Lewis Carroll, the author of the book Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, managed to illustrate the fantasy world being full of anthropomorphic creatures through the depiction of morality themes; the tale is considered to be a gradual way to self-recognition and values perception. It is necessary to underline the fact that the tale Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland discloses the topics of order and sex introduced by means of complicated relationships between the characters of the story and their search for morality.
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The book was written in 1865 reflecting the period of the Victorian age. It should be noted that Lewis Carroll managed to represent the difficult path of the girl from childhood and frank innocence into the problematic world of reality with all its difficulties and intricate paths to the truth.
The protagonist of the tale is the girl Alice who experiences adventures in the new reality; she observes a number of strange and absurd physical changes being involved into fantasy and magic transformations. The story is rich in moral themes underlining not only the features of the Victorian age but also the social structure and principle values of the epoch culture.
The story discloses Alice’s curiousness and desire for adventures; as a result, she decides to go into the strange world of unknown mystery in order to gain experience and receive knowledge about the life of other creatures and the atmosphere they live in. It should be stressed that the author demonstrated Alice’s tragic breakage of childhood innocence. The girl suffers constant discomfort of changes being in an unknown world and having little control of the situation.
The concepts of frustration, sadness and physical discomfort being unknown to Alice before appeared to be traumatic for the girl’s inner stability and usual world perception. It should be noted that Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland discloses the constant struggle of Alice in order to keep comfortable size rather than too big or too small.
The story is absurd in nature; the author shows the process of a child’s experience to grow up quickly when Alice is unable to control her body parts size. The author demonstrates all events through the character’s constant fluctuations of the body influencing Alice’s abilities to get this or that place (Oxberry, 2004).
The dramatic side of the tale is presented through life illustration in the form of a meaningless puzzle. Alice is to go through a series of mysteries without having clear solutions; as a result, the author shows life frustrations and breakage of child’s expectations. Alice’s desire to realize Caucus race, Queen’s croquet game and solute Mad Hatter’s riddle leads to small despairs and frustrations being combined in one common moral breakage. The author shows that Alice has no answers and lives in the world of puzzles; the tale is considered to be a mixture of riddles, jokes and logical games though the meanings of the situations faced by Alice cannot be easily found. The book demonstrates the means of a girl’s resistance to problematic issues of life and interpersonal misunderstandings faced in the rabbit hole.
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Carroll Lewis seemed to create the real masterpiece reflecting the elements of Freudian theories with his size-changes, doors, keys and holes. It should be noted that the work is presented in an ironical manner in the form of non-standard psychoanalysis; some critics state that Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland is the reflection of imperialism being characteristic of the 19th century which depicts the constructing “system” of English rules on the basis of creatures’ behavior. (Toft & Whitaker, 2).
Sex and Drug Elements in the Tale
The theme of sexuality described in the book Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland is closely connected with the body forms change and personal identity mystery. Throughout the story one can observe such elements as phallic images replete, that is Caterpillar and mushroom than Alice’s dress in the shape of a mushroom. The symbol of sexuality is shown through the threat to the innocence of a girl’s childhood. The author stresses rapid body transformations experienced by Alice; being a little girl Alice’s high priest and witty helps her to realize the mysteries of the fantasy world without fear and hesitations.
‘But then,’ thought Alice. ‘Shall I never get any older than I am now? That’ll be a comfort, one way–never to be an old woman but then – always to have lessons to learn!’ (Carroll, Ch. IV).
According to some critics, Caterpillar is illustrated as a sexual threat through its shape and symbol of sexual virility. It should be stressed that the girl gains control over her body by means of mushroom properties representing vivid bodily frustrations accompanying puberty. Besides, the mushroom is also perceived in the form of psychedelic hallucinogen influencing Alice’s distorted and surreal Wonderland perception.
The Caterpillar and Alice looked at each other for some time in silence: at last, the Caterpillar took the hookah out of its mouth and addressed her in a languid, sleepy voice.
‘Who are you?’ said the Caterpillar (Carroll, Ch. V).
So, one can see hidden themes of sex speculations and drug promotion presented by the author. Critics support the idea that the introduction of various creatures in the story is aimed at the allegorical substitution of such concepts as sex, love and hunger felt by Alice in the process of fantasy world perception.
There is a tendency to believe that the problem of drug promotion presented in the tale is connected with the author’s personal life and interests. This view is based on the manner of the author’s writing and absurd creativity presented in the text. The description of drug usage in the story is brightly illustrated through hookah-smoking Caterpillar advising the girl to taste the mushroom. Nevertheless, it is necessary to underline the mocking genre and notes of irony contributed to the description of the social structure and the whole era reflection. One should note that the Victorian age described is known to have no drug laws because cocaine, laudanum and opium were openly used only for medical goals. People had direct access to these drugs taking them from any pharmacist; besides, LSD was unknown to society at all. So, the opinion as to the hidden drug promotion aspect described by the author is considered to be really controversial.
The story depicts various paradoxical situations experienced by Alice being in the state of constant shifts which are connected with the girl’s body transformations and mental changes. The author tried to show how the little girl can perceive the world of adult reality making Alice face various difficult situations and solve problematic puzzles, but all this was depicted through the girl’s physical transformations which made her feel not only mental changes but obtaining body form of an adult person.
One side will make you grow taller, and the other side will make you grow shorter”, he said.
And she continued her journey. (Carroll, Ch. III)
The aspect of sex presentation being mixed with the drug promotion moves the story to the upper level of perception. The readers understand the meaning of the tale not only through wordplay and jokes for children, but also as the story with hidden meaning reflecting social values of the Victorian epoch and its traditions on the one hand, and sexual speculations, drug usage, etc. on the other. The author managed to illustrate unusual world perception by fantasy creatures showed through body and mind transformations; the history of the Victorian epoch tells shocking influence of the story upon the social understanding of reality. One should underline the fact that Lewis created a non-traditional piece of art. (Oxberry, 2004)
Order Presentation in Victorian Epoch
It should be stated that Alice broke the usual stereotypes of the passive representative of the Victorian period. She expresses curiosity and interest in the search of life sense discovering the world of fantastic creatures and communicating with them on one level.
The demonstration of the “order” theme is closely connected with the description of Victorian England, its customs, values and structural order in the society. This concept is illustrated through Alice’s relations with creatures in Wonderland. Nevertheless, the author demonstrates the “lost order” being searched by Alice throughout the whole story. Hopeless attempts of the character to realize the rules, reasons and order of the world she had to go through and its inhabitants Alice had to communicate with, resulted in childhood despair. The author managed to show the broken hopes and expectations of the little inexperienced girl who overcame all difficulties in the search for life sense.
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The nonsense presented in the story is merely based on the atmosphere of the nineteenth century. The insertion of exotic details is considered to be characteristic of British Empire in that period. Thus, the illustration of flamingos characterized colonial and missionary expansion in Africa; it should be noted that the author concentrated on the order of upper class belonging to Victorian England. the class domination is illustrated in the example of the creature’s behavior and manner of speaking. For example, the white rabbit always ordered Alice to do different things, to bring something or to visit some places; the chess queen at the same time expressed arrogance in her attitude to anyone. The illustration of Cheshire Cat, Hatter’s watch and “mad tea party” are considered to be hidden characteristics of that age and its social rules. Through these elements, the author strived to depict the significance of time, witty of the upper class and importance of the traditions in the society. Besides, the example of the tea party proved the significance of manners in society: any personal or rude remarks were strictly prohibited. Members of the party were to formulate their replicas precisely and clearly for everyone to understand everything in a proper way.
I’m late / I’m late / For a very important date. / No time to say “Hello.”
/ Goodbye. / I’m late, I’m late… (Carroll, Ch. II).
By the way, Alice used to perceive time as a kind of property, while Hatter perceived it as a real person whom you can give various commands. This fact shows Alice’s difference from the usual norms of the Victorian society and culture established.
It is important to underline the fact that almost all situations faced by Alice appeared to cause danger for her moral state and life in general. The threats presented are not materialized and are just hidden behind various ridiculous situations experienced by Alice. From the very beginning of the story, the concept of death follows Alice’s actions; her fall of the house could result in death while the author did not pay special attention to this aspect. Death is never perceived in the story as a possible outcome. Gradually Alice came to realize the level of danger she faced in Wonderland evaluating all consequences of her adventures.
Off with its head! (Carroll, Ch. VIII).
These words belong to the chess queen and were pronounced with all cruelty and indifference to the fate of the girl. This moment made Alice be aware of the real danger and threat to her life faced in Wonderland; she managed to realize the fact that absurd situations can lead to true tragedy transforming the world of fantasy into cruel reality. Nevertheless, Alice never loses the awareness of the power she has as a real person, as a human being.
You are nothing but a pack of cards! (Carroll, Ch. VIII).
This phrase means that the author made stress the place of humanity through all his created animals were wise enough to be not deprived of logical thinking and cleverness. No wonder that the tale Alice’s adventures in Wonderland was prohibited in China because of the creatures’ intellect and abilities to think on one and the same level with people. But Carroll makes links between people and creatures though some features are very similar. It can be explained by the fact that the author tried to show the order of social structure and people’s attitude to their culture in Victorian England on the example of created animals and some other absurd creatures, as it is the most successful way to reflect traditions and the whole atmosphere of that period through the characters’ unusual behavior (Baker & Womack, p. 231).
The story Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland is considered to be the reflection of social and structural order in the English community during the period of the Victorian era. Lewis Carroll managed to make his story sophisticated in meaning but simple in language and perception for it to be understandable for children. So, the joking and ironic style of the tale, making the story available for every person, is interacted with complicated aspects of sexual conceptualization, drug promotion and threats of death faced by a little girl throughout the whole tale. Besides, it is necessary to note that the story has a very significant historical value due to precise description of the Victorian epoch, English traditions and customs, cultural values and established manners of behavior in the society.
The author made a profound contribution to the sphere of literature through his creativity and deep thoughts presented in the story analyzed. So, the tale Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland can be referred to as the true treasures of the modern literary world.
- Baker, William & Womack, Kenneth. A Companion to the Victorian Novel. Greenwood Press. pp. 445. 2002.
- Carroll, Lewis. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Broadview Press. 353 pp, 2000. Web.
- Toft, Marie C. & Whitaker, Russel. “Nineteenth-Century Literature Criticism”. Vol. 139. Detroit: Gale, 2004. 470 pp.