Through the Looking-Glass

“Now, if you’ll only attend, Kitty, and not talk so much, I’ll tell you all my ideas about Looking-Glass House. First, there’s the room you can see through the glass – that’s just the same as our drawing-room, only the things go the other way.” – Alice, to her kittens, in Through the Looking Glass

Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There is Lewis Carroll’s sequel to Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. The book lends its name to the season three finale Through the Looking Glass and the DHARMA underwater station called the Looking Glass. The book itself later appears in Jack’s season six flash-sideways episode Lighthouse. Jack’s son David is reading a copy of The Annotated Alice and Jack references Kitty and Snowdrop – Alice’s two kittens from Through the Looking Glass.

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Like the first story, Through the Looking Glass is nonsense fiction, but it explores different and sometimes more complex themes. Mirrors and time play big roles in this work and the playing card theme of the first book is discarded for a chessboard and chess pieces.

The book opens with Alice talking with her cats and looking into the mirror that hangs above her family’s mantle (which she calls the “Looking-Glass” world). She notices that everything in the Looking-Glass world is backwards and wonders what that would be like. Once again, curiosity gets the best of her and she enters the world through the mirror.

Alice soon discovers that everything is, in fact, backwards. It was a cold, snowy night when she entered the Looking-Glass world. Upon arriving, she finds that it is a beautiful, sunny spring day.

Time does not move in an orderly fashion in the world – sometimes it moves backwards, sometimes forwards, sometimes fast, and sometimes slow. At one point, Alice meets the White Queen, who describes her ability to remember events that happen in the future.

The Looking-glass world is one giant chessboard. We follow Alice as she makes her way from one end of the board to the other, where she is crowned queen. Along the way, she meets a variety of chess pieces and fairy-tale characters. She meets the Red and White Queens, the Red King, and a knight. She meets Humpty Dumpty, Tweedledee, Tweedledum, and sees a lion and a unicorn fighting.

Like the first book, the climatic scene of the book happens at a party. This time the characters are throwing Alice a party for her coronation. She grows frustrated at the Red Queen and blames her for being stuck in the Looking-Glass world. She starts to shake the Red Queen when she suddenly wakes up. She quickly realizes that she is shaking her kitten and dreamed the whole thing.

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The first time I read this book, I discounted its own independent significance. I sort of just lumped with the first Alice book in with this second book as one big fantasy world. It wasn’t until I got around to writing this review (five months after I read it) that I realized that Through the Looking-Glass is pretty important in its own right.

The book’s appearance in the season three finale gives us some insight into the nature of the Island and why people can’t seem to see it from the outside world. In this episode, Jack and his followers trek to the radio tower to use Naomi’s satellite phone after she crash landed on the Island. At the episode’s on-Island climax, Jack makes contact with Minkowski on the freighter – the first time that the Oceanic survivors spoke with anyone from the outside world in 100 days.

This is also the first episode to use the flash forward storytelling device and the first episode we realize that Jack and Kate got off the Island. And of course there is the underwater Looking Glass station that Charlie turned off the jamming signal in.

So what does this all mean for the Island? The Island sits outside our normal perception of the world. In a sense, it is the looking glass world. The episode is titled Through the Looking Glass because the Oceanic Six both literally and figuratively go through the Looking Glass.

In the literal sense, Charlie turned off the jamming signal in the Looking Glass station and the satellite’s phone signal was able to go through the Looking Glass’s equipment.

Figuratively, we learn that Jack and Kate (and later, the Oceanic Six and Desmond) left the Island through the looking glass. By the end of season four, we finally see that the helicopter needed to leave the Island on a specific bearing (like Walt and Michael in the season two finale). Just as the helicopter left the Island, it and a circle of water around it moved when Ben turned the frozen donkey wheel. There is just water where the Island was – the world behind the looking glass was gone.

In season two, then-imprisoned Ben commented that God couldn’t see the Island any more than the rest of the world. I think that’s because the Island exists as a world behind some sort of mirror. People can actually enter and leave the world like Alice if everything is aligned perfectly. But Alice couldn’t see anything in the looking glass world besides her own reflection until she entered at that one point. Similarly, the episode title implies that the Island looks just like a mirror to the rest of the world. In short, unless you look at it at exactly the right angle, it just looks like ocean.

In the time-travelling fifth season, the book’s themes pop up again. In the book, the White Queen describes that time does not move just one direction in the looking glass world. It moves backwards, skips days and nights, and generally just bounces around. This is reminiscent of Sawyer, Juliet, Jin, Miles, Faraday, and Charlotte bouncing through time when the wheel was knocked off its axis.

In season six, the book shows up again in Lighthouse when Jack’s son David is reading the book. The looking glass analogy describes the flash-sideways world very well. Like the looking glass world, everything is backwards. Jack struggles with his issues with his own father; in the flash-sideways world, he struggles as the father. Locke never quite comes to terms with his disability before coming to the Island; in the flash-sideways world, he not only copes with the disability, but he does not want Jack to try to fix him. And so on.

Mirrors are important throughout season six. In each episode, we see the centric character studying his or her reflection in a mirror at least once. This seems to imply that on at least some level, they realize that the world is somewhat backwards.

In Lighthouse, we find out that Jacob used mirrors to keep tabs on the potential candidates. Jacob had a looking-glass situation of his own going on there. He studied the worlds of each candidate while maintaining distance from them. Because he watched them from the other side of the mirror, they could never be aware that someone was always watching them.

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I remember not liking this book as much as Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland when I read it five months ago. Now I think I appreciate it more. It’s not as cute, well-written, or as exciting as the first book. But it is more clever and well thought-out. The first Alice was basically nonsensical fun. The second book explored more serious themes – time-travel, mirror worlds, etc. In doing so, it lost some of the charm of the first book. Still a good read and, as you can tell by the review, gave me a lot to think about.

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