Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland; Analytical Essay Any story of literary merit must have some sort of lasting appeal that allows it to ascend the generations and appeal to a wide variety of cultures, and Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland is a fine example. It was undoubtedly both a popular and significant tale when it was first orally told and then written down, and is surely one that is applicable to modern society.
Throughout the story, I noticed three main themes that Lewis Carroll appears to have emphasized – the tragic and inevitable loss of innocence, the depiction of life as a meaningless puzzle, and the unveiling of death as a constant and underlying menace.
Rather than being a tale of a fantastical drug-induced hallucination, I found Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland to be a complex and detailed foray into the deeper meanings of life. Overall, I feel that Alice is certainly a story of value and definitely a much deeper tale than meets the eye.
With Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, I feel that Lewis Carroll wanted to describe the rise of maturity and the fall of childhood innocence. Throughout the course of the story, Alice goes through a variety of absurd and intense physical changes. The discomfort she feels at never being the right size acts as a symbol for the changes that occur during puberty. Alice finds these changes to be traumatic and feels discomfort, anger, and remorse as she goes through them, struggling to maintain a comfortable size. At first, she becomes upset as she keeps finding herself too big or too small to enter the garden.
Later on, she also loses control over specific body parts when her neck grows to an absurd length. These constant fluctuations represent the way a child may feel as her body grows and changes during puberty. Symbolically, the garden may represent the Garden of Eden, an optimal expanse of beauty and innocence that Alice is not yet permitted to access, due to her childish innocence. On a different and more abstract level, the garden may also simply represent the experience of desire, in that Alice focuses her energy and emotion on trying to attain it.
Together, these two symbolic meanings work to underscore Alice’s desire to hold onto her feelings of childlike innocence that she must part with as she matures. Another important theme of the tale is the depiction of life as a meaningless puzzle. Alice encounters a series of puzzles that seem to have no clear solutions in the story, which imitate the ways that life frustrates and defies expectations. Alice expects that the situations she encounters will make a certain kind of sense, but they repeatedly frustrate her ability to figure out Wonderland.
Alice tries to understand the Caucus race, solve the Mad Hatter’s riddle, and understand the Queen’s ridiculous croquet game, but to no avail. In every case, the riddles and challenges presented to Alice have no purpose or answer. In Alice, Carroll makes a farce out of jokes, riddles, and games of logic. Alice learns that she cannot expect to find logic or meaning in the situations that she encounters, even when they appear to be problems, riddles, or games that would normally have solutions that Alice would be able to figure out.
Carroll makes an even more broad point about the ways that life frustrates expectations and resists interpretation, even when problems seem familiar or solvable. Since the story takes place in Alice’s dream, which takes on the significance of a motif, the characters and phenomena of the real world mix with elements of Alice’s unconscious state. The dream motif explains the abundance of nonsensical and disparate events in the story. As in a dream, the narrative follows the dreamer as she encounters various episodes in which she attempts to interpret her experiences in relationship to herself and her world.
Though Alice’s experiences lend themselves to meaningful observations, they resist a singular and coherent interpretation, making them meaningless puzzles. Also, Alice quickly discovers that the only reliable aspect of Wonderland that she can count on is that it will frustrate her expectations and challenge her understanding of the natural order of the world. Once in Wonderland, Alice finds that her lessons no longer mean what she had believed to be true, as she botches her multiplication tables and incorrectly recites poems she had memorized.
Even Alice’s physical dimensions become warped as she grows and shrinks erratically throughout the story. Wonderland frustrates Alice’s desires to fit her experiences in a logical framework where she can make sense of the relationship between cause and effect. Our protagonist, Alice, continually finds herself in situations in which she risks death, and while these threats never materialize, they suggest that death lurks just behind the ridiculous events of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland as a present and possible outcome.
If she learns anything while in Wonderland, it’s that anything is possible. Carroll plays with linguistic conventions, making use of puns and playing on multiple meanings of words throughout the text to help convey this notion. He invents words and expressions and even develops new meanings for words. Alice’s exclamation, “Curious and curiouser! ” suggests that both her surroundings and the language she uses to describe them expand beyond expectation and convention.
Anything is possible in Wonderland, and Carroll’s manipulation of language reflects this sense of unlimited possibility. Death first appears right away in the first chapter, when the narrator mentions that Alice would say nothing of falling off of her own house, since it would likely kill her. While Alice takes risks that could possibly kill her, but she never considers death as a possible outcome. Over time, she starts to realize that her experiences in Wonderland are far more threatening than they appear to be. As the Queen screams, “Off with its head! she understands that Wonderland may not merely be a ridiculous realm where expectations are repeatedly frustrated. Death may be a real threat, and Alice starts to understand that the risks she faces may not be ridiculous and absurd after all. Alice is a sensible prepubescent girl from a wealthy English family who finds herself in a strange world ruled by imagination and fantasy. She feels comfortable with her identity and has a strong sense that her environment is comprised of clear, logical, and consistent rules and features.
However, the tension of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland emerges when Alice’s fixed perspective of the world comes into contrast with the mad, illogical world of Wonderland. The White Rabbit challenges her perceptions of class when he mistakes her for a servant, while the Mad Hatter, March Hare, and Pigeon challenge her notions of urbane intelligence with an unfamiliar logic that only makes sense within the context of Wonderland.
Most significantly, Wonderland challenges her perceptions of good manners by constantly assaulting her with dismissive rudeness. Alice’s fundamental beliefs face challenges at every turn, and as a result, she suffers an identity crisis. She persists in her way of life as she perceives her sense of order collapsing all around her. She must choose between retaining her notions of order and assimilating into Wonderland’s nonsensical rules, and wisely chooses the more mature, grown-up qualities of order and stability.
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