Book: Through the Looking Glass
Author: Lewis Carroll (1832-1898)
Connection with ABC-TV’s LOST: The official LOST website links the book to episodes 102 and 116. We get a hint at the Alice connection in John Locke’s “Do you want to know a secret?” comment in episode 102. Although Locke doesn’t directly explain what the ‘secret’ is, it probably involves being confined to a wheelchair before Oceanic 815’s crash on the island. In addition, the Jabberwocky, a mysterious creature described to Alice by Humpty Dumpty, may be alluded to here. Regardless, the island is considered by many of the crash survivors as a place where strange and unusual things can (and do) happen.
Review of the Book
There are books that are read once, then are either placed on a bookshelf never to be read again, sold at a yard sale, or donated to a charity. There are books that are read as a child and adored, but they somehow lose their innocence and magic when they’re revisited as an adult. There are also books that somehow pass both the tests of time and relevance despite the age of the reader. For me, one of these works was The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. On a basic level, it’s a story about a prince from Planet B612 (really an asteroid) who has adventures on other planets before making his way to Earth. Yet there’s a deeper level to the tale regarding what’s truly important in one’s life.
One book that lends itself to this type of discussion is Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll. This work, the follow-up to Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, features a rather creative seven year-old girl and what happens when she climbs through the mirror on the mantelpiece at home. It’s not a long read, but it does require the reader to pay attention and make a mental investment in the story. The end result is something that both children and adults can enjoy.
At the beginning of the story, Alice goes through the looking glass and finds a book with poetry (Carroll’s famous poem “Jabberwocky”) that can only be read by looking at it in a mirror. She then enters a garden where flowers mistakenly think she’s one of them before she meets the Red Queen. During their conversation, the queen tells Alice that she can become a queen if she can get to the other side of a live game of chess, where she’ll start out as a pawn. Alice goes up on a hill and surveys a literal chess board that’s part of the landscape. She then jumps on a train and proceeds to make her way to the other side. Along the way, she encounters a number of rather interesting creatures (such as Humpty Dumpty, Tweedledee, and Tweedledum) and has unique conversations with each of them. Eventually, Alice gets to the other side, becomes a queen, and proceeds to win the chess match by putting the Red King in checkmate (Carroll details the move sequence in the book as well).
Kids love the colorful characters and the imagination Carroll puts on display—and who doesn’t love seeing Humpty Dumpty sitting on a wall? Yet adults can get something out of Through the Looking Glass as well. For example, when Alice mentions something to the Red Queen near the end of the chess match, she attempts to recant her statement. The Red Queen will have none of this and says, “[W]hen you’ve once said a thing, that fixes it, and you must take the consequences.” How true this is, both in school (trying to get out of trouble for not completing an assignment) and in everyday life (clicking the ‘Send’ button and releasing an email without considering one’s words, who it’s sent to, or what could happen as a result)! James rightly notes that the tongue can be used for both building up and tearing down, but we should attempt to employ it only for good (see James 3:9-10).
When it comes to faith, Carroll shares an interesting thought to consider. When the White Queen tells Alice that she’s more than 105 years old, Alice says she can’t believe it, noting that one can’t believe impossible things. The White Queen responds, “I daresay you haven’t had much practice. When I was your age, I always did it for half-an-hour a day. Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.” In the Bible, the writer of Hebrews gives a similar definition: “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see” (Hebrews 11:1). There will be situations in life where we simply have to trust in what is likely seen as impossible. We were good at believing these types of things as children, so it’s sometimes better to throw aside rationalism, postpone cynicism, and see what happens when the impossible is honestly considered. To this end, many people cannot bring themselves to see Jesus as fully God and fully man, much less that he lived a sinless life, was killed for doing nothing wrong, then came back to life three days after his death. But it’s exactly this kind of ‘impossible thing’ that the White Queen refers to—and one that, when believed and embraced, sparks an eternally changed life.
So when you get a chance, take the time to grab a copy of Through the Looking Glass (or even read it online). It may be considered children’s literature, but there’s more to it that you might think.