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Alice in Wonderland: A Curious Child

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Lewis Carroll’s classic Alice in Wonderland has entertained not only children but adults for over one hundred years. The tale has become a treasure of philosophers, literary critics, and psychoanalysts. There appears to be something in Alice for everyone, and there are almost as many explanations of the work as there are commentators. One commentary is A Curious Child by Nina Auerbach. Auerbach discussed how Alice is a representation of a middle class child in Victorian England. Victorian children were expected to be able to recite rules and lessons. Auerbach believed that Alice is a perfect example of the Victorian mindset and a way to see into ones psyche. Who dreamed it shows a part of the Victorian quest for the “origins of the self that culminates in the controlled regression of Freudian analysis.” It is quite funny how Carroll disagrees with the Victorian mindset yet he is part of the mindset. I agree with this essay because it shows how Carroll demonstrates his life through out the story, and that childhood is a time for learning about who you are and becoming an adult. Alice was very much a “curious child.”

It may be perhaps Carroll’s style of writing that entertains the reader, rather than teaching them a lesson as was customary in his time. Carroll mainly wrote for the entertainment of children, but it is believed that his life is intertwined in his stories. Carroll’s stories of Alice, are usually described as being directly connected to his 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 love for childhood. 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. In Alice in Wonderland, Carroll uses not only his love for children and logic but his playfulness to create a story in order to show the psyche of a child. 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 nonsensical behavior of his characters can be seen as making fun of the way children were forced to behave. 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 at the same time, tie in 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?” 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. Alice’s curiosity will proceed to carry her on a 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.” 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, 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. 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.

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?” 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.” 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.”

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 big question here is which one will she leave Wonderland as, knowing her stay is temporary. It is in fact, the final chapters where Alice is introduced to the King and Queen of Hearts. It is at the trial of the Knave of Hearts that Alice decides she has been ultimately defeated by the nonsense of the characters throughout the book and ends her journey with the line, “You’re nothing but a pack of cards!.” It is precisely this breaking of tension between her expectations and the actuality of Wonderland and her regressing back into Alice the child that the book is all about . Thus, the underlying message of Alice is the rejection of adult authority and the vindication of the rights of a child. The Victorian Era was a time in which proper etiquette meant everything. The Lobster Quadrille that Alice encounters in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland is a parody of the quadrille, a dance. The Mock Turtle and Gryphon’s mad romp can barely be associated to the politeness the original dance had. Another point Carroll makes is that Victorian children were expected to behave at all times.

When Alice is at the trial of the Knave of Hearts, Carroll parodies this sort of rule and the expected behavior by having Alice “talk back” to the King. Merely allowing Alice to question the authority of the King and point out the stupidity of his rules he is pointing out the stupidity of contemporary standards set by the time, otherwise symbolized as the King. The absurdity of the Victorian Era is comparable to that of Wonderland. Lewis Carroll has often times been described as the master of nonsense. Although this is true, Carroll’s sense of humor has been proven that it was not just to entertain. The creations of many of his poems and books are the results of the struggles he faced throughout his life. His incorporation of logic and puzzles, puns, rules and anarchy elaborate the main point of his stories. Thus, a single interpretation of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland is the battle between bridging from childhood to adulthood. With a simple overview, He seems to bring out the imagination and childhood in all his readers. It is obvious Carroll also found the rules and obligations of the time were ridiculous as he satires them throughout most of his works.

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