Other literary forms
Lewis Carroll is remembered for his long fiction, the children’s classics Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (1865) and Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There (1871). Immediate popular and critical successes, they are now among the world’s most quoted and translated books, enjoyed by children and adults alike, and their characters are part of the world’s folklore. His sentimental and tendentious Sylvie and Bruno (1889) and Sylvie and Bruno Concluded (1893) were far less successful.
Carroll’s prose fiction is best classified as anatomy, which, unlike the novel, is about ideas rather than people and engages the mind rather than represents life realistically. The characters of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There are personifications of philosophical or linguistic problems and function, much as counters in a game whose rules change according to Carroll’s fancy. The books have rudimentary characteristics of the bildungsroman—Alice’s changes in size or status suggesting puberty and development—but Alice herself is static. Like Gulliver or Candide, she is the “straight man” in the comedy, less important as a character than as a stabilizing perspective—that of the “normal” child in a mad world. The anatomy’s distinguishing formal characteristic is, paradoxically, its refusal to take any one form—its protean,...
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