Abstract illustration of the silhouettte of Alice falling, a white rabbit, and a red mushroom

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland

by Lewis Carroll

Start Free Trial

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland Analysis

  • Alice's Adventures in Wonderland came from a story that Lewis Carroll once told Alice Liddell, the daughter of one of Carroll’s friends. 
  • The first version of the story was much shorter and written in longhand, but Carroll later expanded it, publishing it in book form with illustrations by John Tenniel.
  • Lewis Carroll parodies many Victorian poems in his work. Most of the songs and verses included in the book are inspired by popular poems written in his day, including those written by Robert Southey, Isaac Watts, and Mary Howett.

Analysis

Download PDF PDF Page Citation Cite Share Link Share

Parody

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland was originally told to entertain a little girl. One of the devices Lewis Carroll uses to communicate with Alice Liddell is parody, which adopts the style of the serious literary work and applies it to an inappropriate subject for humorous effect. Most of the songs and poems that appear in the book are parodies of well-known Victorian poems, such as Robert Southey's "The Old Man's Comforts and How He Gained Them" ("You Are Old, Father William"), Isaac Watts's "How Doth the Little Busy Bee" ("How Doth the Little Crocodile"), and Mary Howett's "The Spider and the Fly" ("Will You Walk a Little Faster"). Several of the songs were ones that Carroll had heard the Liddell sisters sing, so he knew that Alice, for whom the story was written, would appreciate them. There are also a number of "inside jokes" that might make sense only to the Liddells or Carroll's closest associates. The Mad Hatter's song, for instance, ("Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Bat") is a parody of Jane Taylor's poem "The Star," but it also contains a reference to the Oxford community. "Bartholomew Price," writes Martin Gardner in his The Annotated Alice, "a distinguished professor of mathematics at Oxford and a good friend of Carroll's, was known among his student by the nickname 'The Bat.' His lectures no doubt had a way of soaring high above the heads of his listeners."

What makes Carroll's parodies so special that they have outlived the originals they mock is the fact that they are excellent humorous verses in their own right. They also serve a purpose within the book: they emphasize the underlying senselessness of Wonderland and highlight Alice's own sense of displacement. Many of them Alice recites herself under pressure from another character. “’Tis the Voice of the Lobster" is a parody of the didactic poem "The Sluggard" by Isaac Watts. It is notable that most often Alice is cut off by the same characters that require her to recite in the first place.

Narrator

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland opens with Alice's complaint, "For what is the use of a book ... without pictures or conversations?" So most of the story is told through pictures and dialogue. However, there is another voice besides those of Alice and the characters she encounters. The third-person ("he/she/it") narrator of the story maintains a point of view that is very different from that of the heroine. The narrator steps in to explain Alice's thoughts to the reader. The narrator explains who Dinah is, for instance, and also highlights Alice's own state of mind. He frequently refers to Alice as "poor Alice" or "the poor little thing" whenever she is in a difficult situation.

Point of View

Although the narrator has an impartial voice, the point of view is very strongly connected with Alice. Events are related as they happen to her and are explained as they affect her. As a result, some critics believe that the narrator is not in fact a separate voice, but is a part of Alice's own thought process. They base this interpretation on the statement in Chapter 1 that Alice "was very fond of pretending to be two people." Alice, they suggest, consists of the thoughtless child who carelessly jumps down the rabbit-hole after the White Rabbit, and the well-brought-up, responsible young girl who remembers her manners even when confronted by rude people and animals.

Language

Part of the way Carroll shows Wonderland to be a strange place is the way the inhabitants twist the meaning of words. Carroll plays with language by including many puns and other...

(This entire section contains 810 words.)

See This Study Guide Now

Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this study guide. You'll also get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access

forms of word play. In Chapter 3, for instance, the Mouse says he can dry everyone who was caught in the pool of tears. He proceeds to recite a bit of history—"the driest thing I know." Here, of course, the Mouse means "dry" as in dull; the Mouse's words have no ability to ease the dampness of the creatures. When Alice meets the Mad Hatter and the March Hare, they play with syntax—the order of words—to confuse Alice. When she says "I say what I mean" is the same thing as "I mean what I say," the others immediately contradict her by bringing up totally unrelated examples: "'Not the same thing a bit!' said the Hatter. 'You might just as well say that "I see what I eat" is the same thing as "I eat what I see"!'" The power of language is also evident in the way Alice continually offends the inhabitants of Wonderland, often quite unintentionally. For instance, she drives away the creatures at the pool of tears just by mentioning the word "cat." Eventually Alice learns to be careful of what she says, as in Chapter 8 when she changes how she is about to describe the Queen after noticing the woman behind her shoulder.

Places Discussed

Download PDF PDF Page Citation Cite Share Link Share

River bank

River bank. The story opens on the bank of a river. The location is not specified, but it is presumably near Oxford, England. In a prefatory poem, Lewis Carroll recalls a boat trip he made in that region in 1862 with Alice Liddell (his model for the fictional Alice), two of Alice’s sisters, and a friend. At the village of Godstow, about three miles up a branch of the River Thames called the Isis, he first imagined and told the story that became Alice in Wonderland. The book begins and ends on the river bank, whose quiet and order are bookends surrounding a noisy and disordered dream world.

Rabbit hole

Rabbit hole. Passage through which Alice enters Wonderland. Just as Wonderland is a realm of transformation, the tunnel through which she reaches that realm is a classic symbol of birth. Much of the book unfolds against a background of symbols of gestation and birth, such as a too-small passage to a bright new world through which she can see but not pass; the pool of salt water produced by Alice’s own tears, in which she swims; the too-tight room in the rabbit’s house, where she kicks out; and her many changes in size.

Wonderland

Wonderland. Despite Alice’s fall down the rabbit hole and her references to being “down here,” there is no definite indication that Wonderland itself is underground. It is a parody of Victorian England from a child’s point of view: rule-bound, moralistic, and didactic, and of the Oxford town and university that Carroll knew. Often, Carroll describes no more of the setting than is minimally necessary for the action. There are no scenic descriptions of the surrounding territory, which is of no interest to either dreamers or children. In dreamlike fashion, scenes fade from one into one another in ways impossible to observe closely; the sizes of things and creatures are variable and inconsistent with one another.

Hall

Hall. Room in which Alice finds herself after falling through the rabbit hole. It is a “long, low hall,” with locked doors all around it, from which Alice peers through a fifteen-inch-high door and sees the “loveliest garden you ever saw.” In psychological terms, the desire to reach the garden can be interpreted as a longing to return to paradisal childhood innocence (or more crudely, to the womb). Conversely, it can also be interpreted as reflecting a desire to attain womanhood. Alice’s frustration at being unable at various moments to get the key, open the door, or fit through the door, is true both to the frustrations that arise in dreams and to those of children, who must often perform tasks they do not understand, tasks at which they are awkward, and tasks for which they are the wrong physical size.

White Rabbit’s house

White Rabbit’s house. Place in which Alice fetches the White Rabbit’s gloves and fan. Resenting his high-handed command, she grows so large that the room she is in becomes like a womb, a place in which there is insufficient space in which to grow up. She is thus symbolically trapped in the constricting limits of childhood—stuck in a world in which one is ordered about and has no say in one’s own affairs.

Caterpillar’s woods

Caterpillar’s woods. With a dream’s lack of consistency, the size perfect for the White Rabbit’s house (three inches, which makes no sense for a rabbit) makes Alice as small as an insect in the surrounding forest (and the exact size of the caterpillar). Alice’s normal height—regaining which was one of her goals—seems to fit the forest, but she keeps it only briefly.

Duchess’s house

Duchess’s house. Alice must again shrink to enter the Duchess’s house, which is only four feet high. Inside she finds the perfect reversal of an orderly Victorian household and of the proper rearing of a child: pepper reigns in the cooking and the temper, children are spoken to roughly, beaten, and shaken, and cooks indulge in casual assault by saucepan. The Duchess’s baby does the opposite of what a well-reared child like Alice is trying to do: instead of growing up (becoming more civilized, socialized), it transforms into a pig.

March Hare’s house

March Hare’s house. This house, with chimneys shaped like ears and a roof thatched with fur, is larger than the Duchess’s; Alice grows to two feet in order to approach it. A table is set out in front of the house for a never-ending tea party, as Time, insulted by the Mad Hatter, will not advance past 6 o’clock. It has been speculated that the tea party is Carroll’s satire on his college dining table at Oxford, where the same people gathered every evening for the same—it may have seemed to him—inane conversation.

Queen of Heart’s garden

Queen of Heart’s garden. This can be viewed as the lovely garden of childhood, haunted by the bullying of adults. Since reaching it is Alice’s goal throughout most of the book, the garden may also represent womanhood, which can appear glorious from a child’s view, but when reached, may prove difficult and confusing. Such an interpretation may reflect Carroll’s own views on being a grown-up; he was intensely shy around other adults and preferred the company of young girls.

Mock Turtle’s shore

Mock Turtle’s shore. Small rock ledge by an otherwise undefined shore. There, nearly all that the Mock Turtle and Gryphon tell Alice has to do with fish and the sea, including their many puns and the poem/dance, “The Lobster Quadrille.”

Court

Court. Room in which the King and Queen of Hearts try the Knave for stealing tarts. The trial over which they preside is a parody of an English courtroom, a symbol of adult, autocratic authority. Characters from throughout the book, of all sizes, come together for the finale. During the trial, Alice gradually grows larger than everyone about her, as she stands up against the kind of bullying and illogic that have pursued her throughout the book. At this point, the dream of childhood ends.

The Plot

Download PDF PDF Page Citation Cite Share Link Share

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland is an outgrowth of Lewis Carroll’s earlier and shorter tale titled Alice’s Adventures Under Ground, which he based on a story he told to Alice Liddell and her two sisters during a boat trip they took in 1862. Carroll completed this story, written in longhand and illustrated with his own drawings, in 1863. In 1864, he gave the manuscript to Alice as a gift. Revised and expanded by Carroll and newly illustrated by John Tenniel, this work evolved into Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland the following year.

While listening to her older sister reading aloud, Alice drifts off to sleep and begins her dream adventures. She follows a white rabbit and falls down his hole into Wonderland. Alice is constantly at odds with the creatures who inhabit this alien world and also with her own body, which shrinks when she drinks from a mysterious bottle, then grows to enormous size when she eats a small cake.

She encounters many creatures endowed with wit and cleverness, who confuse her at every turn. She meets the ugly Duchess, whose baby turns into a pig in Alice’s arms. Things are not what they seem. It is at the Duchess’ house that she first sees the unsettling Cheshire Cat, who sits in the corner grinning, with his eyes fixed on Alice. Later, the Cheshire Cat reappears on a tree branch, from which he demonstrates his ability to vanish, leaving only his eerie smile lingering in the air.

At the Mad Tea-Party, Alice must exchange witty remarks and insults with the Hatter and March Hare, an experience that further challenges her sense of time and logic. It is always six o’clock, always teatime, at this table.

The threatening nature of Wonderland is reinforced in the garden scene, dominated by the raucous Queen of Hearts, who continually shouts “Off with her head!” The threat becomes problematic, however, when the executioner is summoned to cut off the disembodied head of the Cheshire Cat.

Alice’s last adventure is at the trial of the Knave of Hearts, who is accused of stealing the Queen’s tarts. The Queen calls for the defendant to be sentenced before the jury submits its verdict, and it soon becomes clear that the law itself is on trial. Outraged at the absurd form of justice she witnesses, Alice asserts, “You’re nothing but a pack of cards!” With that exclamation, she annihilates Wonderland as if by magic, and she emerges from her strange dream.

In Through the Looking-Glass (which carries the subtitle And What Alice Found There), Carroll again frames his story as a dreamlike experience, but this time he presents a world that is controlled by the rules of a chess game. Alice enters the geometrical landscape, which is laid out like a chessboard, as a pawn. During her movement across the board en route to becoming a queen, she may converse only with the chess figures on adjacent squares. Among the many memorable characters she engages are the White Queen, from whom she learns the advantages of living backward in time; the battling Lion and Unicorn; the pompous Humpty Dumpty; the bullying Tweedledee and Tweedledum, who tell Alice that she is merely an object in the Red King’s dream; and the eccentric White Knight.

After Alice bids farewell to the White Knight, in a scene that may represent Carroll’s adieu to Alice Liddell as she reached puberty, Alice goes on to become queen. In terms of the chess game, the pawn has become a queen, and in human terms, Alice’s final move suggests her coming of age. It is at this point that she wakes from her dream and is left wondering who dreamed it all, herself or the Red King.

Historical Context

Download PDF PDF Page Citation Cite Share Link Share

The Victorian Age in England According to his own account, Lewis Carroll composed the story that became Alice's Adventures in Wonderland on a sunny July day in 1862. He created it for the Liddell sisters while on a boating trip up the Thames River. Although the book and its sequel Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There have since become timeless classics, they nonetheless clearly reflect their Victorian origins in their language, their class-consciousness, and their attitude toward children. The Victorian age, named for the long rule of Britain's Queen Victoria, spanned the years 1837 to 1901.

The early Victorian era marked the emergence of a large middle-class society for the first time in the history of the Western world. With this middle-class population came a spread of socalled "family values": polite society avoided mentioning sex, sexual passions, bodily functions, and in extreme cases, body parts. They also followed an elaborate code of manners meant to distinguish one class from another. By the 1860s, the result, for most people, was a kind of stiff and gloomy prudery marked by a feeling that freedom and enjoyment of life were sinful and only to be indulged in at the risk of immorality. Modern critics have mostly condemned the Victorians for these repressive attitudes.

The tone for the late Victorian age was set by Queen Victoria herself. She had always been a very serious and self-important person from the time she took the throne at the age of eighteen; it is reported that when she became queen, her first resolution was, "I will be good." After the death of her husband Albert in 1861, however, Victoria became more and more withdrawn, retreating from public life and entering what became a lifelong period of mourning. Many middle-class Englishmen and women followed her example, seeking to find morally uplifting and mentally stimulating thoughts in their reading and other entertainments.

Victorian Views of Childhood Many upper-middle-class Victorians had a double view of childhood. Childhood was regarded as the happiest period of a person's life, a simple and uncomplicated time. At the same time, children were also thought to be "best seen and not heard." Some Victorians also neglected their children, giving them wholly over into the care of nurses, nannies and other child-care professionals. Boys often went away to boarding school, while girls were usually taught at home by a governess. The emphasis for all children, but particularly girls, was on learning manners and how to fit into society. "Children learned their catechism, learned to pray, learned to fear sin—and their books were meant to aid and abet the process," states Morton N. Cohen in his critical biography Lewis Carroll. "They were often frightened by warnings and threats, their waking hours burdened with homilies. Much of the children's literature … were purposeful and dour. They instilled discipline and compliance." Although the end of the century saw a trend toward educating women in subjects taught to men, such as Latin and mathematics, this change affected only a small portion of the population, specifically the upper classes.

This emphasis on manners and good breeding is reflected in Alice's adventures. She is always Alice Pleasance Liddell, inspiration for the title character of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, pictured with her sister, Lorina Charlotte Liddell. Nevertheless, Carroll seems to share the view that childhood was a golden period in a person's life. He refers in his verse preface to the novel to the "golden afternoon" that he shared with the three Miss Liddells. He also concludes the book with the prediction that Alice will someday repeat her dream of Wonderland to her own children and "feel with all their simple sorrows, and find a pleasure in all their simple joys, remembering her own child-life, and the happy summer days." On the other hand, Alice's own experiences suggest that Carroll felt that children's feelings and emotions were fully as complex as any adult emotions. By the end of the novel, she is directly contradicting adults; when she tells the Queen "Stuff and nonsense!" she is acting contrary to Victorian dictates of proper children's behavior.

The Early Development of Children's Literature "Children's literature" first emerged as a genre of its own in the mid-1700s, when English bookseller John Newbery created some of the first books designed specifically to entertain children. (He is honored today in the United States by the American Library Association, who awards the annual John Newbery Medal to the best children's work of the year.) Prior to that time, works published for children were strictly educational, using stories merely to impart a moral message. If children wished to read for entertainment, they had to turn to "adult" works, such as Daniel Defoe's 1719 classic Robinson Crusoe. Despite Newbery's ground-breaking work, few works of entertainment for children appeared over the hundred years.

Most early Victorian fairy-stories and other works for children were intended to promote what contemporaries believed was "good" and "moral" behavior on the part of children. Carroll's "Alice" books take a swipe at this Victorian morality, in part through their uninhibited use of nonsense and word-play (a favorite Victorian pastime) and in part through direct parody. Alice recalls in Chapter 1 of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland that "she had read several nice little histories about children who had got burnt, and eaten up by wild beasts and other unpleasant things, all because they would not remember the simple rules their friends had taught them." Most of the verses and poems Carroll included in the story are parodies of popular Victorian (i.e., morally uplifting) songs and ballads, twisted so that their didactic points are lost in the pleasure of word-play.

Carroll's "Alice" books were part of a flourishing movement throughout the world to write entertaining books for children. English translations of the fairy tale collections of the German brothers Grimm first appeared in the mid-1820s. The tales of Danish writer Hans Christian Andersen appeared in English in 1846. The United States saw Louisa May Alcott's Little Women in 1868-69, part of a movement to publish realistic stories for children. In England, many noted authors for adults published works for children, including Charles Dickens and Robert Louis Stevenson, whose 1883 work Treasure Island is considered a classic children's adventure story. The ground broken by Carroll and other children's authors of the nineteenth century led the way for today's huge market for children's books, which have their own publishers, critical scholars and journals, and librarians.

Setting

Download PDF PDF Page Citation Cite Share Link Share

On a riverbank in the English countryside during a "golden afternoon," Alice listens while her sister reads from a book with no conversations or pictures in it. Just as she is becoming unbearably bored and sleepy, Alice notices a White Rabbit who runs by exclaiming that he shall be "too late!" When the rabbit actually takes a watch out of his pocket, Alice's curiosity overcomes her; she jumps up and follows the rabbit down a large rabbit hole. There begins her fantastic adventure in a completely fantastic land.

Literary Qualities

Download PDF PDF Page Citation Cite Share Link Share

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, like all great literary works, challenges the young reader to question certain conventional ways of thinking, in this case to recognize that the meaning of words can be flexible. They can be played with in such a way that a listener or reader becomes confused, amused, or even angry over what may be, upon closer examination, nothing but nonsense. Alice's adventures also demonstrate the importance of words to our sense of identity and value. Because Alice's Adventures in Wonderland calls attention to the slippery relationship between words and meanings, the reader is made aware that language (in textbooks, novels, films, and newspapers) must be challenged again and again if important concepts are to be separated from nonsense.

The humorous verses Carroll places in the mouths of his Wonderland characters provide a literary treat for his readers. From Alice's rendition of "You are Old, Father William," to the Mock Turtle's tribute to "Beautiful Soup," the teasing verses in Alice's Adventures in Wonderland are real tests of the imagination. In fact, the Victorian prose of the story demands that the reader visit a world of expression not available in modern everyday experience. Thus, the reader who stays with Alice from beginning to end comes away from the adventure verbally and intellectually enriched.

When Alice leaves the security of the riverbank to satisfy her curiosity about the White Rabbit, she sets out on a quest requiring her to overcome a series of obstacles before she can return home. This basic plot structure—departing, overcoming, returning—places Alice's Adventures in Wonderland in the tradition of the quest tale, which includes such works as the Odyssey, the Aeneid, and The Faerie Queen. The same structure provides the basis for classics of children's literature like Gulliver's Travels and The Wizard of Oz. It may seem that Alice's adventures are trivial compared to the trials of Odysseus and Ulysses or the perils of the Redcrosse Knight. But it is important to remember that, like these other heroes, Alice must defend herself against fantastic creatures three or four times her size. In Alice's quest, however, the battles are largely verbal ones. The oddness of the creatures Alice meets is emphasized by what they say and how they say it. Alice and the reader often seem to forget the visual appearance of her opponent as she becomes engaged in her linguistic struggles.

Alice's adventures fit, too, into the dream tradition, a tradition used by— among other writers—James Joyce in Finnegans Wake, and Frank Baum in The Wizard of Oz. The characters who inhabit dreams are permitted a different sort of freedom of action, thought, and speech than those restrained by realistic conventions. Dreams also generate a logic that is most often a distortion of reality. Yet these distortions somehow reveal the "nonsense" at the core of much of what we take to be common sense.

The story of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland has also shown an extraordinary ability to inspire striking illustrations. From Carroll's own illustrations in the original edition to Franz Haacken's elongated stylizations in 1970, the story has elicited some of the most engaging and memorable illustrations of all times. Perhaps the best known are those of Sir John Tenniel whose pen and ink drawings were reproduced in the 1866 edition and have come to be considered by many critics as "definitive."

Social Sensitivity

Download PDF PDF Page Citation Cite Share Link Share

As a literary character, Alice is valuable for breaking the stereotype of the demure, passive Victorian girl. Alice's adventures suggest that intellectual curiosity and competency are characteristics not limited by sex. Alice is interested in discovering meanings in life; her kind of curiosity is valuable in the study of science and philosophy.

Many aspects of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland question the solemn and sometimes hypocritical attitudes toward children demonstrated in the literature of Victorian England. The lullaby the Duchess sings to her baby, for example, parodies a song, popular in Carroll's time, called "Speak Gently." The popular song urges parents to "Speak gently to the little child/ Its love be sure to gain," while the Duchess insists that a parent must "Speak roughly to your little boy/ and beat him when he sneezes." By giving directly opposite advice on the question of child rearing, the Duchess reveals the excessive sentimentality of the popular view, and hints that the reality may be different from that portrayed in the song.

Throughout Alice's adventures, Carroll calls upon the reader to note that nonsense can be made to sound very much like sense. He thus alerts the reader to think critically about the sense behind everyday language. This critical way of looking at language is especially important when applied to the words of those in authority. The King and Queen of Hearts assert their authority over the rest of the cards simply because a higher value has been assigned to them than to the rest of the "pack." They use their power (represented by their words) foolishly and arbitrarily and Alice refuses to accept them at "face-card" value, calling them to account. It is this emphasis on the need to examine the power of words and other conventional symbols that makes Alice's Adventures in Wonderland perennially relevant to social concerns.

Media Adaptations

Download PDF PDF Page Citation Cite Share Link Share

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland came to the stage quite early in its history. Carroll himself wrote about an early stage version of his story, written by Henry Savile Clarke and produced in London in November, 1886, in a late article entitled "Alice on the Stage." Later dramatizations produced under the title Alice in Wonderland, but usually based on both Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There, include adaptations by Eva Le Gallienne and Florida Friebus, Samuel French, 1932; by Madge Miller, Children's Theatre Press, 1953; and by Anne Coulter Martens, Dramatic Publishing, 1965.

But Never Jam Today, an African-American adaptation for the stage, was written in 1969. Other dramatic adaptations include Alice and Through the Looking Glass by Stephen Moore, 1980; Alice, by Michael Lancy, 1983; Alice, a Wonderland Book, by R. Surrette, 1983; and Alice (a ballet) by Glen Tetley, 1986.

The first movie featuring Alice was Alice in Wonderland, produced by Maienthau, 1914, featuring Alice Savoy. Another was produced the following year by Nonpareil. Other versions were released by Pathe Studios in 1927 and by Macmillan Audio Brandon Films. The most famous film versions of Alice include: the 1933 Paramount version, featuring Charlotte Henry as Alice and a variety of contemporary Paramount stars (including Gary Cooper as the White Knight, Cary Grant as the Mock Turtle, W. C. Fields as Humpty Dumpty, and Edna May Oliver as the Red Queen); a 1950 satirical version by the French company Souvaine; Walt Disney Production's 1951 animated feature film featuring the voice of Kathryn Beaumont as Alice (available from Walt Disney Home Video); another animated feature by Hanna Barbera in 1965, featuring many of their cartoon stars (including Fred Flintstone and Barney Rubble) in leading roles; Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, released by American National in 1972 and featuring Michael Crawford as the White Rabbit, Dudley Moore as the Dormouse, and Peter Sellers as the March Hare (available from Vestron Video); and Alice, a disturbingly surrealistic view of Carroll's universe directed by Jan Svankmajer and released by Film Four in 1988 (available from First Run/Icarus Films).

Among the numerous recordings featuring Alice and produced under the title Alice in Wonderland include one from the 1950s narrated by Cyril Ritchard, Wonderland; one narrated by Christopher Casson, Spoken Arts, 1969; one from the 1970s, narrated by Stanley Holloway with Joan Greenwood as the voice of Alice, Caedmon, 1992; one narrated by Flo Gibson, Recorded Books, 1980; one read by William Rushton, Listen for Pleasure, 1981; one read by Christopher Plummer, Caedmon, 1985; an audio CD read by Sir John Gielgud, Nimbus, 1989; a four-cassette unabridged performance by Cybill Shepherd and Lynn Redgrave, Dove Audio, 1995; and a BBC Radio version with Alan Bennett as narrator, Bantam Books Audio, 1997. A recording of Eva Le Galienne's stage adaptation Alice in Wonderland, featuring Bambi Linn as Alice, was released by RCA Victor in the 1940s. Several other records were also released in connection with the Disney film.

A number of television adaptations of the "Alice" books have also been made. In 1955, NBC television broadcast the Eva Le Gallienne and Florida Friebus stage play on "The Hallmark Hall of Fame." The television version featured Gillian Barber as Alice, Martyn Green as the White Rabbit, puppeteer Burr Tillstrum as the Cheshire Cat, Elsa Lancaster as the Red Queen, and coauthor Le Gallienne as the White Queen. A television special entitled "Alice through the Looking Glass" was broadcast on NBC in 1966; it was a musical and featured Jimmy Durante as Humpty Dumpty, and Tom and Dick Smothers as Tweedledum and Tweedledee. Another allstar television adaptation featured Red Buttons, Ringo Starr, Sammy Davis, Jr., Steve Allen, Anthony Newley, Steve Lawrence, and Eydie Gorme. It aired in 1985 and is available on video from Facets Multimedia.

For Further Reference

Download PDF PDF Page Citation Cite Share Link Share

Clark, Anne. Lewis Carroll: A Biography. New York: Schocken Books, 1979. This biography of Carroll contains interesting details of his life but no criticism of his writing.

Gattegno, Jean. Lewis Carroll: Fragments Through a Looking Glass. New York: Thomas Y. Crowell, 1974. Combines a literary, historical, and psychoanalytical approach to Carroll's life.

Green, Roger Lancelyn, ed. The Lewis Carroll Handbook. London: Oxford University Press, 1962. Provides valuable bibliographical and biographical information.

Hudson, Derek. Lewis Carroll. London: Constable, 1954. Considered by many critics to be the best biography of Carroll.

Kelly, Richard. Lewis Carroll. Boston: Twayne, 1977. Summarizes Carroll's life and provides critical introductions to his writings.

Ovendon, Graham, ed. The Illustrators of "Alice in Wonderland" and "Through the Looking Glass". New York: St. Martin's, 1972. A history and commentary on the illustrators of the Alice books with many sample illustrations.

Phillips, Robert, ed. Aspects of Alice, Lewis Carroll's Dreamchild as Seen Through the Critics' Looking Glasses. New York: The Vanguard Press, 1971. One of the largest single collections of essays about Carroll, with a bibliography up to 1971.

Bibliography and Further Reading

Download PDF PDF Page Citation Cite Share Link Share

Sources Morton N. Cohen, Lewis Carroll: A Biography, Alfred A. Knopf, 1995.

Martin Gardner, editor and author of notes, The Annotated Alice: Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass by Lewis Carroll, Bramhall House, 1960.

For Further Study Daniel Binova, "Alice the Child-imperialist and the Games of Wonderland," in Nineteenth-Century Literature, Vol. 41, No. 2, September 1986, pp. 143-171. Reading Alice in the context of Victorian imperialism, Binova argues that Alice behaves as an "imperialist" by attempting to force the behavior of the creatures she encounters to fit the "rules" for such behavior as she understands them. He concludes that Carroll is critiquing the ethnocentric attitude that underlies such an attempt.

Kathleen Blake, Play, Games, and Sport: The Literary Works of Lewis Carroll, Cornell University Press, 1974. Blake's work examines the many ways in which Carroll's works play with the reader.

Kathleen Blake, "Lewis Carroll (Charles Lutwidge Dodgson)," in Concise Dictionary of British Literary Biography, Volume 4: Victorian Writers, 18321890, Gale, 1991, pp. 111-28. A brief biographical and critical survey of Carroll's life and works.

Harold Bloom, editor, Lewis Carroll, Modern Critical Views series, Chelsea House, 1987. A useful compilation of essays that contains several pieces on the Alice books, including a feminist psychoanalytic reading of the character of Alice by Nina Auerbach and a discussion of Carroll's "philosophy" by Peter Heath.

Lewis Carroll, Alice's Adventures Under Ground, Facsimile edition, Dover Publications, 1965. A reprint of the author's manuscript, produced by hand (including drawings and other illustrations by Carroll himself) for Alice Liddell. The Dover edition also includes some information from the 1886 facsimile edition of the manuscript.

Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland: Authoritative Texts of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, Through the Looking-Glass, The Hunting of the Snark, edited by Donald J. Gray, Norton, 1971. The Norton Critical Edition of Carroll's most famous works presents a text with footnotes, excerpts from Carroll's diaries, appreciations by some of his friends (including Alice Liddell, the model for Alice), and a selection of the most important criticism of the author's work.

Lewis Carroll, "Alice on the Stage," in The Theatre, April, 1887. In this article, Carroll himself describes the chief characteristics of his "Alice" character.

Charles Frey and John Griffith, "Lewis Carroll: Alice's Adventures in Wonderland," in their The Literary Heritage of Childhood: An Appraisal of Children's Classics in the Western Tradition, Greenwood Press, 1987, pp. 15-22. In their article Frey and Griffith survey some of the ways critics have chosen to read Alice's Adventures in Wonderland.

Jean Gattegno, Lewis Carroll: Fragments of a Looking-Glass, translated by Rosemary Sheed, Crowell, 1976. This work takes a thematic approach to various aspects of Carroll's life and work.

Edward Guiliano, editor, Lewis Carroll: A Celebration, Clarkson N. Potter, 1982. A collection of essays compiled for the 150th anniversary of Carroll's birth, several of which focus on Alice. Among them are Terry Otten's discussion of Alice's "innocence," Nina Demurova's consideration of Alice's genre, and Roger Henkle's argument that the Alice books are "forerunners of the modernist novel."

Richard Kelly, Lewis Carroll, revised edition, Twayne, 1990. Kelly touches the main bases of Carroll's life and works in this survey. His chapter on the Alice books goes through both works episode by episode, offering critical perspectives as he does so.

James R. Kincaid, "Alice's Invasion of Wonderland," in PMLA (Publications of the Modern Language Association of America), Vol. 88, No. 1, January 1973, pp. 92-99. Kincaid argues that Carroll's own attitudes toward both Alice and the worlds she visits in Alice and Looking Glass are highly ambivalent.

Florence Becker Lennon, Victoria through the Looking-Glass: The Life of Lewis Carroll, Simon & Schuster, 1945. Although this biography is more than fifty-years-old and its biographical details have been superseded by more recent scholarship, it does help place Carroll in the context of his time and provide a survey of earlier criticism.

Robert Phillips, editor, Aspects of Alice: Lewis Carroll's Dreamchild as Seen through the Critics' Looking-Glasses, 1865-1971, Vanguard Press, 1971. A survey of critical evaluations of Carroll's work, including personal and biographical criticism, comparisons of Carroll with other Victorians and other writers, and philosophical, Freudian, Jungian and other interpretations of Alice.

Phyllis Gila Reinstein, Alice in Context, Garland Publishing, 1988. Reinstein places Alice and Looking-Glass in the context of Victorian children's literature. She argues that Carroll's books, unlike their predecessors, do not "capitulate at one point or another to the pressures of their society," but instead "consistently offer amusement without intending instruction".

Bibliography

Download PDF PDF Page Citation Cite Share Link Share

Blake, Kathleen. Play, Games, and Sport: The Literary Works of Lewis Carroll. Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1974. Wittily argues that the Alice books create a world of games spinning out of control. Firmly establishes their author in a Victorian context.

Carroll, Lewis. The Annotated Alice: Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass. Edited by Martin Gardner. New York: Clarkson N. Potter, 1960. Martin Gardner’s notes in the margin alongside the text help to clarify jokes and conundrums and explain contemporary references.

Carroll, Lewis. More Annotated Alice: Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass. Edited by Martin Gardner. New York: Random House, 1990. Based on letters from readers of the original The Annotated Alice, as well as new research, this sequel supplements rather than revises the first book. Reprints for the first time Peter Newell’s illustrations and includes Newell’s essay on visually interpreting Alice in Wonderland.

Guiliano, Edward, ed. Lewis Carroll: A Celebration. New York: Clarkson N. Potter, 1982. A collection of fifteen essays, most referring to the Alice books, written to commemorate the 150th anniversary of Lewis Carroll’s birth. Provides many photographs and illustrations, including Lewis Carroll’s original renderings for Alice in Wonderland.

Kelly, Richard. Lewis Carroll. Boston: Twayne, 1977. A broad critical survey of Carroll’s work. Emphasizes the humor in the Alice books.

Phillips, Edward, ed. Aspects of Alice: Lewis Carroll’s Dreamchild as Seen Through the Critics’ Looking-Glasses, 1865-1971. New York: Vanguard Press, 1971. A wide-ranging and often entertaining omnibus. Includes a comprehensive bibliography.

Previous

Characters

Next

Critical Essays