The article “Children’s Literature” in KEYWORDS, attempts to discuss whether or not “children’s literature” is in fact an actual entity. The presence of “the hidden adult” is noted in almost all texts for children, while conversely there is expressed denial that “children’s literature” is something that exists independent of adults. On this topic, Matthew Grenby asks “Is there such a thing as children’s literature?” Grenby suggests that it might it be more accurate to talk of “a boys’ literature and a girls’ literature.” In agreement with Grenby, Perry Nodelman points out: “A defining characteristic of children’s literature is that it intends to teach what it means for girls to be girls and boys to be boys.” This definition of “children’s literature” can be applied to our discussion of whether or not Through the Looking-Glass by Lewis Carroll is indeed a children’s book.
There are three distinct examples in Through the Looking-Glass in which Carroll indirectly teaches what it means for girls to be girls. First, we see a focus on the important of gaining knowledge through “lessons” as Alice continually recites facts and poems that she has learned such as her recital of “Jaberwocky.” Secondly, we observe the importance placed on good manners and discipline as demonstrated in Alice’s interactions with Kitty. She scolds Kitty telling her to “Sit up a little more stiffly, dear! And curtsey while you’re thinking what to purr.” Next, we become aware of a focus on attention to appearance in Alice’s interactions with the Queen. It is apparent that the Queen is a bit out of sorts when it comes to her appearance and Alice helps the Queen to repin her fallen shaw and rearranges her hair for her: “Come, you look rather better now!” Alice exclaims excitedly.
Through Carroll’s mention of lessons, manners, discipline, and personal appearance, a reader can begin to construct an image of what it means for “a girl to be a girl” in the actions and experiences of Alice in Looking-Glass Land. While Carroll’s attitudes toward adulthood are not completely apparent in this book, Through the Looking-Glass itself can be seen as a motif for the developmental advancement from childhood to adulthood. This is best represented by Alice’s venture from a pawn to becoming a queen when she reaches the edge of the forest.