Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland tells the tale of a young girl seemingly on the routine path to being taught via the conventional society of the time to transform into an elegant and proper young women. Although this seems to be a bit like many of the other fairy tales and children’s literature of the time, the protagonist quickly finds herself in Wonderland, where all convention and societal norms are displaced by pure nonsense. To some, an appropriate question concerning the events that happen thereafter would be, “How?” How did Wonderland come to be? How did Alice end up there? How did the creatures of Wonderland become this seemingly senseless society as governed by our traditional views of what society should be? However, I believe a better question that we could be asking ourselves as readers to the author is, “Why?”
Why was Wonderland created? I believe that Wonderland in this story represents childhood. It allows for the prolonging of that sense of purity exhibited by young children before they grow up. Several scholars such as Rousseau believed that children had an innate sense of goodness that remained untouched until the corrupt society around them shaped them into the “civilized” citizens that they wanted them to become. In a traditional society, questions have answers. Animals do not talk. Court hearings are conducted in a dignified manner. Croquet is not played with flamingos and hedgehogs. However, Wonderland represents the beauty of all that is not a traditional society. It represents a colorful and unlimited imagination, which all children have the ability to possess.
A prime example comes when the Hatter presents Alice with his infamous riddle, “Why is a raven like a writing desk?” Although Lewis Carroll was eventually convinced to provide an answer to his displeased audience, the protagonist originally does not know the answer to the riddle, and when she implores as to what it is, we as readers find that the Hatter is unable to provide one. This provides an opportunity to delve into one’s own imagination to conjure up the various possibilities concerning the similarities between writing desks and ravens. A societal staple such as a school system is not there to provide an explanation. Whereas conventional societies teach children their multiplication tables and scientific facts based on research and the common answers, “Because that’s the way it is” or “Because I told you so,” Wonderland serves the purpose of allowing a child to figure out what they would like the answer to be. Perhaps two multiplied by two does not have to equal four in Wonderland because there are no educational staples to teach its inhabitants that it is so.
Wonderland is an escape. It takes us back to a childhood where we were all on journeys of discovery through the daily occurrences of our lives. Our imaginations allowed the possibilities of talking caterpillars and mice. Why would playing cards paint white roses red for the simple pleasure of a Queen? Well, a child may ask, “Why not?” This story can take an adult reader back to a time when all things were possible in our minds. Opening this book and exploring the nonsense that is its contents could equate to an adult reader metaphorically falling down a rabbit hole into their own Wonderland—a place where both nonsense and nostalgia meet.