LIT 4334: The Golden Age of Children's Literature

Alice in Wonderland Close Reading

on February 12, 2013 3:53pm

This was not an encouraging opening for a conversation. Alice replied, rather shyly, “I hardly know, sir, just at present– at least I know who I was when I got up this morning, but I think I must have been changed several times since then.”

This quote is originally introduced after the caterpillar asks Alice who she is.  Although Alice has gone through many size and perspective changes throughout the day, most people would still have a firm grasp on who they are as a person.  When Carroll introduces this idea, it’s a very childish one.  It speaks to when Alice contemplates whether or not she has turned into another person, namely Mabel.  This idea is the kind of twisted take on reality that Carroll utilizes throughout the entire novel, one that children can relate to and find meaning in that may go over most adults’ heads.
Alice’s confusion is partly due to the warped sense of reality that is present in Wonderland.  If she can change sizes and travel from wonderful place to place easily, then why could she not change who she is as a person?  At the same time, she uses the words “at present,” acknowledging that later on she may have  a better grasp on her situation and her idea of self.  She goes on to say later in the passage that she cannot explain herself because she isn’t herself.  This idea suggests that she not only feels different, but actually IS an entirely different person, be it Mabel or anyone else.
She compares this transformation to that of a caterpillar turning into a butterfly.  This comparison shows that her change is not just negligible, it is an actual evolution from one state to another.  This idea suggests that maybe when she leaves Wonderland, she will have transformed into her next stage of life, that of an adult.  As long as she is in and believes in a Wonderland, she can remain a child, but the more that things seem ridiculous to her and the more that she desires to get out of Wonderland, the more mature she gets and the further she gets into her ultimate transformation.


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