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What are the genre, speaker, setting and key conflict in Alice's Adventures in Wonderland?

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ettevi | Student, College Freshman | eNotes Newbie

Posted January 6, 2011 at 12:01 PM via web

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What are the genre, speaker, setting and key conflict in Alice's Adventures in Wonderland?

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K.P.L. Hardison | College Teacher | eNotes Employee

Posted January 7, 2011 at 3:23 AM (Answer #1)

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When originally written, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland was classified in the genre of Fiction. Over time and as genre classifications expanded, Carroll's novel has come to be classed with Children's Literature and with the subgenre of Fantasy stories. Carroll's story is narrated by an impartial third person narrator with a limited point of view focalized through Alice herself. In other words, the narrator has a limited view and explains her state of mind and her relationship to people and things (e.g., Dinah, her cat) and the affect events have upon her.

There is actually a critical controversy about the nature of the narrator. Some critics believe that the narratorial remark in Chapter 1 asserting that Alice "was very fond of pretending to be two people" indicates that Carroll created the narrator as Alice's alter-ego, the mature, well mannered girl who is responsible and civil even to rude individuals, including rude animals (eNotes). There are those critics who disagree with this, suggesting that the Alice in Wonderland is a sufficient second persona for the original Alice under the tree by the stream and that the narrator is closer to Carroll's voice.

The story is originally set beside a stream in the countryside of England around Oxford University. Alice sees a rabbit that has a pocket watch and the command of the English language and who is fearful of being late for something. Alice follows this amazing rabbit into a rabbit hole thus introducing the major setting of Carroll's story: Wonderland. It is a fantasy land with holes to fall down but at a speed slow enough to prevent injury; rooms with doors and keys and bottles and things that come and go at some magical whim; and mice that swim and many other wonders.

The key conflict is person against nature as Alice tries to sort out the nature of the new world she finds herself in. The story starts out with Alice having a minor debate with herself (a very minor debate) about the nature of logic and reason and, by implication, their role in relation to her. Alice is sitting by a stream on a lazy warm afternoon beside her sister who is reading a book and

once or twice she had peeped into the book her sister was reading, but it had no pictures or conversations in it, 'and what is the use of a book,' thought Alice 'without pictures or conversation?'

In other words, her sister read a book that relied upon reason and logic to create and sustain meaning and interest. Alice might have called this "stuff and nonsense" (though she didn't) because Alice as yet had a tenuous grasp on reason and logic. If you doubt me (as Alice might have done), this can be proved by recalling that Alice wasn't at all alarmed when the rabbit that ran by spoke aloud in English (I'm quite certain you and I would have been alarmed):

nor did Alice think it so VERY much out of the way to hear the Rabbit say to itself, 'Oh dear! Oh dear! I shall be late!' (when she thought it over afterwards, it occurred to her that she ought to have wondered at this, but at the time it all seemed quite natural)

As a result, it becomes clear to see that the key conflict is between Alice and the nature of nature. It is only when Alice rejects the nature of Wonderland by declaring the trial  "Stuff and nonsense!" and saying of the King and his people, "You're nothing but a pack of cards!" that Alice awakens with her head upon her reading sister's lap in a world that runs best when run by reason and logic.

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