mainly inserted a few Looking Glass characters and some of their accompanying scenes into what is usually the plot of Wonderland (and I use the term ‘plot’ loosely, mainly because it feels like each scene was as much of a surprise to Lewis Carroll as it is to the reader, although he obviously used lots of well-planned and carefully thought out symbolism and allusions to real people). Although these adaptations are often a bit of a mash-up, they are generally weighted towards the Wonderland half of the two books. I must admit that once I’d finished reading Looking Glass, I did find it hard to remember a lot of the plot points, probably because it’s so lucid. There’s certainly a clear structure in the sense that Alice is progressing across the chess board, but in terms of the way she achieves this and the characters she meets along the way, it’s actually not very clear to me at all. I feel like any of the sequences or scenes could be shown in a variety of orders, and it actually wouldn’t really affect the story. Maybe that’s why I found it so hard to remember or keep track.
If you are intrigued to delve into the world of Wonderland, then I would certainly recommend reading these two stories together. It’s the best way to gain the fullest experience of a whole host of strange and wonderful characters. But I wouldn’t be surprised if Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland leaves the biggest impression, and that’s definitely the one to go for if you can’t spare the time to explore both.