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A Literary Analysis of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass

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Introduction

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass represent the importance of change in society: Old habits and customs can harbor a nation's growth culturally and politically. Lewis Carroll wrote his two famous novels with this underlying message to advise his fellow Victorians to change their ways of life, and recognize the wrongdoings of society in order to bring about a more modern view of life. By employing allegorical characters, creating parodies of common Victorian traditions, and deriding the church, Carroll is able to present a scornful and mocking view of society to his readers, with the hopes of change. Furthermore, Alice's frugal attempts to civilize the animal world by means of Victorian rules further intensify Carroll's mockery of nineteenth-century English ways of life. Various symbolic characters arise and develop during Alice's adventures. Among these, include her interaction with the Duchess and her baby. This scene mocks the civilized, somewhat robotic lifestyle of Victorians. They ran their households orderly, much unlike the duchess', in which the chaotic lifestyle represents the imperfection of humans. Nina Auerbach exclaims, "With baby and pepper flung about indiscriminately, pastoral tranquility is inverted into a whirlwind of savage sexuality" (2). This "pastoral tranquility" is the ideal lifestyle for which the Victorians strove, known as the "Wordsworthian ideal"; a style of life inspired by Henry Wordsworth, who preached a calm way of life in the country, and a reconnection with nature. ...read more.

Middle

The inhabitants of Wonderland fear these representations because many do not follow these policies of conversation nor common courtesies and manners. Furthermore, Alice represents a structured lifestyle - one that leaves little room for easygoing attitudes or fun. From this fear of a structured life and rules one must follow springs the inhabitants' insanity. Additionally, the inhabitants of Wonderland are unable to comprehend the English system of justice. "'...Let the jury consider their verdict,' the King said for about the twentieth time that day. ' No, no!' said the Queen. 'Sentence first - verdict afterwards.' 'Stuff and nonsense!' said Alice loudly. 'The idea of having the sentence first!' 'Hold your tongue!' said the Queen...'I wo'n't!' said Alice" (Carroll AAW 102-103). Dating as far as the Fifteenth Century, England had practiced Habeas Corpus. Under Habeas Corpus, "persons unlawfully detained can be ordered to be prosecuted before a court of law," and it has existed in British government since 1679. (Wikipedia www). The Queen's misunderstanding of a civilized trial and the proper way to persecute another symbolizes Wonderland's detachment from reality and exists as a parody of the sometimes trivial justice system. Laura E. Ciolkowski, author for Genders Magazine, believes that, according to Alice, the characters of Wonderland cannot comprehend English justice. ...read more.

Conclusion

These attempts can be seen in her encounters with the Mad Hatter and March Hare. When the Hare offers her wine, but "forgets" to mention that there is none, Alice scolds him for his rudeness. Sadly, though, Alice partook in the same rudeness by inviting herself to the table. Her attempts to civilize the members of the chaotic tea party fail because she herself has not been civilized by Victorian manners. Within the lines of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass, Lewis Carroll is able to relay a message to his readers. This message states that change is necessary if society's customs and ways of life are absurd. By creating satirical characters, employing parodies of Victorian traditions, and utterly deriding the Church of England and the power it had over it's followers, Carroll portrays to his readers the absurdity of Victorian life. Carroll's creation of Alice trying to be the heroin of Victorianism, but failing in the process, lends to the idea that Victorian rules do not change a brutish society to a civilized one, regardless of the etiquette and government. Aside from entirely scorning his entire lifestyle, Carroll was able to hide these messages in the whimsical lines of children's novels, which have survived the test of time. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Habeas_Corpus_Act_1679 http://www.genders.org/g27/g27_vision.txt ...read more.

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