Through the Looking-Glass | Study Guide

Lewis Carroll

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Through the Looking-Glass | Preface | Summary



In the preface, Carroll explains the chess aspect of the book, as he is concerned that some readers have been puzzled by it. He lists each of Alice's "moves" in her journey from White Pawn to Queen, noting "the final 'checkmate' of the Red King."

Carroll also offers the correct pronunciation of various words in the "Jabberwocky" poem. He advises readers to "pronounce 'slithy' as if it were the two words 'sly, the': make the 'g' hard in 'gyre' and 'gimble': and pronounce 'rath' to rhyme with 'bath.'"

Carroll concludes his preface by discussing the typesetting and the cost of the book, ending with the note that he is not turning a profit so as to make it available to his intended audience. He mentions, "rather than let the little ones, for whom it was written, go without it, I am selling it at a price which is, to me, much the same thing as giving it away."


What Carroll describes is not an actual chess game, but a chess lesson. Notably, in an essay written in her adult years, Alice (Liddell) Hargreaves recollects he taught chess to the Liddell children.

The anomalies in the chess moves that begin the narrative can be explained by analyzing the characters' personalities. For example, the White Queen passes up an opportunity to checkmate the Red King. However, the novel has already established that she is absent-minded and rather careless. Both the chess moves and the characters' personalities are defining traits.

Another aspect of the preface is the question of finances and craftsmanship. Carroll's letter to his publisher, Alexander Macmillan, in February 1869 reiterated his request that the publisher release a "cheap edition" of the book. In that letter, he stated, "it may very likely not be profitable, or may even be a loss, but that I do not much care about." He goes on to explain that he believes the price of Through the Looking-Glass "puts the book entirely out of reach of many thousands of children of the middle classes." The concern Carroll expresses for prospective readers in the preface is thus supported by his correspondence with his publisher.

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