LIT 4334: The Golden Age of Children's Literature

Search For Identity

on February 14, 2013 9:10am

Identity in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland is constantly shifting and this creates anxiety and confusion for Alice and the readers of the novel. Throughout the novel, Alice is continually questioning her identity and admits that she is uncertain about who she really is. Several times in the novel she also ordered to identify herself by the creatures she meets, but she has doubts about her identity; so she is not able to do that that.

In the beginning of the novel, Alice believes that she must be someone else because her original sense of self is disturbed. Alice believes that she must be Mabel which is someone that she finds dreadful and ignorant. This false identity of self begins to make her have doubt and feel hopeless; so she decides to stay in the rabbit hole until someone is able to tell her who she is.

who are u

This doubt about her identity is further diminished by her physical appearance. Alice grows and shrinks several times and she finds this very confusing. When the Caterpillar questions her about her identity, she replies, “I-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.” (83-84) Alice uses the phrase, ” I must have been changed” instead of “I changed” which shows her loss of control over her identity. She is mistaken for a serpent by the pigeon because she admits to eat eggs and because of her long neck. The multiple changes in her physical appearance makes Alice feels in stable because she is constantly changing; and this is making it hard for her to truly learn her identity.

Cheshire Cat questions another part of Alice’s identity, which is her sanity. He believes that she must be “mad” as she enter Wonderland.

As the novel continues, Alice learns to identify with what she is not. She tells the other characters in the novel that she is not mad and not subject to the commands of the king and queen.


2 responses to “Search For Identity

  1. jklager says:

    There a few things of particular interest to me within this blog. I like that you chose to explore the concept of identity. It is interesting that Alice is questioning who she is and was. I think this is something that most children would not normally ponder over. I have been working with children since I was fourteen, for the sake of this post we can put the term “children” between the ages of three to twelve, and I have not yet encountered a child that wonders who they are and what makes them them. I think this is something we see more in youths that are usually ages of fourteen and up. In Roni Natov’s The Persistence of Alice this is confirmed when it is mentioned the “cult-like following” that young adolescents have for this text. Alice seems to be somewhere between the ages of nine and eleven, so it is interesting that adolescents still identify with the character of Alice. I think this attests to the timelessness that Alice’s story holds for people. As children we are fascinated by the vivid imagery and the silliness of this topsy-turvy world. As adolescents there is a connection to this quest for who somebody really is. Then as adults we are intrigued by the story with Carroll’s clever use of word play and logic. Also, I think the concept of perception is an interesting one in this story. Alice is not able to perceive herself anymore because she has been physically altered so many times throughout the text. This leads to the idea that it is our outward, physical self that defines who one is. The alterations to her body even cause Alice’s internal self to become confused and doubt who she once was. As mentioned before I belief this is something that teens going through or on the cusp of puberty encounter.

  2. Emily Troilo says:

    For me, this blog post begs to explore two ideas:
    1. Lewis Carroll’s (or Charles Dodgson’s) search for identity
    – Charles Dodgson was a lanky, hopelessly awkward man whose ability to exist in normal social situations was limited. He liked to take photographs of people because it forced him to interact with them for longer periods of time (where they were stuck in his company). He preferred most the company of children (particularly little girls), collected naked pictures of children, and was possibly somewhat developmentally stunted himself.
    – Alice’s quest for identity could mirror Dodgson’s own discomfort with himself or inability to understand who he really was. I always believe that biography of the author is a huge aid in understanding a work, and what we know of Dodgson makes it really easy to imagine him not understanding or accepting who he is in an age of strict morals and unbelievable repression.
    2. The reader’s search for identity
    – When this book was originally written and published, it was meant for children. In a time where there was no “adolescence,” a time between childhood and adulthood, this book was meant to be read as imaginative nonsense: a journey to unbelievable places and with hilariously insane characters.
    – In more modern times, the book is read mostly by adolescents. It is appealing to this age group largely because of Alice’s deep confusion and search for identity. In a time in your life when you are oppressed by tons of rules you may not understand—rules at school, social norms, etc—it feels like everything around you is meaningless and nonsensical. To figure out who you are and where you are going, you have to wade through all of the nonsense and try to make sense of what you see.

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