Alice in Wonderland is a book that many people have read and loved, but few have gone so far as to analyze the deeper meanings hidden within the text. This blog post will discuss these hidden themes and help you to understand Alice’s true journey through Wonderland.
For example: One of the more obvious examples of this theme is seen while looking at what happens when Alice eats or drinks things she shouldn’t – such as from bottles marked “Drink Me” or “Eat me”. When she does either, she begins growing bigger than usual, which can be interpreted both literally (as one would normally grow after eating food) and symbolically (her understanding of her own body changes).
Another good example: Similarly, we want to look at the role of food in Alice, particularly how it relates to her character. Food is used as a metaphor for knowledge or understanding through many different characters’ actions throughout this book – some good examples include when Alice eats things she shouldn’t (shrinking/growing), and also while looking at what happens with the cake marked “Eat me” that makes her shrink small enough to fit into the White Rabbit’s house.
Another example: The more obvious way you can see these themes come out is by simply identifying which characters are teaching others about something versus being taught themselves. Generally speaking, any character who has received special information from another belongs on one side of this divide, whereas those who have not to belong on the other side. For instance, the Mad Hatter, the Cheshire Cat, and the Queen of Hearts are all characters who have received information from another source. On the other side, you have Alice herself as well as most of her family members – they are being taught something by someone else rather than teaching others themselves.
The Pathway out of Childhood
Many children have been exposed to Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland novel. Although it appears to be a straightforward fairy tale, it is actually much more complicated.
The events of the story correspond to the stages in a child’s growth and progression through childhood and adolescence. Charles Frey and John Griffin wrote that Alice is on a romantic quest for her identity and evolution. They also want to help her understand logic, rules, authority, time and death.
This concept allows you to interpret the story in a new and interesting way.
“Why, I have believed six impossible things before breakfast.”
The beginning of the journey is curiosity
Alice is distracted by daydreams and unable to focus on the story when her sister reads to her an advanced novel. Alice is easily distracted and has a childish attitude. Her imagination is wild and she starts to create her perfect world. Alice is captivated by a white rabbit.
“Alice follows the bunny because it is “burning with curiosity.” She soon discovers that things are getting ‘curiouser, curiouser’.
Children are often the most curious; they are always eager to learn more.
Tweedle Del and Tweedle Dum tell Tweedle Dee the tale of the Curious Oysters. This story illustrates how curiosity can lead to dangerous outcomes. This illustrates how adults often use stories to terrorize children and destroy their creativity and curiosity. They encourage them to grow up and stop asking questions. Tweedle Dee, and Tweedle Dum are examples of parents trying to control Alice’s imagination.
Although it would have made a terrible child, I think it is a pretty attractive pig.
Alice is curious and gets herself into trouble. The white rabbit tells Alice to run into the house and grab his gloves immediately. She finds the words “Eat Me!” written on a cookie while searching for them. The biscuit is quickly ingested by her.
Alice is still in her childhood, and she needs guidance from an older person. At the moment, there isn’t such a figure. “We believe children need gentle guidance in order to develop emotionally and cognitively, as well as physically.” (Henslin).
Two fundamental principles are symbolized by Alice’s eating of the cookie. Another example of how curiosity can lead to problems is the first. After hearing about the Curious Oysters story, she ate the cookie. Sometimes, a child may disobey and do bad things.
Kohlberg’s first theory of moral development, stage one, is illustrated by her eating the cookie. This asserts that “right” is anything that avoids punishment or receives reward (Wood). Because there were no adults or parents nearby, curiosity won out over good judgment. She ate the cookie.
As a child, this scenario could also have been caused by peer pressure. The cookie jar contained many cookies, each labeled with a different command. These cookies were instructing her how to proceed.
As everyone succumbs at one point or another to peer pressure, she gives in. She quickly becomes a giant. Her enormous self is seen by the white rabbit and other characters as a monster, rather than a young girl. One culture might view young people who give in to peer pressure by engaging in risky behaviors or using drugs as hideous.
Alice repeatedly displays her childish thinking, immature character and bewilderment. Alice goes down the rabbit hole first and meets the door. She gives herself “excellent counsel” and states, “For one drinks much from poison bottles, it’s almost certain that one will disagree sooner or later with one.”
The door responds with a confused expression. The adult often cannot understand the reasoning of a child when they are in a relationship with a small child. The formal operations stage is when the child is able “apply logic to abstract, verbal and hypothetical situations”. This is around the age of 11-12. Alice is clearly not at this stage of thinking.
Soon after Alice enters Wonderland she discovers something that doesn’t make sense. A dodo bird tells Alice to go in a circle with others to dry off after she was washed up on the beach. Because the water is surrounding them, it doesn’t make sense what he is telling her to do. But she continues to follow his instructions. Blindly following an older figure reveals her infantile ignorance.
Later in the novel, Alice is confronted with another puzzlement. The White King waits for his messengers, and asks Alice to look along the road in order to determine if they are on their route. Alice says, “I don’t see anyone on this road.” “I wish I could see people on the road,” Alice adds, her voice tightening. “I wish I could see everyone!” At that distance, nothing less. It’s all that I can do to see real people by this light.”
This is the preoperational phase of childhood. It contains symbolic function which means one item could stand-in to another (Wood). The author seems to be trying to communicate the idea that “nobody” may refer to both a person or “nothing”. This is another misunderstanding between children and adults. However, this adult’s assertion is easier for Alice to accept than her previous revelation. This is a sign that she is psychologically moving closer to the official operations stage.
I wonder if I have been transformed during the night. Let’s think about this. Did I feel the same as I did when I woke up this morning. It’s almost like I remember feeling different. If I feel different, then the next question is “Who am I?” This is the great riddle!
“Can you tell us who you are?”
As Alice pursues her dream, she loses her self-respect. This is what most people experience when they reach puberty.
“When Alice is asked by the Caterpillar, “Who are you?” and Alice cannot even manage a response, “I–hardly know,” Carroll exposes the quintessential vulnerability that child. Their growth and knowledge of themselves and the world change so much from day to day, that any sense of an answerable identity becomes extremely precarious, if it not evanescent.” (Frey).
Alice is now at the point in the story where she has lost all her identity: adolescence.
“Children living in industrialized countries must be able to find their way on their own… They attempt to create an identity that is distinct from the ‘younger world’ that has been abandoned, and the older one that is still in reach’ (Henslin). Alice is left to her own devices, as the caterpillar doesn’t give any instructions.
“[She] is rarely helped by the animals that she encounters.” “Whereas in a Grimms or Andersen story or John Ruskin’s tale, the encounter of the protagonist with a helpful bird or beast would signify his or her generosity towards the world or nature,” (Frey). Alice in Wonderland is a story about a child’s journey through life, which is different from fairy tales. A child must make her own decisions in the real world.
This stage is known as transitional adulthood in sociology. This is when young adults “discover themselves” and young adults gradually relax into their responsibilities. They become serious. (Henslin). Alice is now able to manage her problems and has regained her senses of self.
Alice is finally able to mature because of the queen who loses her fury at Alice. She pulls out a previous mushroom from her pocket, then eats it. This allows her to overcome the obstacle and grow enormously. This is most likely a sign that she has confronted her anxiety and accepted responsibility.
Alice in Wonderland is an excellent representation of childhood and adulthood. Alice’s life is filled with good and bad choices, just like a child’s. Like most people, Alice learns from her mistakes and becomes more mature. She also has a better understanding of how to handle difficulties and how to see different situations.
“I am afraid that I won’t have the ability to explain myself, sir.” You see, I’m not me.”
Beyond the surface level of Alice in Wonderland, there are many hidden themes and messages that can be found when looking at the text critically. These ideas were not originally intended for children but rather to show adults a means of understanding their own world better. This blog post has given you some insight into one way that this book can be interpreted – do any others resonate with your experience?