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Lewis Carroll's "Alice In Wonderland"

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Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland has entertained not only children but adults for over one hundred years. The tale has become a treasure of philosophers, literary critics, psychoanalysts, and linguists. It also has attracted Carroll's fellow mathematicians and logicians. There appears to be something in Alice for everyone, and there are almost as many explanations of the work as there are commentators. It may be perhaps Carroll's fantastical style of writing that entertains the reader, rather than teaching them a lesson as was customary in his time.

Heavy literary symbolism is difficult to trace through his works because of the fact he wrote mainly for entertainment. In fact, Carroll's stories, including Alice, are usually described as being direct parallels to Carroll's life. This is obvious due to the various references Carroll makes of the favorite things in his life such as his obsession with little girls and not to mention his nostalgia for childhood1. The most prominent interpretation of Alice is the theme of fantasy versus reality. The story continuously challenges the reader's sense of the "ground rules" or what can be assumed. However, with a more in-depth search, the adult reader can find Carroll may have indeed implanted a theme relative to the confusion Alice goes through as well as the reader. In Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, Carroll uses not only his love for children and logic but his linguistic playfulness to create a story in order to show the psyche of a child. Moreover, Carroll makes fun of the way Victorian children were raised.

In the nineteenth century people were expected to behave according to a set of rules and morals. Carroll's nonsense behavior of his characters can be seen as making fun of the way children were forced to behave. Alice's Adventures in Wonderland overall is contradicting the standard way children's literature was written. As one can see, the story of Alice takes its reader through many different levels. With the lovable creation of a fantastical world, Carroll invites his readers on a nonsensical yet familiar journey of the questioning of identity by child yearning to take the step into adulthood prematurely, enabling him to entertain while simultaneously satirizing the Victorian Era.

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland begins with Alice sitting beside her sister commenting, "what is the use of a book without pictures or conversations" (Carroll 3). Alice's narrow point of view will now begin to raise fundamental questions in her head about who she is. Alice "has reached the stage of development where the world appears explainable and unambiguous where, paradoxically, curiosity is wedded to the ignorant faith in the sanity of things" (qtd. In Otten 50). Alice's curiosity will proceed to carry her on a complete rebirth in order to question the inevitable step from childhood to adulthood. It seems to her that she is quite the young adult. This is not such an unfamiliar thought as it is quite usual for a young child to want to behave as an adult. Her journey will sure enough challenge her belief of who she is. This journey begins when she "found herself falling down a very deep well" (Carroll 5). By falling down this hole, Alice is acting as a father. In hitting the bottom of the well she has moved on to the fetal stage. The first problem Alice encounters is finding a way to fit through the little door so small that she could not even fit her head through the doorway. She soon find a bottle labeled "drink me". "The wise little Alice was not going to do that in a hurry" (At this point, Alice is still behaving the way a proper Victorian child would conduct themselves in the Victorian period.) She must find a way to exit the "womb" she is in so she can question the world she exists in. Thus, she compromises to drink what's in the bottle causing her to shrink in size. This is the beginning of what the reader will see as Alice's way of questioning her identity. Being just the right size to fit through the door, however forgetting the key, Alice begins to weep causing the entire room to fill with tears. Now Alice can be seen as becoming a mother in creating the amniotic fluid. Alice makes two more changes in size before she enters the magical world of Wonderland. The reader is well aware that Alice is very torn between childhood and adulthood as she begins her journey through the terrifying world of experience. Throughout the rest of the story Alice continues to question her identity. Naively an image of the fallen adult society that she embodies at an age when she wholeheartedly embraces its values and assumptions, Alice barely retains the most precious gift of childlike innocence- a potentially redemptive imagination that gives her passage to Wonderland (Otten 51). The reader becomes aware that Wonderland attempts to evoke the child back out of Alice, who they know already feels so grown up. Her attitude towards people in Wonderland illustrates her attempt to prove that she is in fact an adult. For example, she fears being Mabel because Mabel lives "in that pokey little house" and has "ever so many lessons to learn!". Later, she feels no remorse in knocking the Rabbit into the cucumber-frame or in kicking Bill out of the chimney. Perhaps the most convincing argument for Alice occurs at the Duchess's house. In her attempt to save the baby from abuse, Alice assumes moral responsibility: "Wouldn't it be murder to leave it behind?" (Carroll 69). Her compassion here coexists with her adult-like and proper behavior. "Don't grunt. That's not a proper way of expressing yourself." It seems however, in most all of the other instances in the book, Alice appears more piteous than authoritative. Challenged by the Caterpillar's rude questions about her identity, Alice realizes she "knew who she was when she got up this morning, but she seems to think she's changed several times since then" (Carroll 50). Obviously, Wonderland is beginning to take its toll on Alice. Alice realizes her lack of control in this situation and complains "three inches is such a wretched height to be" (Carroll 56). This results in Alice once again changing her size. She is now a giant, towering above all the trees, described as a serpent by the Pigeon. Alice of course claims she is a little girl. The reader of course knows she is both. The



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