An analysis of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland | Sunday Observer

An analysis of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland


Many people have seen Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland as a prime example of a limit-breaking book that is continually astonishing us with its modernity. From the looks of it, the story about Alice falling through a rabbit-hole and finding herself in a silly and nonsense world, is fairly guileless as a tale. The underlying story, the one about a girl maturing away from home in what seems to be a world ruled by chaos and nonsense, is quite a frightening one. All the time, Alice finds herself confronted in different situations involving various different and curious animals being all alone. She hasn’t got any help at all from home or the world outside of Wonderland.

Lewis Carroll describes the fall into the rabbit-hole as very long and he mentions bookshelves on the sides of the hole. Perhaps it is an escape into literature he hints at. Carroll is an expert at puns and irony. The part with the mad tea-party is one of the best examples of this.


Ups and downs of adolescence


The theme with Alice growing and shrinking into different sizes could reflect the ups and downs of adolescence with young people sometimes feeling adult and sometimes quite the opposite. The hesitation so typical of adolescent girls is reflected in Alice’s thoughts: “She generally gave herself good advice (though she very seldom followed it).” Many short comments point to teenage recklessness, restlessness and anxiety in all its different forms.

One other example of maturing is Alice getting used to the new sizes she grows. She talks to her feet and learns some of the new ways her body works in. Her feelings are very shaken from her adventures and she cries quite often when it’s impossible to obey the rules of the Wonderland — or is it adulthood? “Everything is so out-of-the-way down here”, as Alice often repeats to herself.

Alice doesn’t like the animals in Wonderland who treat her as a child, but sometimes she gets daunted by the responsibility she has to take. The quote “Everyone in Wonderland is mad, otherwise they wouldn’t be down here” told by the Cheshire Cat can be given an existential meaning. Is it that everyone alive is mad being alive, or everyone dreaming him- or herself away is mad due to the escape from reality?


Time matters


Time is a very central theme in the story. The Hatter’s watch shows days because “it’s always six o’ clock and tea-time”. Time matters in growing up, I guess, but further interpretations are left unsaid. The poem in chapter 12 hints at forbidden love, and it is entirely possible that it is about his platonic love for children, or Mrs. Liddell, for that matter. Considering the fact, that the first manuscript was called Alice’s Adventures Underground, and that some — at least the Swedish — translation of the title is a bit ambiguous, it becomes more apparent, that the world Alice enters isn’t just any childrens’ playground, but a somewhat frightening and dangerous place for maturing. The “underground” part of the old title undeniably suggests drawing parallells to the direction of Dante or the Holy Bible.


Mad rumours


Some people have gone very far in their claims that Lewis Carroll wrote the stories while influenced by opium. They say the fifth chapter with the smoking Blue Caterpillar is about drugs.

These claims have no real evidence or facts to point at, and it seems that they’re just mad rumours made up by people who want to see more than there is in a fairy tale. It is fairly obvious that the visions of the stories derive from the genious of a man, and not from drug influence. If the worlds in the books are somewhat surreal it surely comes from Dodgson having a vivid imagination and an ability to make nonsense worlds alive. He definitely had his share of problems, but drugs don’t seem to have been one of them.


Whole lot of anguish


At a closer look, there seems to be a whole lot of anguish in the story. This becomes even more apparent in the sequel, Through the Looking Glass, and its introductory poem, where the following can be found: “I have not seen thy sunny face, / Nor heard thy silver laughter; / No thought of me shall find a place / In thy young life’s hereafter—”. The part surely expresses Dodgson’s feelings for missing the young girl Alice used to be before growing up.

“Lastly, she pictured to herself how this same little sister of hers would, in the after-time, be herself a grown woman ; and how she would keep, through all her riper years, the simple and loving heart of her childhood: and how she would gather about her other little children, and make their eyes bright and eager with many a strange tale, perhaps even with the dream of Wonderland of long-ago: and how she would feel with all their simple sorrows, and find a pleasure in all their simple joys, remembering her own child- life, and the happy summer days.”


Feelings for getting old


It appears to be Dodgson’s own thoughts about the girl growing up expressed through one of Alice’s sisters. Another quote that expresses Dodgson’s feelings for getting old found in the same introduction mentioned above: “We are but older children, dear, / Who fret to find our bedtime near.”

This melancholy tone of Dodgson’s can be found in various parts of the sequel, which expresses his grief of losing the close friend he once had before she grew up and vanished.

The very last poem in the sequel begins its lines with letters that make up “Alice Pleasance Liddell” — her complete name. Charles Dodgson’s academic education shows in his books.

The exotic fantasy creatures who inhabit the worlds of his imagination all have very peculiar names made up from real words in English, French and Latin. For example, the Dormouse is a sleeping mouse. Dormire in Latin means to sleep, while there’s no need to explain the rest of the word.


An extract from a project by the writer from Uppasala, Sweeden.