LIT 4334: The Golden Age of Children's Literature

Lewis Carroll is but a dream?

on February 21, 2013 2:20pm


Within Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking Glass we see  again several instances of logic.  Carroll prompts his readers to ponder what things actually mean in this text  by crafting a world where things are not as they may appear.  This hold true to Lewis Carroll’s life as well,  Virgina Woolf has stated that “we think we have caught Lewis Caroll; we look again and see an Oxford clergyman, We think we have caught the Reverend C.L. Dodgson, we look again and see a fairy elf” (Woolf, 1948).

Within the text we see Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum tell Alice the story of the walrus and the carpenter and the oysters with the end results of the oyster being devoured by the walrus and the carpenter not getting any. This causes Alice to feel sorrow for the carpenter and the oysters.  However, the Tweedles caution her against her sympathy since the carpenter’s intent was to do the same.  Also, Alice enters into the woods where things have no names and happens upon a deer.  The deer does not who she is either or that Alice is a human.  When they come upon a clearing their clarity returns and the deer runs from Alice frightened.  Once again confusion has occurred.  Alice and the deer both had less fear when they did not know themselves or what the other was.  This is a contrary notion to people thinking they would become more scared if they were to forget who they were.

embleton-ron-walrus-and-the-carpenter                          alice_and_the_doe_shower_curtain

The Tweedles also have Alice wonder what would happen if the Red King were to awaken from his slumber.  They believe she would disappear entirely because they think she is what he is dreaming of and nothing more.  As readers we are under the assumption that Alice is the one who is dreaming of some sort and so it would be her that should awaken and have the Red King disappear.  This concept of Alice’s dream leads me to the ending of the novel when Carroll questions what exactly it is that has occurred.  Even Alice herself does not which is the case once she has returned home.  She does not know if she was dreaming or if it was the King.  Carroll frames the last line of prose with this question, “Which do you think it was?”  Carroll has ended his work in the same trend that he wrote this story.


Much of what Carroll appeared to be was also different. Lewis Carroll conjures up ideas of a man who loved writing, the fantastical, and logical nonsense.  He was innovative with the characters he created while also being very meticulous in his use of math and logic within the stories.  We also see a love and fondness for young girls within his texts.  This love for “child friends” was also a commonality for Carroll’s alter ego, mathematician and educator Charles Dodgson.  He taught young boys and yet he hated them, much preferring the company of young girls.  He was a clergyman but never took his vows. Dodgson wrote under the penname of Lewis Carroll though if he was written a letter addressed to the name Carroll requesting an autograph for one of his Alice stories, he would throw away the letter. Even his love for young girls is a confusion.  Was it a sexual love or did children hold a purity Carroll sought?  Or perhaps Carroll liked young children so much because they did not make the social demands upon him that adults did.  This multifaceted man shows us that his works of fiction are a mirror for himself.  Much like his books Carroll’s life leads us wondering what was what in his life.  Regardless, we are left with stories that continue to delight us as children and inspire us as adults.  Woolf sums it up nicely, “Many great satirists and moralists have shown us the world upside down, and have made us see it, as grown-up people see it, savagely.  Only Lewis Carroll has shown us the world upside down as a child sees it, and has made us laugh” (Woolf, 1948 ).


*Woolf, Virgina. Moment and Other Essays. 2nd ed. 1948. eBook.


One response to “Lewis Carroll is but a dream?

  1. heatherhalak says:

    You discussed how Lewis Carroll’s life was a combination t of radical extremes, such as him being a clergyman but not taking his vows and teaching young boys at Oxford but preferring young girls instead such as the Liddell sisters. I think this can be further expanded to him being a logician with a keen interest in nonsense and nonsensical writing such as the Jabberwocky. Many would argue that nonsense is the complete lack of sense but perhaps to Carroll, because of his background in logic, much could be learned from nonsense. In a study as rigid as mathematics and logic, both very much governed by rules, nonsense may have been Carroll’s escape. Much like Alice who dreaded her history lessons and arithmetic and seeks adventure in Wonderland, Carroll may have found a different land in nonsense. There is also the flip side to the coin, in that perhaps there is very much a great deal of logic behind nonsense (I’m not a mathematician or logician so I would not know). Nonsense still has the appeal it held in Carroll’s life time; picture books such as In the Night Kitchen by Maurice Sendak or popular Dr. Seuss books all incorporate some sort of nonsense, as it is the escape from reality.

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