Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland has long been a popular children’s story, and has featured on the reading lists of many adults as well. The novel was first published in 1865 and became an institution in itself, inspiring many writers, and production studios. Alice’s adventures even reached into the blogosphere, inspiring one very talented bloggette. Alice’s world is inspirational because it creates the impression that even the nonsensical is sensible, given the appropriate imagination and context; everything can be experienced in technicolour if you have the imagination to think that way.
I loved the film when I was a child, and when I’m not feeling well, I’ll still watch both the Disney original, and the new version, featuring Johnny Depp. I find the latter to be fascinating, with just enough suspense and dragon fighting to capture the audience’s attention, or more specifically, the attention of a slightly older audience. It has always been immensely difficult to write a children’s book that is sufficiently versatile that it will appeal to adults at the same time, however that’s what Charles Lutwidge Dodgson (pseudonym Lewis Carroll) managed to do. It is the most critically acclaimed children’s book of all time, widely being hailed as a fantastic example of the nonsense literary genre, by people such as Sir Walter Scott.
Alice’s various explorations, including the episode of the Walrus and the Carpenter, and tea with the Mad Hatter, are adventures that we all really would like to do it, a little bit. We all want to escape, and falling down the rabbit hole, landing without so much of a scratch really is a rather heroic feat. To be able to eat cake, and shrink, or drink something and grow is almost like a superpower; I rather fancy Alice as a kind of superhero for little girls.
However, in the novel, there are some more disturbing images, that even to this day give me the creeps. I find the episode with the pepper and the pig to be consisted of almost grotesque imagery, and for a children’s story, I think that could be considered quite an alarming element. However from a more educationally led perspective, the whole episode could be interpreted as an allegory for not quite understanding the consequences of one’s actions, and being surprised when something distasteful results. We’ve all been there and done it; done some we oughtn’t have, and then been slightly surprised at the awkward or irritating results we left behind.
Figurative language always catches my attention, and none more so than in Alice and Wonderland. The whimsical nature of the prose is something I find profoundly interesting. The poems seem almost meshed together, as if no thought at all went into them, however it becomes clear that the very opposite is true; the nonsense if you like, is an intellectual construction, interested only in creating a whimsical nature. I suppose one could argue then, that the novel isn’t part of the nonsense genre at all, however that presupposes that one considers the genre to be just what it says it is; nonsense.
If you’ve never read the book by itself, I encourage you to. It’s a wonderful trip into fantasy.