(urth) In Looking-Glass Castle: Queening the Pawn

Dave Tallman davetallman at msn.com
Tue Aug 19 10:52:18 PDT 2008

The main character of "In Looking-Glass Castle" is named Daisy. In "Through
the Looking-Glass," Lewis Carroll gave a diagram that related characters to
chess pieces. The name "Daisy" appears four times, for the four rook's

White Side
W. Queen.......'Lily' (Alice)
W. King........Fawn
Aged man.......Oyster
W. Knight......Hatta

Red Side
Humpty Dumpty..Daisy
R. Queen.......Tiger-lily
R. King........Rose
R. Knight......Frog

Daisy herself may be a clone. She mishears "the cistern got her" for "her
sisters got her," which may indicate her fear of her fellow clones, or of
her extreme feminist society in general. The "Oyster" also appears four
times, for the bishop's pawns. Oysters relate to pearls, and the fat woman
mentions the clone "Pearl IV." Oysters are related to the fat walrus in the
poem "The Walrus and the Carpenter."

In "Through the Looking Glass," Alice was the White Queen's Pawn,
'Lily'.Which of the four pawns is the Daisy of this story? I suggest the
most interesting possibility is the Red King Rook's pawn, which starts in
front of the Lion. The fugitive man has long black hair and a beard, giving
him a lion's mane. The lion is a symbol of Christ, as in the "Lion of the
Tribe of Judah." He offers to stay out of her way if she choses to believe
he isn't there.

The nursery rhyme "The Lion and the Unicorn" relates to the joining of the
English and Scottish coats of arms when James I became joint king of England
and Scotland. Lions are a masculine symbol and unicorns are feminine. In
Wolfe's ideal world, we need both sides. The women-only country has a
declining population, replaced only by clones. It is highly totalitarian,
like the country in Kafka's "In the Penal Colony" with it's hideous torture
machine that kills by inscribing words into its victims over and over. (That
story appears in "Metamorphoses and Other Stories", and it's probably no
coincidence that Wolfe began his own title with the word "in".)

Like Alice, Daisy the pawn is given the opportunity to reach the castle (the
8th rank) and become a queen, the companion of the king. Her fear and social
conditioning make it impossible for her to accept the man. The former
inhabitant, Jane, may have fallen in love with him (she has hidden well-read
books by male authors) and committed suicide in the cistern because her
society could never accept this. That is why the man says he is indirectly
and unintentionally responsible for her death.

Pearl, the neighbor's clone, may be connected with the man also. In the
stories of Guy de Maupassant there is one called "Mademoiselle Pearl" about
a woman who is chosen as Queen for Twelfth Night. The narrator finds out her
story, that she was a foundling and that there was an undeclared love
between her and her host for many years. The Pearl in that story didn't kill
herself, but she buried her appearance with an unattractive hairstyle and

The man woos Daisy with gifts, but she runs away to sea. But like the Red
Queen, she runs as fast as she can to stay in the same place. The man (or a
hallucination of him) follows her. It seems likely that she will drown
herself at sea, because she cannot escape any other way.
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