Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There Lewis Carroll (Charles Lutwidge Dodgson)
Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There Lewis Carroll (Charles Lutwidge Dodgson)
The following entry presents criticism of Carroll's stories Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (1865) and Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There (1872). See also, Lewis Carroll Criticism.
Classics of children's literature, Lewis Carroll's richly imaginative fantasy stories Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass have earned a reputation as serious works of art. The stories, as Donald Rackin has said, "often say to us more than Carroll meant them to say." Alice's dream-world adventures have since the 1930s been read by many scholars as political, psychological, and philosophical metaphors, and as literary parodies. Widely translated, quoted, and adapted for various media, the Alice books are considered enduring classics whose ideas, disguised as "nonsense," are provocative enough to enthrall critics and philosophers alike.
The son of a country pastor, Dodgson led a quiet childhood, showing a precocity in mathematics and parody. He went to Oxford at age eighteen, and was made a fellow of Christ Church two and a half years later. He was to remain there for the rest of his life, lecturing in mathematics and writing an occasional parody on a local political matter. A bachelor in the serious, male-dominated world of Oxford, Dodgson liked to entertain young girls with his story-telling; he invented toys, mathematical games, and puzzles for their enjoyment, and he maintained a whimsical correspondence with young girls throughout his life. The "Alice" of his stories was Alice Liddell, daughter of Henry George Liddell, the dean of Christ Church. On a boat trip up the river Isis with Alice and her two sisters on July 4, 1862, Dodgson invented the story which he later published, under the pseudonym Lewis Carroll, as Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. In 1871, following the great success of the first story, Carroll published its sequel, Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There. He died early in 1898 and is buried in Guildford, Surrey.
Plot and Major Characters
In Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, Alice falls into a rabbit hole and emerges in the imaginative world of Wonderland, where she soon discovers that the solid, logical laws of science no longer apply. In Wonderland, Alice grows and shrinks, animals talk, and language makes little sense. She meets a peremptory hookah-smoking Caterpillar, a dodo, then a Duchess with an ever-smiling Cheshire Cat. The Cheshire Cat directs Alice to a tea party with the Mad Hatter, the March Hare, and the Dormouse. The Wonderland Queen—a playing-card Queen of Hearts—introduces Alice to the Gryphon, who takes her to the Mock Turtle, and, after telling Alice about the Mock-Turtle's education, the two perform a dance, called the Lobster Quadrille. Alice then finds herself at a trial where she has to give evidence. Finding the trial absurd, she tosses the playing-card participants into the air. Her dream comes to a sudden close, and she finds herself awake on a river bank with her sister. In Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There, Alice steps through a looking-glass and into the backwards world she has seen from her drawing-room. The Looking-Glass world resembles the chess game Alice has been playing with, and Alice herself becomes a pawn for the White Queen. She meets other live chess pieces, a garden of talking flowers, and insects that resemble her toys. She again encounters a series of fantastic characters who entertain her as well as test her patience. Alice finds herself variously in a railway carriage, in the woods, and in a little shop. She is introduced to Tweedledum and Tweedledee, who relate to her the verse tale of the Walrus and the Carpenter, and to Humpty Dumpty, who invents meanings for words and explains the nonsensical poem "Jabberwocky." She encounters the Looking-Glass equivalents of the March Hare and the Mad Hatter, named Haigha and Hatta. After witnessing a fight "for the crown" between the Lion and the Unicorn, Alice meets the White Knight. Finally, Alice herself becomes a Queen, and her dream ends at a banquet where the food talks. The banquet soon degenerates into chaos, and the Red Queen turns into Alice's black kitten. Suddenly Alice is back in her drawing-room, awake.
Alice's chaotic nonsense world, originally invented by Carroll to entertain a young child, has yielded a variety of thematic concerns. As children's stories, the Alice books relate the dream-world adventures of a young girl with a number of obstinate animals, insects, and the imaginary characters Carroll has taken from the worlds of playing cards and chess. As James R. Kincaid (1973) has noted, an important theme of the Alice books is "growing up." In addition, the insanity of Alice's dream world has been considered a satire on the ordered, earnest world of Victorian England. Readers have also found references to Darwin and to mathematics, and have seen in Alice's repeated encounters with meaninglessness and absurd authority the darker, existential dilemmas of the human, and especially modern, condition.
Alice's Adventures in Wonderland was well received from the outset. The collaboration between Carroll and John Tenniel, the illustrator of Alice, was an enormous success, and the demand for the book exceeded all expectations. The enormous popularity of the work, published at a time when most children's books were designed to instruct rather than entertain, prompted the sequel Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There. Throughout Carroll's life and into the early twentieth century, the Alice books received little serious critical attention; however, beginning in the 1930s, essays by such respected figures as William Empson established the stories as complex literary works that would reward close interpretation. The field was thus opened for a wide variety of approaches to the stories. Philosophical readings have addressed the absurdity of Carroll's world and examined the author's treatment of space, time, logic, lawlessness, and individual identity. Donald Rackin's 1966 essay on the search for meaning in a disordered world is often cited as one of the most significant essays on the subject. Several critics have analyzed the books with respect to the development of children and their movement from a disordered, primitive state to a state of reason and consequence. Focusing on the character of Alice, commentators have addressed her various roles as a child, mother, and queen, and disputed whether or not she is truly "innocent." Other critics, particularly Paul Schilder (1936), have expounded on Carroll's incorporation of violence, identifying incidents of aggression, brutality (the Queen wishes to chop everyone's head off, for example), and destruction. Scholars have explored the relationship between these elements and Dodgson's personal life, and investigated the effect of these violent episodes on young readers. Provoking much critical debate also is the problematic "nonsense language" in both Alice books; scholars have speculated that Carroll used nonsensical language and situations in order to break free from the rational, ordered world of his own reality and to transcend his own personal distress. Other topics of critical study include Carroll's fascination with and incorporation of games and puzzles, and his use of humor, parody, and satire.
SOURCE: "Psychoanalytic Remarks on Alice in Wonderland and Lewis Carroll," in Journal of Nervous and Mental Diseases, Vol. 87, No. 2, February, 1938, pp. 159-68.
[In the following essay, originally delivered as a speech in late 1936, psychiatry professor Paul Schilder uses the Alice books to psychoanalyze Charles Dodgson (Carroll), warning that the stories could have a detrimental influence on children.]
Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass and What Alice Found There are classics of stories for children. As far as I know nobody has tried so far to find out what is offered to children by these stories.
One would expect that the men writing for children should have or should have had a rich life and that this richness of experience might transmit something valuable to the child. Charles Lutwidge Dodgson (this is the real name of the author) lived a rather narrow and distorted life. He came from a religious family. His father was interested in mathematics. His mother is described as gentle and kind. None of the biographies which I have at my disposal contains anything about the deeper relations between Charles and his parents. In none of the books can anything be found about his relations to his brothers and sisters. He was the oldest of eleven children, eight of them being girls. We merely hear that he gave theatrical...
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SOURCE: "Psychoanalyzing Alice," in The Nation, New York, Vol. 144, No. 5, January 30, 1937, pp. 129-30.
[Krutch is regarded as one of America's most respected literary and drama critics. A conservative and idealistic thinker, he was a consistent proponent of human dignity and the preeminence of literary art. In the following essay, he rejects Paul Schilder's psychoanalytic reading [reprinted above] of the Alice books.]
Most readers of The Nation must have seen in their daily paper some account of the adventures of Alice in the new wonderland of psychoanalysis. Many years ago the late André Tridon undertook to explore the subconscious mind of the same little lady, but Tridon was something of a playboy while Dr. Paul Schilder, research professor of psychiatry at New York University, was presumably in dead earnest when he warned his hearers at a recent meeting of the American Psychoanalytical Society against exposing children to the dangerous corruptions of Lewis Carroll. All of Carroll's ten brothers and sisters stammered; "this fact might have made the author unhappy"; and in any event his superficially pleasant fairy stories are the expression of "enormous anxiety."
According to the account of Dr. Schilder's speech printed in The New York Times, most of Alice's adventures are "calculated to fill her with anxieties" of a pernicious nature. "She feels separated from...
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SOURCE: "Lewis Carroll: Alice in Wonderland," in The New Invitation to Learning, edited by Mark Van Doren, Random House, 1942, pp. 206-20.
[Van Doren, the younger brother of the poet Carl Van Doren, was one of America's most prolific and diverse twentieth-century writers. Van Doren's criticism is aimed at the general reader, rather than the scholar or specialist, and is noted for its lively perception and wide interest. In the following excerpt, Van Doren chairs a discussion of the Alice books with American novelist Katherine Anne Porter and English philosopher Bertrand Russell. The discussion was originally broadcast nationally on Columbia Broadcasting System radio.] Van Doren: Miss Porter, you may wonder why you were asked to come this morning to discuss Alice in Wonderland. One reason I might give you is this: I was curious to know whether you, like other women of my acquaintance, were horrified by this book rather than made happy by it when you were a little girl.
Porter: I was. It was a horror-story to me; it frightened me so much, and I didn't know then whether it was the pictures or the text. Rereading it, I should think it was the text.
Van Doren: Even without Tenniel's drawings you would have been scared?
Porter: Oh, yes. It was a terrible mixture of suffering and cruelty and rudeness and false logic and...
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SOURCE: "Wonderland Revisited," in The Kenyon Review, Vol. XXVII, No. 4, Autumn, 1965, pp. 591-616.
[Levin is an American educator and critic whose works reveal his wide range of interests and expertise, from Renaissance culture to the contemporary novel. In the following essay, he provides a centennial re-assessment of the Alice books and of their author, Charles Dodgson (Carroll).]
In the twentieth century's commemoration of the nineteenth, we have reached the centennial of Alice. Not uncharacteristically, the date has been somewhat blurred. The author, whose fussiness has endeared him to bibliophiles, was dissatisfied with the first edition, so that Alice in Wonderland was not publicly issued until 1866. Moreover, if we wish to celebrate the occasion on which the tale was first told, we must look back to that famous boating party of three little girls and two dons on July 4, 1862. That "golden afternoon," as Lewis Carroll describes it in his introductory poem, was actually—as modern research has discovered—"wet and rather cool." Fancy has been at work from the very outset. The rain that had overtaken the same group of five picnickers during an earlier expedition on June 17 seems to have inspired the pool of tears, wherein Alice's sisters Lorina and Edith are immortalized as the Lory and the Eaglet, while their companions Duckworth and Dodgson appear as the Duck and the Dodo....
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SOURCE: "Alice's Journey to the End of Night," in PMLA, Vol. LXXXI, No. 5, October, 1966, pp. 313-26.
[Rackin is known as a leading Carroll scholar. In the following essay, he explores the theme of chaos and order in Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, calling the work "a comic myth of man's insoluble problem of meaning in a meaningless world."]
In the century now passed since the publication of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, scores of critical studies have attempted to account for the fascination the book holds for adult readers. Although some of these investigations offer provocative insights, most of them treat Carroll in specialized modes inaccessible to the majority of readers, and they fail to view Alice as a complete and organic work of art. Hardly a single important critique has been written of Alice as a self-contained fiction, distinct from Through the Looking-Glass and all other imaginative pieces by Carroll. Critics also tend to confuse Charles Dodgson the man with Lewis Carroll the author; this leads to distorted readings of Alice that depend too heavily on the fact, say, that Dodgson was an Oxford don, or a mathematician, or a highly eccentric Victorian gentleman with curious pathological tendencies. The results are often analyses which fail to explain the total work's undeniable impact on the modern lay reader unschooled in...
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SOURCE: "White Rabbit," by Grace Slick, in The Poetry of Rock, edited by Richard Goldstein, Bantam Books, 1969, p. 113.
[Slick was a cofounder and lead singer of the San Francisco-based rock band Jefferson Airplane (later Jefferson Starship, then Starship). Her 1966 song "White Rabbit, " reprinted below, celebrates the Alice books of Carroll and the psychedelic drug culture of the 1960s.]
One pill makes you larger
And one pill makes you small.
And the ones that mother gives you
Don't do anything at all.
Go ask Alice
When she's ten feet tall.
And if you go chasing rabbits
And you know you're going to fall.
Tell 'em a hookah-smoking caterpillar
Has given you the call.
When she was just small.
When men on the chessboard
Get up and tell you where to go.
And you've just had some kind of mushroom
And your mind is moving low.
Go ask Alice
I think she'll know.
When logic and proportion...
Have fallen sloppy dead,
And the White Knight is talking backwards
And the Red Queen's lost her head
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SOURCE: "The Language of Nonsense in Alice," in Yale French Studies, No. 43, 1969, pp. 128-44.
[In the following essay, Flescher provides a close analysis of the complex "nonsense language" of Alice, concluding that the work "can be read with the freshness of a child or the critical mind of an adult. "]
Nonsense bears the stamp of paradox. The two terms of the paradox are order and disorder. Order is generally created by language, disorder by reference. But the essential factor is their peculiar interplay. Elizabeth Sewell, in a penetrating analysis of nonsense, stresses the idea of dialectic. Yet her analysis deals almost exclusively with the formal structure of order. Emile Cammaerts, on the other hand, defines nonsense poetry as "poetry run wild." This divergence clearly points to a danger: that of neglecting one dimension. An adequate definition must embrace both language and reference, order and disorder. The nature of their interaction must be underlined. Cross references and occasional repetition are therefore unavoidable. Moreover, the problem cannot be stated in simple terms. It is complex and elusive and constantly calls for qualification.
The first qualification concerns language. It is generally, though not necessarily, one of the forces at work. The backbone of nonsense must be a consciously regulated pattern. It can be the rhythmic structure of verse, the...
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SOURCE: "Alice Our Contemporary," in Children's Literature: Annual of the Modern Language Association Seminar on Children's Literature and The Children's Literature Association, Vol. 1, 1969, pp. 152-61.
[In the following essay, which focuses on a theatrical adaptation of Alice, Jorgens considers the relevance of Carroll's stories to twentieth-century society.]
In his discussion of the fairy tale, W. H. Auden nicely sums up the stereotypical view of children's literature. The world of the fairy tale, he says, is an unambiguous, unproblematic place where appearance reflects reality. It is a world of being, not becoming, where typical, one-dimensional characters (either good or bad) behave strictly in accordance with their natures, and always receive the appropriate rewards or punishments. It is a predictable world where events occur in fixed numerical and geometrical patterns. And above all, it is a world without intense emotion or awareness where even the most violent acts are viewed by characters and readers with detachment, as not horrible but somehow fun, playful. But children's books are written by adults, not children, and one need not be a frequent contributor to American Imago to see that they reflect not only the author's ideals of what children ought to like and be, but his own fears and fantasies. The sense of freedom many writers feel when they...
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SOURCE: "Satire in the Alice Books," in Criticism, Vol. 12, Winter, 1970, pp. 105-19.
[In the essay below, Matthews considers the recurrence of satire and literary parody in the Alice books.]
Criticism of Lewis Carroll's works usually runs to extremes. There is a tough-minded school largely made up of psychoanalytical critics who take a no-nonsense attitude toward Carroll's nonsense. Some useful criticism, such as William Empson's characteristically stimulating and unsound essay, has been produced by the tough-minded approach. At the other extreme are tender-minded critics like G. K. Chesterton, who insist that the Alice books were written for children and therefore should not be approached with either reverence or scepticism—in short, that they should not be subjected to literary criticism. Some tender-minded critics seem to try to mask the fact that they are criticising by playing Carroll's own games of fantasy and word-play in their studies. Harry Morgan Ayres invokes Humpty Dumpty in his little book on Alice, but his Humpty Dumpty inevitably suffers from comparison with Carroll's. Florence Becker Lennon's useful biography is marred by such gratuitous cleverness as her reference to Dodgson as "the don with the luminous prose" in the midst of an otherwise straightforward account of his acquaintance with prominent people.
The fault with both...
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SOURCE: "Alice's Invasion of Wonderland," in PMLA, Vol. 88, No. 1, January, 1973, pp. 92-99.
[In the following essay, Kincaid addresses the complex mix of innocence and aggression in Alice and argues that Carroll's books are, "above all, about growing up. "]
In the fifth chapter of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, Alice is alarmed to find that her neck has stretched to such "an immense length" that her head is above the trees. The narrator adds, however, that the alarm soon passes and that she "was delighted to find that her neck would bend about easily in any direction, like a serpent." This simile, like other Wonderland similes, is more than ornamental; it suggests a critical and subversive perspective on Alice. Though this perspective is generally submerged, it is present in both of Lewis Carroll's great studies of the joys and dangers of human innocence, Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass. The ironic viewpoint comes to the surface in this case as a Pigeon flies out of the trees screaming "Serpent!" while desperately trying to defend her eggs. When Alice claims to be a little girl and not a serpent, the Pigeon applies the only test that matters: "I suppose you'll be telling me next that you never tasted an egg!" The jokes that follow pick up and make explicit the dark meaning of the narrator's quietly suggestive simile:
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SOURCE: "Sanity, Madness and Alice," in Ariel: A Review of International English Literature, Vol. 4, No. 2, April, 1973, pp. 80-89.
[In the following essay, Graham considers the function of the insanity theme in Alice.]
One of the most interesting characters in Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland is the Cheshire Cat. Unlike most of the creatures, the Cheshire Cat is sufficiently detached from his environment to be able to comment, in a fast, facetious sort of way, on the characters who share Wonderland with him, and one of his more challenging comments in particular deserves attention.
He tells Alice that everybody in Wonderland is mad. The exchange occurs after Alice has left the Duchess's kitchen and has had her dream-like wrestle with the pig-baby. She sees the Cheshire Cat on the bough of a tree and asks it what sort of people live around here:
"In that direction," the Cat said, waving its right paw round, "lives a Hatter: and in that direction," waving the other paw, "lives a March Hare. Visit either you like: they're both mad."
"But I don't want to go among mad people," Alice remarked.
"Oh, you can't help that," said the Cat: "we're all mad here. I'm mad. You're mad."
Leaving aside for the moment the unlikely question of whether...
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SOURCE: "Alice and Wonderland: A Curious Child," in Victorian Studies, Vol. XVIII, No. 1, September, 1973, pp. 31-47.
[In the essay below, Auerbach considers the genesis and development of the character of Alice.]
"What—is—this?" he said at last.
"This is a child!" Haigha replied eagerly, coming in front of Alice to introduce her . . . "We only found it today. It's as large as life, and twice as natural!"
"I always thought they were fabulous monsters!" said the Unicorn. "Is it alive?"
For many of us Lewis Carroll's two Alice books may have provided the first glimpse into Victorian England. With their curious blend of literal-mindedness and dream, formal etiquette and the logic of insanity, they tell the adult reader a great deal about the Victorian mind. Alice herself, prim and earnest in pinafore and pumps, confronting a world out of control by looking for the rules and murmuring her lessons, stands as one image of the Victorian middle-class child. She sits in Tenniel's first illustration to Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There in a snug, semifoetal position, encircled by a protective armchair and encircling a plump kitten and a ball of yarn. She seems to be a beautiful child, but the position of her head makes her look as though she had no face. She...
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SOURCE: "Assessing Lewis Carroll," translated by Mireille Bedestroffer and Edward Guiliano, in Lewis Carroll Observed: A Collection of Unpublished Photographs, Drawings, Poetry, and New Essays, edited by Edward Guiliano, Clarkson N. Potter, Inc., 1976, pp. 74-80.
[In the following essay, Gattégno considers Carroll as a children's author and linguistic innovator.]
It is not necessary to reestablish Lewis Carroll. Today he is neither unknown nor underrated. Yet perhaps we should try to determine his true place, which may not necessarily be the one we had thought. For those who see him only as "the author of Alice," the forerunner of the new and unusual, modern marvelous, it is advisable to stress, as many articles in this book have done, that he was a logician and, even in his day, a linguist, and to see his work as casting a new look at language. For those who are inclined to consider him primarily as a scientific innovator, it is wise to recall that Alice was considered revolutionary from the moment it was published, and that its intended audience, i.e., children, had every reason to see it as a new kind of literature written especially for them. In pointing out these two aspects of Carroll's work, the linguistic side and the child-oriented side, I do not claim to synthesize two possible interpretations of these books. Rather, I intend to underline the richness of his works, which...
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SOURCE: "Carroll's Alices: The Semiotics of Paradox," in American Imago, Vol. 34, No. 1, Spring, 1977, pp. 86-108.
[In the following essay, Baum explores the linguistic and philosophical complexities of the Alice books.]
When the Reverend Charles Lutwidge Dodgson was buried, in 1898, Lewis Carroll was set free behind the Looking Glass to continue his interminable game of chess with Alice, the heroine of his first two fairy tales, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass. During the century since their game began, the Alice books have played to a larger reading audience than most traditional folktales. Even while Dodgson lived, Wonderland and Looking Glass could be found alongside the Bible on the top bookshelf of practically every Victorian nursery. Carroll's first biographer, Stuart Dodgson Collingwood, claims that the Alice books became primers for many Victorian children and that lines from them were cited in the daily press as often as lines from Shakespeare. If the popularity of the tales among children has since been eclipsed by cartoons manufactured in the television studio, the adventures have nevertheless maintained the status of cultural myth in the adult world. Much of that popularity is due to the sophisticated problems in physics, metaphysics, logic and semantics which surface during the...
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SOURCE: "Fear and Trembling: From Lewis Carroll to Existentialism," in English Romantic Irony, Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1980, pp. 165-84.
[In the following excerpt, Mellor addresses the philosophical implications of Alice's world, and compares and contrasts Carroll's "romantic irony" with Seren Kierkegaard's Existentialism. ]
[Like other romantic ironists] . . . , Lewis Carroll conceived the ontological universe as uncontrolled flux. But unlike the others, this Victorian don was frightened by this vision. Lewis Carroll shared his upper-class contemporaries' anxiety that change was change for the worse, not the better. The Reform Bill of 1832 had initiated a political leveling of English society; the Industrial Revolution had created a society whose highest priority was materialistic prosperity rather than spiritual growth and freedom; the new Higher Criticism of the Bible propounded by David Friedrich Strauss and Joseph Ernst Renan had undermined the fundamentalist Christian belief in the divinity of Christ; and Darwin's Origin of Species (1859) had argued that "progress" could be equated with a brutal warfare resulting in the survival of the fittest. Lewis Carroll responded to these changes with the strategies of romantic irony. Eagerly, he tried to impose man-made systems onto this flux. At the same time, he forthrightly acknowledged the limitations of such systems as...
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SOURCE: "Solving the Mad Hatter's Riddle," in The Massachusetts Review, Vol. XXV, No. 3, Autumn, 1984, pp. 457-68.
[In the essay below, Birns explores the theme of eating and cannibalism in Alice.]
Even a cursory glance at Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland will reveal one of its obsessive themes, namely, eating, or more darkly, cannibalism. Most of the creatures in Wonderland are relentless carnivores, and they eat creatures who, save for some outer physical differences, are very like themselves, united, in fact, by a common "humanity." The very first poem found in the text establishes the motif of eating and being eaten:
How doth the little crocodile
Improve his shining tail,
And pour the waters of the Nile
On every golden scale!
How cheerfully he seems to grin
How neatly spreads his claws,
And welcomes little fishes in,
With gently smiling jaws!
Later on, the eaten object is not simply "eaten alive," eaten, that is, when it is still sentient, but is endowed with affective and intellectual attributes—a "soul" that resembles that of the creature eating it. For instance, in Through The Looking Glass, the Walrus and the Carpenter, after talking of many things with their walking...
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SOURCE: "Framing the Alices," in PMLA, Vol. 101, No. 3, May, 1986, pp. 362-73.
[In the following essay, Madden addresses the genesis and function of the three poems that "frame" Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass.]
Over the past thirty years Lewis Carroll studies have both altered and generally enhanced the reputation of Carroll's two Alices. Yet from early on in this reevaluation process one feature of these famous stories has posed a persistent critical problem. I refer to the three poems, one prefacing each of the Alice books and the third concluding Looking-Glass, that, together with the prose ending of Wonderland, frame the central tales. The problem is raised in acute form by Peter Coveney in his influential study of the figure of the child in nineteenth-century English literature: praising the central Alice dream tales as triumphs of "astringent and intelligent art," he detects in this frame material evidence of what he describes as "almost the case-book maladjusted neurotic." Subsequent critics who have mentioned this feature of the Alices have for the most part been similarly dismissive, implying, at least, that the Alice frames are best ignored in discussions of the masterpieces they enclose.
The issue has important implications. For one...
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SOURCE: "Dreams of Power in Alice in Wonderland," in Dreams of Authority: Freud and the Fictions of the Unconscious, Cornell, 1990, pp. 55-61.
[In the following excerpt, Thomas explores the themes of power and linguistic mastery in Alice's dreamworld.]
I do hope it's my dream and not the Red King's! I don't like belonging to another person's dream.
Lewis Carroll's dream-child Alice dreams of the adult world as a chaotic, crazy realm, but also as a territory she wishes to enter and possess as her own. Dickens's Scrooge turns that dream wish around. He dreams of his childhood innocence and desires to repossess certain features of it in his old age. Common to both dreamers is the wish to bring the experience of childhood together with that of adulthood, to see life whole, to transform what threatens to be disjointed and meaningless into a coherent narrative rather than a series of timeless moments, as Wordsworth sought in The Prelude. Scrooge and Alice want to take possession of time, and they begin to do so by taking control of the dreams that threaten to dominate them. In both cases, this take-over is an empowering and curative act for the dreamer, as the endings of their two dream narratives reveal. Both end with the dreamers' accession to power, an achievement that is made possible when they translate...
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SOURCE: "A Tale of Two Alices in Wonderland," in Literature and Psychology, Vol. XXXVII, No. 3, 1991, pp. 29-44.
[In the following essay, which focuses on Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, Conroy discusses the connections between Alice's identity as a middle-class Victorian child and her dream experiences,.]
Thanks to the Freudian moment in modern literary criticism, it has been for years quite permissible to view the dream world presented to the reader in Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland as if it in fact bore some relation to actual dream structures and significances. While some have traced such structures rather hastily to the author's own psychology (a not inexplicable move given what is known of the author, perhaps), the more fruitful vein of inquiry has focussed rather upon the oneiric quality within the text itself, and has revealed its kinship with the mechanisms Sigmund Freud imputes to the dream work. At the same time, one finds critics who stress the way the Alice books confront and rework the cultural givens of Victorian childhood. The odd thing is, though, that very few readers of Alice in Wonderland have taken cognizance of the profound linkage between these two facets of the tale. A close look at the connection between the quasi-Freudian structure of Alice's dream and the process of growing up and socialization that constrains the dreamer will...
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SOURCE: "The Alice Books and Lewis Carroll's World," in Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass: Nonsense, Sense, and Meaning, Twayne Publishers, 1991, pp. 3-12.
[Rackin is known as an authority on Lewis Carroll. In the following essay, he places the Alice books in their Victorian social context.]
This study rests on the premise that appreciating Lewis Carroll's Alice books (1862-72) does not require extensive knowledge of their historical setting. Their continuous popularity among large and varied audiences for the past 120 years shows how accessible they are: lay readers seeking to experience and understand their power need not acquire a vocabulary of outdated words and unfamiliar historical facts, of obsolete concepts and attitudes. This does not mean, however, that the Alices are unrelated to their original cultural matrix: like all other artifacts, they are products of their era, bearing inscriptions of numerous transactions with the material and ideological contexts from which they first emerged. So while the Alices provide readers with what often seems a glorious escape from time and place—from historical context itself—some of their most memorable effects depend on tangible connections to their specific historical milieu.
However, because Lewis Carroll's world of the 1860s bears many resemblances to middle-class life...
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Fordyce, Rachel. Lewis Carroll: A Reference Guide. Boston: G. K. Hall & Co., 1988, 160 p.
An annotated critical bibliography of general and scholarly commentary on Carroll's life and works, including editions, biographies, criticism, reminiscences, and unpublished dissertations.
Guiliano, Edward. "Lewis Carroll: A Sesquicentennial Guide to Research." In Dickens Studies Annual 10 (1982): 263-310.
Described by Guiliano as the "first prose guide to publications on Lewis Carroll"; includes sections on editions, stage and screen adaptations, psychoanalytic approaches, philosophy, and the language of the Alice books.
Weaver, Warren. Alice in Many Tongues. Madison: The University of Wisconsin Press, 1964, 147 p.
A study of the translations of Alice, with a chronological checklist of translations. Includes an essay on the difficulties of translating Alice, and samples of illustrations from foreign editions.
Ackroyd, Peter. "The Road to Wonderland." In The New York Times Book Review C, No. 46 (November 12, 1995): 13.
Favorably reviews Morton N. Cohen's biography Lewis Carroll,...
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