Alice's Adventures in Wonderland Questions and Answers
by Lewis Carroll

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland book cover
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What do you think was author Lewis Carroll's purpose in writing Alice's Adventures in Wonderland?

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Elinor Lowery eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Lewis Carroll himself identified his purpose as simply to entertain a young girl, Alice Liddell who was the daughter of the Dean of Christ Church College.  He told this story to Alice and her...

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kgunderson | Student

While Lewis Carroll's original intent was simply entertainment, the book was written during a time of dramatic change in literature. This novel was published in 1865, during the age of Romanticism. The American revolution brought about the end of the strictly monitored works dictated by the elite upper class and ushered in a more egalitarian and liberal mindset. The fantastical and whimsical Alice's Adventures in Wonderland is a perfect example of the new age of romanticism in literature. Previous to this movement, literary works had been focused on power and reason, a stark departure from Carroll's imaginative work.

Additionally, despite his purely entertaining intent in writing this novel, he uses anthropomorphized characters to highlight some of the more ridiculous societal conventions. He pokes fun of the Queen's grandiosity and sense of entitlement when the Queen of Hearts shouts, "Off with their heads!" to nearly every character she encounters. The White Rabbit represents society's obsession with formality and punctuality. The pervasive nature of the symbolism of this work can be seen in our use of going "down the rabbit hole" in common vernacular even today. Going "down the rabbit hole" means that one is transported to another state, or more commonly in modern times, one has been transported somewhere on the internet that has led them in a time-consuming and entirely different direction than they had initially planned.

So, while Carroll's intent may have initially been nothing more than entertainment, he was a product of the transformational times in which he was living. Just centuries earlier, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland would have been deemed entirely nonsensical and without merit by the elite, ruling class and society would have been deprived the magical and symbolic world of Alice altogether. Additionally, this work employed one of the first and most effective uses of symbolism, which allowed Carroll to make grand statements about society through a less combative medium than previous generations would have been able to access.

user2715787 | Student

Whether critic or otherwise, no one can honestly dispute the assertion that 'Lewis Carroll' did not intend for his work to relay a deeper meaning. It was -- and remains, today -- a story to entertain, rather than to instruct. It can be argued that his tale contains philosophical content and that, amongst that content, there are drug references and sexual connotations. As for his purpose, it was -- again -- merely to entertain, not to provide a deeper meaning to the audience.

bel-bel | Student

The purpose of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland as a novel is purely to entertain, partially by ridiculing the harsh societal norms of the day. Through out the novel there is great evidence of wordplay and fantastical ideas that capture a child’s imagination. This wordplay and illogical ideas are often overanalysed to produce a theory that Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland was an expression of Charles Lutwidge Dodgson’s view of the world, a commentary on Victorian ideals, a philosophical work that makes scholars reconsider logic or even a veiled work about sex and drugs. However, when talking about another work of his, Dodgson writes, “I’m very much afraid I didn’t mean anything but nonsense.” This can also be applied to Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland because that is precisely what it is: nonsense. Very clever nonsense, but nonsense intended to entertain and nothing else. Dodgson came up with “Alice’s Adventures Underground” one day to entertain a 10-year-old Alice Liddell and her sisters. Alice then requested he write it down for her. So he did, editing and changing the manuscript so it eventually became the much loved classic it is today. During that editing process he added no underlying meaning: Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland was, and still is merely a fictitious work designed to entertain.

juro | Student

The book was originally conceived as a gift for Alice Liddell and was hand-written and elaborately illustrated with the author's own drawings. It was Carroll's friend, writer George MacDonald who suggested that there might be a wider audience for 'Alice's Adventure's Underground' which was consequently published as Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and illustrated by John Tenniel whose images contributed greatly to the popularity of the book.

esmeraldarg93 | Student

Yes, Lewis Carroll's intention was to entertain Alice Lidell, as well as children. However, Lewis Carroll also wrote the story for adults. Alice in wonderland contains a lot of philosophy on it. It teaches people about logic and reason (inductive logic and deductive logic), about the importance of language, about the control of emotions, and about the distortions of perceptions. (if you want to know a little bit more about this, contact me and i'll tell you about the philosophy in Alice in wonderland. Or just buy the book "Alice in Wonderland and philosophy: curioser and curioser")

So basically Carroll's purpose was to create a book that entertained kids as well as adults.

lrlettis | Student

The Liddell's had given Charles Lutwidge Dodgson (Lewis Carroll) and his friend Robert Duckworth permission to take their three daughters on a picnic. It was a hot July day, the site of the picnic was a clearing up the river. The five of them got into a small rowboat to get there.

It took some time to get the the clearing. Dodgson and Duckworth were rowing the boat and were getting impatient with the impatience of the Liddell sisters. As you may imagine, the girls were becoming restless in a "are we there yet" manner. They were probably bickering among one another and rocking the boat.

Dodgson, perhaps because he had done so before, asked if they wanted him to tell a story. The rest is history and one of the most famous children's books, Alice in Wonderland.