Through the Looking-Glass | Study Guide

Lewis Carroll

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Through the Looking-Glass | Chapter 10 | Summary



Chapter 10 (Shaking)

In this two-sentence chapter, Alice lifts the Red Queen off the table and "[shakes] her backward and forward with all her might." As she does so, the Red Queen becomes shorter, fatter, softer, and rounder.

Chapter 11 (Waking)

The entire chapter is the continuation of the final sentence in Chapter 10: "—and it really was a kitten, after all."

Chapter 12 (Which dreamed it?)

The last chapter opens with Alice rubbing her eyes and chastising Kitty, the black kitten. Alice is convinced Kitty was with her in the Looking-glass world and decides Kitty was, in fact, the Red Queen. She further decides that Snowdrop, the white kitten, was the White Queen and her cat, Dinah, was Humpty Dumpty. Then she comes to the crucial issue: "who it was that dreamed it all?" This was the question she'd pondered when she first encountered the sleeping king and had a discussion with Tweedledum and Tweedledee. Now she decides, "it must have been either me or the Red King. He was part of my dream, of course—but then I was part of his dream, too!"


Alice wins the chess game at the close of the novel. At the onset of the match, Alice said, "I wouldn't mind being a Pawn, if only I might join—though of course I should like to be a Queen, best." In chess, though, it is not enough to simply become a queen. This entire novel was set up as a chess match, and thus, to end it, Alice must defeat the Red Queen. Chapters 9–12 highlight that this is a chess match and her true opponent has been the Red Queen. By seizing the Red Queen, she has "taken" that piece on the board, put the Red King into checkmate, and won the game.

The closing chapter is not only a return to reality, but it also reminds readers of the absent figure of the Red King. He has been present in the novel only as a sleeping figure in the wood. When Alice wakes, however, the question of whether she was a character in her own dream or in the Red King's dream appears to be answered. If it were the Red King's dream, she shouldn't—logically—have woken when she seized the Red Queen. On the other hand, if he were dreaming the chess match, Alice's winning could have meant that the ending of the match is why she woke. Carroll leaves the possibilities open for Alice and readers to interpret.

The transition from the Looking-glass world to reality takes place over several chapters. The tension of the event is heightened by the extended process that is started in the closing line of Chapter 9 into a two-sentence chapter that is the whole of Chapter 10, and the sentence fragment that is the entire Chapter 11. Alice's greeting to the black kitten in Chapter 12: "Your Red Majesty shouldn't purr so loud," acknowledges that the narrative was a dream. Still neither she nor Carroll identifies the dreamer. "It must have been either me or the Red King," she muses.

This process that goes from the dream world to waking in Chapter 12 has thus stretched over several chapters: "Your majesty shouldn't purr so loud,' Alice said, rubbing her eyes, and addressing the kitten, respectfully, yet with some severity. 'You woke me out of oh! such a nice dream!'" She acknowledges that the entirety of the novel was a dream, but the identity of the dreamer she still refuses to define: "it must have been either me or the Red King." In doing so, Alice (or perhaps Dodgson) keeps the fantasy aspect alive for the reader. It invites one to believe yet another impossible thing.

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