Through the Looking-Glass | Study Guide

Lewis Carroll

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Through the Looking-Glass | Chapter 2 : The Garden of Live Flowers | Summary



Alice enters the garden of live flowers. She speaks wistfully to one of the blossoms and is stunned when it answers her back. She holds a brief conversation with several blooms: "'It isn't manners for us to begin, you know,' [says] the Rose, 'and I really was wondering when you'd speak!" Each flower has its own personality, and they are not particularly friendly. Rose complains about Alice's ill manners, and Tiger-lily is critical of Alice's appearance, saying, "If only her petals curled up a little more, she'd be all right."

When Alice asks questions and is surprised by the answer, the criticism continues. "'It's my opinion that you never think at all,' the Rose [remarks] in a rather severe tone." Another flower, Violet, is equally critical. "I never saw anybody that looked stupider," she observes.

Alice is curious about whether there are any other people in the garden. The flowers tell her there is another person—one of "the thorny kind" who wears thorns on her head. Alice looks around, sees the Red Queen wearing her crown, and leaves to have "a talk with a real Queen." When she finds the queen, Alice realizes the chess piece she'd encountered has grown substantially and is "half a head taller than Alice herself!"

Another Looking-glass oddity occurs here. Walking toward the queen is futile; it is only in walking away from her that Alice meets her.

Alice notices the landscape is a giant chessboard and mentions that she would happily be "a Pawn, if only I might join—though, of course I should like to be a Queen, best!" She and the Red Queen run until Alice is quite out of breath, at which time Alice notices she's gone nowhere.

The Red Queen offers Alice a biscuit (cookie) to quench her thirst. Finally, the Red Queen explains the chess game, as well as the route Alice will travel. "A pawn goes two squares in its first move, you know. So you'll go very quickly through the Third Square—by railway, I should think—and you'll find yourself in the Fourth Square in no time." The Queen continues on, explaining where Alice will go and that, at the Eighth Square, Alice will become a queen.


Alice's personality is not meek, despite the unpleasantness of the flowers. When the daisies become unruly and loud, Alice tells them, "If you don't hold your tongues, I'll pick you!" Overall, despite the criticism of the flowers, Alice is undisturbed. In Alice in Wonderland, Alice was beside herself repeatedly. She cried and worried. Here, though, she is calm in an unfamiliar land.

She also seeks out the Red Queen. Alice's interest in continuing on her journey shows growing maturity. Her assertiveness is also clear as she tells the Red Queen: "I wouldn't mind being a Pawn, if only I might join—though of course I should like to be a Queen, best." However, this is not simply about Alice's desire to be in control. It is a note to Carroll's readers, drawing attention to the role of chess in the novel.

The structure of Through the Looking-Glass is dependent on this conversation between Alice and the Red Queen. It sets them up as eventually being opposing queens in a chess match. Not only are the characters Alice will meet noted, the plot outline is also set forth as to what will happen at each stage: Alice will travel on a train, meet Tweedledum and Tweedledee, cross a square that's "mostly water," and so forth until the last square—where she will be made queen. The Red Queen observes, "in the Eighth Square we shall be Queens together, and it's all feasting and fun."

The Red Queen has provided all the information Alice needs. The objective of this journey is to complete a chess match and reach the final square.

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