Have you ever had someone tell you a dream they had? Everything is unexpected and nothing makes sense. It’s all just people and things strung together in a string of chaotic nonsense. You get the feeling that there should be a story there, and yet at the same time you think that this story should never be written at all. Such is the case with Lewis Carroll’s “Through the Looking Glass.”
The story rambles through the tale of Alice, an imaginative little girl who gets whisked away on an adventure through the looking glass in her nursery. And that’s about all that can be said for plot. Alice unexpectedly finds herself in one crazy and chaotic setting after another. Talking flowers. Mischievous twins. A demanding Queen. Roads that lead nowhere. Unknown lands where one forgets his own name. “Curioser and curiouser…” the list goes on and on.
I once read that children are often uninterested in, or even frightened by Lewis Carroll’s book because it lacks the order that children need in life. It’s all too familiarly nightmarish to be considered a fairy tale. Going into the book, I expected to find nothing worth writing a review about. However, I was unusually surprised. There’s a glory for you.
Ironically, I read this book during one of the worst travel experiences of my life. I found myself commiserating with Alice as I too found myself whisked away through one chaotic place to another, always feeling as if I didn’t know the rules, and yet trying to be as cooperative and pleasant as possible. And so, these words from the White Queen were quite a comfort: “Consider what a great girl you are. Consider what a long way you’ve come to-day. Consider what o’clock it is. Consider anything, only don’t cry!” This book was worth the read because it gave me something to do as I sat through surprise layovers and long flights. It also helped me to laugh at my situation, because no matter how bad it got, Alice’s journey was ever so much more ridiculous.
That said, I don’t feel like I can recommend this book. I definitely wouldn’t rank it in my top category of literature, simply because it didn’t have the “realness” that I love in literature. I most enjoy literature that is true to reality, and this is not to throw out fantasy and fiction. Good literature has the ability to express truths of life under imaginary circumstances. This is not definitive of “Through the Looking Glass.” The plot is an incoherent dream, lacking the order and structure that would otherwise ground it in reality and give it that lasting quality characteristic of classic literature. While Lewis Carroll includes a statement on the human existence (“Life, what is it but a dream?”), his conclusion just doesn’t ring true of real life. For those looking for a refreshed view of life: you will not find it here. For those looking for a redeeming statement on the condition of human existence: you will not find it here. For those looking for chaos: that you will find, but look before you leap. No one sets out on a journey hoping for things to go wrong. Proceed with caution, but enjoy the dream. And at the end of it I recommend a good dose of fresh air and strong coffee. ~Alisha