There's a sequence in Code Name Verity where one of the main characters, called "Queenie" here, is compared to the Red Queen. The time period is WWII. A future version of Queenie is the one "writing", though through Maddie's viewpoint. Queenie and Maddie have recently become acquainted. The air base they work at is being bombed by Germans.

The first direct comparison is here:

Maddie stood facing her new friend by the table they had just abandoned, people around her whirling into action. She felt as though she were at the eye of a tropical storm. The still point of the turning world.
"Come on!" Queenie cried, just like the Red Queen in Through the Looking Glass, and grabbed Maddie by the arm to pull her outside. "You go on duty at one; what have you got"—she glanced at her watch—"an hour? A quick nap in the shelter before they need you in the radio room—pity you haven't brought your brolly along. Come on, I'll go with you."
pg. 64

A little later, after they've commandeered an antiaircraft gun:

They both ducked instinctively as something exploded at the other end of the runway. Queenie squeezed Maddie around the waist and gave her a quick peck on the cheek. "'Kiss me, Hardy!' Weren't those Nelson's last words at the Battle of Trafalgar? Don't cry. We're still alive and we make a sensational team."
Then she hitched up her hair to its two-inch above-the-collar regulation point, swabbed her own tears and the grease and the concrete dust and the gunner's blood from her cheeks with the back of her hand, and she was off running again, like the Red Queen.

It's like being in love, discovering your best friend.
pg. 68

Both quotes pulled from the section headed "ANTIAIRCRAFT GUNNER", within the chapter stamped "Ormaie 11.XI.43 JB-S". Emphasis is mine.

As someone who cannot remember reading or watching any version of the Alice story, but who knows a few things from cultural osmosis, I can only pick up some surface-level comparisons. The most obvious being the "Queen" in "Queenie" (the nickname is due to a claimed relation to Mary, Queen of Scotspg. 58). Then, there's the idea of the Red Queen's Race which ties into the running that Queenie does. It's beyond that which I was wondering about. What else am I missing in this comparison? I assume it to be important somehow, because it is explicitly brought up twice during this pivotal scene in the main characters' friendship.

Is there anything deeper about the comparisons between Queenie and the Red Queen?

  • "The still point of the turning world" is an allusion to "Burnt Norton" by T. S. Eliot. Sep 27, 2021 at 22:14

1 Answer 1


I think that either Maddie or the author Elizabeth Wein is partly conflating the Red Queen from Through The Looking Glass with the Queen of Hearts (and a few other characters/events) from Alice's Adventures In Wonderland.

Apart from the Red Queen running, as you mention in your question, she's very bossy and high-energy. Alice is quite awed when they first meet, in Chapter 2, and the Queen is looking at her watch and giving lots of instructions:

“Where do you come from?” said the Red Queen. “And where are you going? Look up, speak nicely, and don’t twiddle your fingers all the time.”

Alice attended to all these directions, and explained, as well as she could, that she had lost her way.

“I don’t know what you mean by your way,” said the Queen: “all the ways about here belong to me—but why did you come out here at all?” she added in a kinder tone. “Curtsey while you’re thinking what to say, it saves time.”

Alice wondered a little at this, but she was too much in awe of the Queen to disbelieve it. “I’ll try it when I go home,” she thought to herself, “the next time I’m a little late for dinner.”

“It’s time for you to answer now,” the Queen said, looking at her watch: “open your mouth a little wider when you speak, and always say ‘your Majesty.’”

So there's a general similarity between the two characters. Since your first quote says "just like the Red Queen," I also looked for the words "come on" and it appears that no one says this anywhere in the whole book. However, it's common in Alice's Adventures In Wonderland, beginning in Chapter 8 when Alice first meets the Queen of Hearts.

“Can you play croquet?” [asked the Queen of Hearts.]

The soldiers were silent, and looked at Alice, as the question was evidently meant for her.

“Yes!” shouted Alice.

“Come on, then!” roared the Queen, and Alice joined the procession, wondering very much what would happen next.

In fact, in Chapter 9, after the Queen of Hearts orders the Gryphon to take Alice to see the Mock Turtle, it tells her to "come on" too, and:

“Everybody says ‘come on!’ here,” thought Alice, as she went slowly after it: “I never was so ordered about in all my life, never!”

The Red Queen and the Queen of Hearts are so often confused that the mix-up has its own section of each of their Wikipedia articles (Red Queen; Queen of Hearts). In particular, several adaptations combine them into one character or give one's lines to the other, including (according to Wikipedia) the 1951 Disney cartoon, the 2000 video game, and the 2010 Tim Burton movie. Code Name Verity was published in 2012 so it's entirely possible that Wein could have been influenced by any of these, especially the Disney classic. They couldn't have shaped Maddie's ideas about the Red Queen, obviously, but she could just be confused because both Queens are rude, bossy, and associated with the color red. Personally, I think it's more likely that it's just an error on Wein's part, since I don't see what literary purpose it would serve to have Maddie confuse two Lewis Carroll characters, and most readers probably wouldn't pick up on it anyway.

  • 1
    As for what the characters would know - Maddie is working-class, more concerned with planes and motorbikes and mechanics than literature, while Queenie has an upper-class education with a focus on German literature.
    – bobble
    Sep 28, 2021 at 18:44
  • @bobble yeah I was thinking of that, that it might be like "Maddie is not that great at literature" but it seems like such a bizarre way to indicate that -- having read two classic books (or at least the first, but still having some general knowledge of the second), but not remembering them in a lot of detail isn't actually a class/education marker to my mind. But maybe Carroll has some niche status significance to the British. Sep 28, 2021 at 18:56

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