When Alice falls down a mysterious rabbit hole she stumbles upon a magical fantasy world where anything can happen . . .
Take tea with the Mad Hatter, meet the White Rabbit, grin with the Cheshire Cat, and play croquet with the Queen of Hearts, but whatever you do . . . don’t lose your head!
Lewis Carroll’s classic characters spring to life in an enchanting show for the whole family, bursting with music, madness and mystery.
We’ve all heard of this beloved tale of madness even if we haven’t seen Walt Disney’s rendition of this childhood classic (this counts as a classic right?). The details may be sketchy for those of you who haven’t visited this story lately or in depth. We all think this is some wonderful tale for children like Hansel and Gretel and Rumplesiltskin, right? But truth be told, if you gave this book to a 6 year old, they would read the first line and then throw it against a wall. Even with years of American school education, I find it hard to understand.
Yes the story starts with a Alice falling through the rabbit hole after chasing the white rabbit (by the way, his name is White Rabbit and you can refer to him as Mr. W. Rabbit). When falling, Alice sees a bunch of random objects like an empty bottle of orange marmalade.
One thing to note about this book: it’s absolutely full of metaphors. If you’re ever forced to read this book in an English class, you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about. It’s utter torture reading this book because on the literal level, it’s about Alice’s (most likely drug induced) insane dream while on another level
only visible to English teachers, it’s a satire of Victorian England. Bet you didn’t know that, huh?
For example, Alice’s fall criticizes education because Alice is so poorly educated in some areas but tries to apply what she knows to this sudden madness and realizes that she can’t. Nothing she learned can really be applied to her situation.
Next, Alice has her famous encounter with the ‘eat me’ and ‘drink me’ Wonderland substances that causes her to shrink and grow. This leads to her becoming upset and she cries a pool of tears which she ends up swimming in when she shrinks again. These events right here have at least three metaphors already. For example, her size changes (including any other size changes in the book) shows that Alice doesn’t know whether she prefers to be an adult or a child yet.
Following this is an attack on the Victorian England government
that could be applicable to modern day governments too. The same collection of satires are repeated over and over in the book through Alice’s encounters with the various Wonderland inhabitants who all act like adults when in actuality Alice is the most mature and sane one there ( another satire). The list of satires includes (but is not limited to): monarchy, parenting, education, justice, adult superiority, societal constraints, and non familial relationships like friendship.
Alice meets characters like the Duchess and her piggish baby, the enigmatic Cheshire Cat, the tea loving Mad Hatter, March Hare and Dormouse, the hookah smoking Caterpillar and of course the Queen of Hearts. Contrary to the popular belief instilled by Disney, TweedleDee and TweedleDum, the oyster eating Carpenter and Walrus, the talking flowers and the butter and bread fly do not appear in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland; they actually appear in the lovely and equally nonsensical sequel Through the Looking Glass. (Also worth a read)
If you watch the movie and expect there to be some sort of explanation in the book……well there’s not. It’s probably even more confusing in the book. Just know that Carroll wrote the book to primarily entertain the real Alice Liddell and also to criticize society while he was at it. He thoroughly believed in children’s rights (is that a thing?) and their ability to make a better society.
The well-known Cheshire Cat quote
describes the book perfectly. It’s basically nonsense, insanity and weirdness blended together like a smoothie, drunken by Carroll and regurgitated. Don’t expect a sophisticated read from this classic. Yes, the words and syntax model the same confusing, poetic flow that the Odyssey, Little Women, Oliver Twist and Pride and Prejudice all have but rather than being about the adventures of a Greek prince or the injustices of orphanages, it’s complete and utter nonsense. An entertaining read for sure, especially before bed, but try to approach this book with too much seriousness and you will be driven mad. There’s a lot of events that are never explained or connected to the rest of the story and characters that are seemingly irrelevant to the general plot but have a long chapter. Complete and utter chaos but also clever if you’re an English teacher/major who can pick up on all of the little jabs at societal faults and have a little chuckle to yourself.