My 300-word essay on Lewis Carroll’s ‘Through the Looking Glass’ for my course, ‘Fantasy and Science Fiction: The Human Mind, our Modern World’ provided by coursera.org.
Anthropomorphism is one of the many interesting literary devices seen in the “Alice” books. In ‘Through the looking glass’ especially, the humanized chess-men and the chess-set world are an analogy for real people and the real world respectively. “It’s a great huge game of chess being played all over the world”, Alice says.
In the beginning, Alice receives instructions from the Red Queen, like we receive instructions from our elders before setting out into the world. On her journey she meets many people and learns many things: the White Queen tells Alice to keep an open mind (“I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast”), from Humpty Dumpty she learns semantics and that a word means “what (you) choose it to mean–neither more nor less”, she learns self-belief in the face of doubt when Tweedledum tells her “you’re not real” and she realizes that he’s “talking nonsense”. The chess pieces themselves stand for the various types of people in our world. Some, like the queens, go “running wildly” hither and thither; they have great power which they may or may not use wisely (e.g., the White Queen is powerful but helpless and rambling). Some, like the Red King, stay on just one square all their lives. There are the White Knights, kind and helpful; and finally there are people like Alice who sometimes go where fate takes them, and sometimes make their own way, but always have their goal in mind and humility in heart.
We wonder whether the author is telling us to live as though we really were in a chess game. There are specific rules by which we have to play (or live); as a pawn one can only move forward, for one “certainly won’t go back”, and always there is the ultimate goal: that of reaching the eighth square; of fulfilling one’s destiny.