Lewis Carroll's Through the Looking-Glass here parodies Victorian technology and Victorian fascination with inventions:

"I see you're admiring my little box," the Knight said in a friendly tone. "It's my own invention- to keep clothes and sandwiches in. You see I carry it upside down, so that the rain can't get in."

" But the things can get out," Alice gently remarked. "Do you know that the lid's open?"

" I didn't know it," the Knight said, a shade of vexation passing over his face. " Then all the things must have fallen out! And the box is no use without them." (Norton Critical Edition, 181).

"I was wondering what the mouse-trap was for." said Alice. "it isn't very likely there would be any mice on the horse's back."

" Not very likely, perhaps," said the Knight; "but, if they do come, I don't choose to have them running all about."

" You see," he went on after a pause, "it's as well to be provided for everything." (182).

..." The great art of riding, as I was saying is- to keep your balance properly. Like this, you know ____"

He let go of the bridle, and stretched out both his arms to show Alice what he meant, and this time fell flat on his back, right under the horse's feet.

"Plenty of practice!" he went on repeating, all the time that Alice was getting him on his feet again. "Plenty of practice!"

"It's too ridiculous!" cried Alice, losing all her patience this time." [184]

"In science and technology, the Victorians invented the modern idea of invention — the notion that one could create solutions to problems, that man can create new means of bettering himself and his environment." Alice exposes the futility of the White Knight's inventions when she notices the mouse trap on the Knight's horse and remarks: "it isn't very likely there would be any mice on the horse's back." One can say that because Alice's adventures take place in a fantastic world, there may well be mice on horses' backs. However, the Knight's agreement with Alice, "Not very likely, perhaps", indicates to the reader that Alice's logic prevails in the Knight's and Alice's world. Instead of facilitating life, the Knight's inventions poses problems; he loses the things he had placed in his own invention, the box: "Then all the things must have fallen out". Invention, instead of creating solutions to problems creates problems.

However, the flaw lies in the Knight's lack of logic in using his inventions rather than in the inventions themselves. For example, placing mouse traps on the horse may have been useful if mice did approach horses. However, the Knight did not consider that in the world he lived such an event was unlikely. Likewise, putting the box upside down may have protected its contents from the rain, if the Knight had thought to close the lid. The title of the chapter along with the repetition of the word inventions suggest that Carroll is making a commentary on the modern idea of inventions. Perhaps Carroll cautions against invention getting out of hand and losing its original purpose: inventing for the sake of inventing rather than facilitating life.

The White Knight's concern with the art rather than the basics and function of riding parallels his craze for inventing; he loses touch with the original purpose of riding, which was a means of transportation. Alice finally says in exasperation: "It's too ridiculous!", as the Knight falls off his horse. Alice's cry can apply to the knight's entire mentality concerning inventions, riding, and the impractical way in which he thinks in general. The Knight's numerous plans and inventions may reflect Victorian England's "new technical epoch" that Jordan mentions and that Carroll's passage mocks. If invention was a sign of modernization and industrialization in Victorian England, perhaps Carroll, through the passage, suggests that the surge of modernization is not the key to bettering oneself and the environment.


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Last modified December 1995