Alice's Adventures in Wonderlandand What Was Found There.

Authors Avatar

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and What Was Found There

"‘Curiouser and curiouser!'cried Alice" (Carroll, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland 9). At the time she was speaking of the fact that her body seemed to be growing to immense proportions before her very eyes; however, she could instead have been speaking about the entire nature of Lewis Carroll's classic works Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass and What Alice Found There. At first glance, the novels seem easy enough to understand. They are simple children's stories filled with fantastical language and wonderful worlds. They follow the basic genre of nearly all children's work, they are written in simple and clear language, feature a young hero and an amazing, unbelievable cast of characters, are set in places of mystery and illusion, and seem far too nonsensical and unusual for adults to enjoy. Even their author, Lewis Carroll, believed them to be children's stories. Yet Carroll and generations of parents and children have been wrong. While these stories may seem typical children's fare, they are distinctly different. Their symbolism, content, and message make the Alice books uniquely intended for adults.

Charles Lutwidge Dodgson was born in 1832 in Victorian England. He was a mathematics professor, but he had a very peculiar dual identity. "Most of the time he was C. L. Dodgson, the shy, stammering mathematics professor, but on occasion he became Lewis Carroll, the dynamic fantasist and parodist" (Matuz 105). He began his career in writing by publishing typical and uninspiring tracts about mathematics and politics, but after an inspirational boat ride with three young girls, he began the works which would influence a century of youngsters and inspire decades of critics (Matuz 105). The three girls, Lorina, Edith, and Alice Liddell, gave him "a release of spirits that he found nowhere else" (Hudson 266). He played with them, relaxed with them, and became young again by their acquaintance. Perhaps most importantly though, he told them stories. On July 4, 1862, he told them the story that inspired a classic, the story of "Alice's Adventures Under Ground." This was a story he had been working on in one way or another for nearly twenty years, but required little Alice's intervention to write. While many events in the first manifestation of the story inspired by the Liddells remain in the work we read today, months of planning and research moved the book "away from parochial allusions and mere child's play toward more advanced and reasoned ingenuity" (Hudson 266). The story expanded from a recanting of friendly outings to a tale of deep symbolism, psychology, and generational satire.

Each character in Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and its companion piece Through the Looking Glass and What Alice Found There symbolizes something beyond a deck of cards, a storybook character, or a figure of popular rhymes. We will begin with Alice herself. Alice is something more than Carroll's hero. "She is the free and independent mind" (Empson 262). Alice symbolizes Carroll's view of women. She was the queen to a man who had from "early youth . . . sought the society of little girls . . . compensating himself in part from his inability to form friendships with women of his own age"(Hudson 265). In the books she "moves from innocence to experience, unconsciousness to consciousness" (Bloomingdale 379) and matures to become the "Queen of the Looking-Glass World" (Bloomingdale 378) by virtue of her "curiosity, courage, kindness, intelligence, courtesy, dignity,. . . sense of humor, humility, sympathy, propriety, respect, imagination, wonder, initiative, gratitude, patience, affection, thoughtfulness, integrity, and . . . sense of justice in the face of an outrageous universe" (Bloomingdale 389). "Alice as a child-heroine undergoes the experiences ascribed by Jung to the mythical child — i.e. abandonment, invincibility, and hermaphroditism. The child is all that is abandoned and exposed and at the same time divinely powerful; the insignificant, dubious beginning, and the triumphal end" (Bloomingdale 384). Alice is more than a Victorian girl. She is the Victorian girl. She is a consummate dreamer, an ambitious hero, and an ever-growing young queen. No child can completely comprehend the complexity of her character or what she represents to Carroll and the world. She is the symbol of the Victorian world, and of the Victorian attitude toward children. Carroll wrote the story to satirize the society and its treatment of children, such as Alice. This satirization and criticism can only be appreciated and acted upon by adults. It is the perceptions and attitudes of adults that Carroll was aiming to alter, and adults are story's genuine audience.

Join now!

As with Alice, each character in Alice in Wonderland is more than just a character in the story. They all represent personality types and attitudes that Carroll satirized to bring about reform. Carroll wanted to end the ridiculous mannerisms and personality traits of his peers. To do this, he exaggerated the characters beyond the point of respectability or attractiveness so that adults would recognize themselves somewhere in the overbearing characters they hated and, consequently, would attempt to change. In the White Rabbit, we find the epitome of worriers. He incessantly agonizes over lost gloves, missing fans, housemaids, and being "late for ...

This is a preview of the whole essay