Alice's Adventures in Wonderland
By Lewis Carroll
The hatter, lovingly referred to as the mad hatter, is the backbone of madness and nonsense in this story. He is apparently stuck at 6:00 all the time. That’s tea time, so basically, he is always having a tea party with his friends the march hare, and a dormouse. He says many things that do not make sense. For example, one of his first lines of dialogue is, “why is a raven like a writing desk?”(page 70). This would have been totally normal, however, when Alice asked him the answer, he didn’t know. He also talks about time like it’s a person, like when she says, “If you knew Time as well as I do, you wouldn’t talk about wasting it” (page 71).
His thoughts are the least we know about him, but the thoughts going through his head are what make this character. You don’t know what he is thinking, but you don’t really want to know. He is supposed to be mad. You can even tell by the way Lewis Carroll made him out to look like, according to the book and the illustration, he is a crazy-looking guy with a coat and a mismatched bow tie. He has a large top hat with a price tag still in it, the famous 10/6.
The character doesn’t have an on or off switch with his nonsense. Even when he is at the stand during a very serious trial, he is still saying nonsense. Also, in the trial, he emphasized the fact that he was “a very poor man” (page 114). Apparently, he tampered with Time, or the duchess, in what seems to be a dreadfully long back story, and is stuck at tea time. The characters of the hatter, the march hare, and the dormouse are all relating on the fact that they are mad. That is probably why they all are always with each other, but you wonder how they got that way. Were they driven mad by always being at a tea party, or if they were just like that according to Carroll just to make the story weirder. I am actually glad that the author didn’t go into that, because I know that there are some characters where it is magical to not to know everything about them. Some things are better left unknown.
The physical setting of this book is many different places, as she travels through Wonderland. One setting that fascinated me was the long hall at the bottom of the rabbit hole. There were many cupboards and shelves, and it was a large corridor. I find this interesting because even when she became small, there were still more things to discover, and when she was big, she could still manage. Also, the morphing of scenes is very creative, as the corridor morphs into the pool of tears, because once she is in the pool of tears, she is now in a new setting.
This took place, in reality, in no time at all, but in Wonderland, time behaves strangely. For example, in one place, it is 6:00 all the time, and in another place, it is running on normal time, but all of this is occurring in less than a second in the real world. Time is actually a very big part of the book. Between the hatter and the white rabbit, there are many people who make a fuss over time. This also is taking place in the Victorian age, which affects the way Alice acts in Wonderland.
Finally, Wonderland is a place where social actions are much different than the real world. She does things that she thinks is normal, and they are considered rude in Wonderland. The social setting is definitely something she is not used to, but all the characters move on and let it go, keeping the story moving at a fast pace. The social setting actually is what put Alice out of her comfort zone. She seems completely unfazed with the fact that she is in a bizarre new physical setting, but when coming into a new way of thinking, like with the hatter and the queen, she is shocked.
Point of View
You can tell that the story is clearly not told in first person, because of the lack of “me” and “I”, but instead in this omniscient narrator’s voice. He only tells you the facts, without comment or getting inside the people’s heads. You never know what Alice is thinking, but that is another one of those things where that would subtract from the magic of the story. However, sometimes it is said what he thinks she is thinking. Like on page 84, it says, “Alice thought that she had never seen such a curious croquet-ground in her life.” This is suggesting that he knows that she is uncomfortable. So, he does kind of see and know everything that is going on, but he leaves some things for the characters to tell. He is there, but he is with Alice, so you don’t know what is going on with the characters when Alice isn’t there, for the sake of the story.
Search for self was omnipresent in this story, as during her entire adventure in Wonderland, Alice was always trying to figure out just who she was. She was always growing and shrinking and guessing her way through it. She was also trying to find that inner person that was a bit more interesting than who she was. This is symbolized at the beginning, when she gets bored sitting on that waterfront with her sister. This is what normal girls did at the time, and I think Carroll was trying to make a comment about how Alice wanted to reject the social norms, and still be a child and most importantly, be herself. So, she lets her imagination take over and run wild, really figuring this whole situation out in her subconscious.
This entire time, it is also being implied that all the other characters think she is strange, and basically not accepting who she is. In the beginning, she is very apologetic about it, but she gains confidence in herself as the story progresses. The growing and shrinking metaphor was the most obvious metaphor. She clearly was figuring out if she had to be superior or blend in, and eventually liked being herself, and being just the right size (also known as finding herself). It may seem like these changes were thrust upon her, but really, it was all in her head, her mind was creating all these situations, so again, this was just a way for her subconscious working it all out.
This also ties into the concept of loss of childhood, because in the end, after she keeps growing and growing until she finally grows out of the nonsense and the silliness, she realizes she needs to take on some maturity. This final courtroom scene was the most evident discovery-of-self scene. She is growing physically, but also growing as a person, as she takes on the next step in her life. Also, she is discovering a more brave Alice in this scene. Her confidence grows and grows as she does, and eventually it grows so much that she is prepared to face her next setting: the real world around her.
"Fury said to a mouse, that he met in the house, 'Let us both go to law: I will Prosecute you.— Come, I'll take no denial; We must have a trial: For Really this morning I've Nothing to do.'
Said the mouse to the cur, 'Such a trial, dear sir, With no jury or judge, would be wasting our breath.' 'I'll be judge, I'll be jury,' Said Cunning old Fury; 'I'll try the whole cause, and condemn you to death.' “
This poem, entitled “The Mouse’s Tale” by Lewis Carroll, was a part of the book where the dormouse explained his story, talking about how he had “a very long tale”. In the story, Alice didn’t understand, as she was talking about his tail, making her sound like she was saying nonsense. It was included with some symbolism tagged onto it.
Even though Alice thought the dormouse meant “tail” opposed to“tale”, this story wasn’t really even about that particular dormouse, it was more about (and I know this may sound strange) the oppression of mice. People think of mice as vermin, and kill them “for really, this morning [they]’ve nothing to do”, and they decide without even giving the mouse a chance. This isn’t really one of the nonsense poems of the book. It may seem nonsensical with the context, but it isn’t really meant to represent the nonsense in the book.
I just saw the movie Alice and Wonderland, another adaptation of the book “Alice in Wonderland” (by Lewis Carole) from Tim Burton. It was, unsurprisingly, his usual work (of course with Johnny Depp and Helena Boham Carer in it). However, what most viewers were either blind to or critical about was its inconsistency with the original Alice stories. The Disney movie (that cartoon one with the crazy people singing “happy ‘un’-birthday”, and other songs that didn’t really make sense) was a classic. It would make you smile and laugh, and be a bit confused. But, if you have ever read the original book, that would make you have the same reactions.
Now this story was meant to be more consistent with the story “Through the Looking Glass” the sequel to “Alice in Wonderland”. Now I don’t know what happens in that one, but I am pretty sure Tim Burton made up some things there. Where does this guy get this stuff? Like, he added the concept of her being proposed to, and search for identity. There was the idea of “muchness” being a bravery idea, with quotes like the hatter
saying, “why are you always to small or too tall?” He also added the Wizard of Oz reminiscent affect of creating some characters in the real world, parallel to those in what is now “Underland”. But I do hand it to him for adding so much more symbolism in this movie than in any of the Alice stories. For example: I’m not sure what the White Queen was all about, but there was a little bit extra of a push to the story. But there are a few little running gags I appreciated, like how the March Hare hides behind the Cheshire Cat and it disappears, commenting on how you can hide behind your excuses but eventually have to face your fears, just like Alice.
This new one made a little bit more sense, as it kept you drawn into the story, however lost the essence of Alice being a hopelessly confused little girl in a crazy new world. Compared to the Disney version, Alice was a more mature character, automatically making audiences think that Alice had already grown, which is nice, but disagreed with this story as a coming-of-age story. But overall, it was a pretty good movie, exceptional costumes, and a completely different take on the story.