Title: Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass
Author: Lewis Carroll
Date Of Version Reviewed: 2009
Publisher: Oxford University Press
What the book is about…
Having become bored with her sister’s book, Alice chases The White Rabbit down the rabbit-hole into a bizarre world of talking cats, painting playing cards and a menacing Queen who is determined to chop off anyone and everyone’s noggin!
“Alice is reasonable, well-trained, and polite. From the start, she is a miniature, middle-class Victorian “lady.” Considered in this way, she is the perfect foil, or counterpoint, or contrast, for all the unsocial, bad-mannered eccentrics whom she meets in Wonderland.” (credit Cliffnotes.com)
One has to understand the context in which Alice’s Adventures were written if they are to understand the character complexities of Alice. However I was not born in the 1800s and as such find Alice someone I simply cannot relate to… she is finicky, over-critical and vexatious. Her ideals of the world border on absurd and her lack of ability to tolerate the oddness and difference in others to be bordering on bigoted! She makes no attempts to understand the cultural differences in others – when taken in the context of 2017 social expectation she could simply be on the ultra-right of United States politics. Although I say this tongue-in-cheek it is interesting how if this had been written in the 2000s that there would be reference to tolerance and diversity so thank god it was written in the 1800s! However the book is not aimed at adults as such, this just happened later when people thought the novel was a classic. It was primarily written to entertain children and in this sense Alice is one dimensional and rightfully so. Anyone who believes Alice should be some three dimensional character with a character arc where she develops and matures is simply living in a fantasy. That isn’t to say I like Alice, she is rather unpleasant.
The Queen of Hearts is one of my favourite characters; bringing to mind images of my former employer who would want to fire everyone without taking into account the actual details of a situation.’Off with her head!’ she screams widely and there is some humour in the fact that everyone around her plays into this bullshit parade as though they think it is serious. In this sense Carroll illuminates the classic personality trait of self-centredness – where one person gets placated by those around them to avoid conflict.
We do not see as much of the Mad Hatter or the White Rabbit as I would have liked. I thought they were well created in the Disney version of the novel but something was missing here. That said, we are treated to the Gryphon and the Mock Turtle complete with puns, word play and jokes all round. These characters are well constructed by Carroll though the lack of context around the scene is a little bewildering at times. I personally appreciated some of the song-type elements of the chapter featuring these two characters but others seem to have found it frustrating.
Some of the challenges of this book can be the lack of linear thinking which has caused some readers to find the whole plot nonsensical. Again the tale is not of reality, it is fantasy with a dreamlike quality where one scene blends – albeit in a rather clunky manner – to the next with no rhyme or reason. Taking the book for what it is one can dismiss this as being part of the whole agreement with the reader and the author, that being to understand the word play and whimsical nature of Wonderland is all part of the act.
One reviewer said that she would not read this to her child because it made reference to beheadings. I must take issue with this point and whilst I am not prone to post political or moralistic rantings on my reviews this will be an exception. There is a world out there that is dark… there are bad people who want to do bad things to our countries. Life is a bit shit sometimes and we must realise this sooner or later. In a world of ‘safe spaces’ and ‘trigger free zones’ we have created a culture and society of people who are so shielded from anything negative that they can’t cope when they get into the real world. If you are that concerned about traumatising your children because of something mentioned (in jest) in a children’s novel then I suggest you do two things. Firstly, understand that you are making a world of entitled individuals who cannot cope with life as it is (not as it ‘should’ be). Secondly, go crawl into a cave and live a perfectly lovely life that does not see the human suffering in the world… simply put… put your head in the sand and ignore real life as it happens. I cannot abide people who are so ignorant and naive that they don’t take responsibility for building strong, confident and realistic young adults who are our future. If you don’t like it… grow a backbone.
Final Thought: This book was somewhat disappointing for the adult reader but I can honestly say that the characters live in the hearts of many a child. Share this wonderful world with children – let them make sense of a world that has no actual sense. In a society where everyone has an opinion and nobody knows anything it takes understanding and a critical mind to produce well rounded individuals. Discuss the Queen’s ignorance… Explore Alice’s expectations and unrealistic view of others…Teach difference in others..THIS is how we nurture our youth… rant over!
What folks on Goodreads said…
“Enjoyed this WAY more than I thought I would.” Shadow Bori 4/5
” I’d recommend this for people who enjoy classic children’s literature and for those who enjoy hearing a book skillfully read.” Steve 4/5
“I’m still not sure whether I think Lewis Carroll created a fantastic piece of fantasy or a great big pile of nonsense. I suspect it’s a combination of the two.” Emily May 3/5
“Some 1800s books are important,rated in their times and become classics but doesnt have the same effect,the writing and storytelling ability centuries later to be true literary classic imo. This is novel is not one of those and its a very fine classic.” Mohammed 5/5
“Hmm. I don’t know what the sense of this book? But the adventures of Alice were so amazing! In the end, I still liked it.” Nicky 3/5
” I wasn’t a fan of this story. I’m learning that maybe children classics aren’t for me.” Mel 2/5
“I thoroughly enjoyed this story; in fact, I loved it. I loved all the characters, every one of them. I had no idea this book had so much depth of humor in it, and so much word play and comical linguistic manipulation.” Brian 5/5