LIT 4334: The Golden Age of Children's Literature

Alice’s Existence in Wonderland

on February 14, 2013 2:56pm

Alice_in_Wonderland

The world known as Wonderland created by Lewis Carroll for his novel, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, is a place where many things do not make sense. Wonderland is a fantasy world that is completely different from our own, where nonsense actually makes plenty of sense and animals have the ability to speak. Undoubtedly, the average person setting foot in such a place would be absolutely baffled by its inhabitants and their surroundings. Thus, the average person would be considered an outsider or out of place if they were one day pulled out of their own world and thrown into Wonderland. Alice is a perfect example of a character that does not belong in Wonderland. She is constantly confused by the new customs introduced to her with every Wonderland inhabitant she meets and often tries to “correct” them by incorporating her own customs. Therefore, in order to understand the absurdity in this eccentric world, the reader needs a guide or, more specifically, a character that should not exist in Wonderland.

Although one can infer that Alice is aware that she does not belong in Wonderland, she still attempts to fit in by communicating with the inhabitants of Wonderland. Unfortunately for Alice, most of the times she tries to talk with the Wonderland inhabitants they ignore her or are too focused on something else to pay any attention to her. One could make a direct connection of Alice’s attempts to communicate with the Wonderland characters to a child attempting to speak to her parents, sit amongst adults, or try to join in on a conversation with a group. Alice fears losing her existence and in one instance literally believes she would disappear by shrinking rapidly. After a “narrow escape” she finds herself still in existence after shrinking to a miniature size.

alice-in-a-bottle

Like Alice, children often want to feel like their opinion matters and at least belong to a group. Unfortunately, like most characters in Wonderland’s responses to Alice, she is shrugged off and ignored which in turn makes her feel like they do not belong. For example, the White Rabbit is the first character Alice encounters and the one who constantly ignores her because being punctual is way more important than talking to a strange little girl. Eventually, Alice is finally acknowledged by the White Rabbit and is given a mission. He practically orders her to fetch him a pair of white gloves and a fan from his house, but this notion allows Alice have a role in Wonderland.

The customs introduced in Wonderland are more than absurd and ridiculous to Alice who has already grown habituated to the customs of her own world. She attempts to accentuate her role in Wonderland by pointing out the flaws in their customs and makes attempts to teach them the “right way” to do it. There really is not much of a debate when it comes to imploring your argument, but the Wonderland characters tend to ignore or at times find an absurd excuse to justify their way of being. If Alice truly wanted to exist among the people of Wonderland she would most likely accept their customs and perhaps act more like them. However, one can argue that Alice’s purpose in Wonderland is not to become one of them, but to show the nonsensical world through the eyes of an average little girl. Therefore, it can be inferred that once Alice acknowledges that she does not belong in Wonderland, she is wakes up in her own world. The conclusion of the novel, Alice returns to the average life where she will one day grow to become a woman with a loving heart.

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2 responses to “Alice’s Existence in Wonderland

  1. dkamauf says:

    You did a nice job on this post. I’d like to contribute to your point and push the discussion further by adding to your point of Alice not belonging in Wonderland. Alice is the only character that is consciously aware of her own nonsensical traits, while simultaneously being aware of other characters’ nonsense, because she is not from Wonderland. Every other character, like the King and Queen, are observant of external nonsensical acts, but are incapable of self-sentience in terms of their own nonsense. This is confusing, because nonsense seems to be a predisposition to everyone on Wonderland, yet it’s only exterior and not interior. This is what separates Alice from the ‘normalcy’ in this new land. When you mentioned that Alice’s purpose in Wonderland was to show the nonsensical world through her own eyes, I would like to counter that with another question. What if the story is told through the Wonderland inhabitants and Alice is the nonsensical character, because she is not from Wonderland? It’s only fair to assume this position because she is the one who is ‘intruding’ in a different realm from her own, thus causing her habits and tendencies to be different, and actually nonsensical. If she is, in fact, trying to correct their customs as a means to mend them to her own accord, she is acting in a nonsensical fashion, because she is not getting the true experience of Wonderland because of her hesitance.

  2. I think your take on why Alice doesn’t fit into Wonderland is really interesting. The idea that she can’t fit in because she is meant to stand out and accentuate the weirdness of Wonderland is a fair point and one that Carroll would probably choose to make. By showing Wonderland through her eyes, the nonsensical aspects of the world are magnified and her role in the world is emphasized, even though most of the characters don’t acknowledge her presence or let her into their inside jokes. By comparing her to ordinary children with respect to her desire to be appreciated and understood, you put a really human aspect on the story. The characters who ignore her or leave her out of their fun and her reaction to them makes her a much more human character and one that children and young adults can relate to.

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