Saturday, June 8, 2013

Wonderland - Six Impossible Things Before Breakfast

To say this review is mocking me is an understatement. I feel like these words that have jumped out at me from this little fairy tale is a bully on a playground back at my old Elementary school. Alice and her menagerie of characters are taunting me with words that I'm not sure I understand and smiling at me in such a way that makes me think that they might very well hold the secret to happiness.

Upon finishing my copy of Alice's adventures, I was left kind of befuddled. I've never even used the word befuddled before but somehow it seems like the only appropriate expression to describe my feelings. Vowing to sleep on it for a night, I put it aside and the next morning I began reading what I could about the lore surrounding this beloved tale.

I really wish I hadn't.

My initial reaction to Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass was this.

I had never read it before and my only experience with the fairy tale itself is a vague memory of the Disney movie, a made for TV movie that I don't remember liking very much, and Jefferson Airplane creating a beautifully haunting song about this tale that most likely supports the drug idea.
                                    Sidebar: If you have no idea what I'm talking about then here.
                                 Also, learn your hippy culture. It's kind of disgraceful at this point if you don't know this song.

I knew going in that most claim this is a tale about drugs and with only a few chapters behind me, I felt like looking at these people and asking them if they thought it was about drugs because they were on drugs themselves? I'm not judging or anything. Just curious because these so called “obvious” drug references weren't making themselves known to me. What's that you say? There was a Caterpillar smoking hooka? Right. My apologies. That obviously denotes a full on acid trip the author was having about a little girl. Oh, but wait. The girl was eating and drinking things that ended up altering her perception of herself? My morning cup of coffee does the same thing. I know, I know. Why didn't I see it before? In fact, these little nuances of the story explains so much about my own writing. Thank you, you drug reference seekers. Please review Peter Pan next and tell me about the pixie dust. (sarcasm mostly done. Promise.)

From what I could gather, Alice is a little girl wandering through the creative mind that she has managed to mold around her. Whether she is walking through a dream or she is playing pretend in her living room, is up for debate. As she makes her way through Wonderland, she meets a cast of characters who all offer tales and wisdom which are described in such ways that the young and the yet to be educated seem to have a knack for. If you don't know what I'm talking about, go listen to a child ramble about their day for a bit. The way they understand the world and the words we use in them is vastly different than our our. Carroll loves to play with this, taking words that we automatically see one way and twisting them into something entirely different. Alice's journey is a mish mash of word play, imagination and nonsensical moments that we all have while dreaming, and some of us even have while pondering life during the quite moments of our day. (And while on drugs. See guys? I'm not forgetting about you!)

When looking further into this tale, I ran across a lot of different things that always make me a bit sad to be a literature major. People have of course dived into this story, picking it apart until there is nothing left and then treating it as an atom and dividing it some more. Suddenly Alice is a metaphor for the struggles of puberty (she doesn't like this being little and big scenario all that much and comments about how terribly confusing it all is). The caterpillar is seen as a sexual predator, obviously after the small girl. The Garden Alice is so desperately trying to get into is of course the Garden of Eden (because all gardens in literature are for some reason) and the tale itself is about a child trying to come terms with the fact that death is very real. We can also take a more mathematical approach to it and view the mushroom as Alice's way of understanding the properties she needs to manipulate in order to regain her proper size. There are theories and there are passionate essays out there that go in to much more detail that I will here and if you are a person who wishes to read more of those, I highly suggest this site ( ). It has everything Alice related you could want to know. Here's the thing about all those theories though and it is a problem we face in school and in what is meant to be scholarly critics of a work of a literature. Sometimes, authors just write in order to create a story. That's it. That's the big secret. They don't always sit down and try to figure out what Alice is going to mean to the rest of the world. They don't always take into consideration that people out there are going to be analyzing their characters every action and looking for the deeper meaning in this piece of text simply because they can't find the deeper meaning in life. Sometimes, authors write what they think is good and funny and enjoyable and then they sit down at night and move on. Motifs and symbolism often times go too far in literature and I think Alice is a victim of that more than anything else.

"I'm very much afraid I didn't mean anything but nonsense. Still, you know, words mean more than we mean to express when we use them; so a whole book ought to mean a great deal more than the writer means. So, whatever good meanings are in the book, I'm glad to accept as the meaning of the book."(source: Collingwood, "The Life and Letters of Lewis Carroll")

In the authors words, it was never intended as anything more than a fairy tale. Of course, we shouldn't discredit how people view literature because often times it tells us more about the people reading the tale, than the tale itself. But, in the case of Alice, I think its also important to remember that nonsense is fun and the wild imaginings that have been produced from this tale are timeless and obviously hold a sense of power over us.

Now that I'm done with that rant, I would like to ask one thing. Did Alice annoy anyone else? Seriously, kid. Shut up. Stop interrupting the tale of the Jabberwocky and just sit and listen for a minute.

If you are looking for other Wonderland-esque stories, I suggest Neil Gaiman's Neverwhere. Before even reading Wonderland, I thought that Gaiman made some beautiful references to the text.

Also, if you are interested in seeing what else I will be reading this month, view my previous post, June Reads, here:

Disagree with me about Alice? Please let me know. Comment below or mail me through my authors profile on the side. Also, go like my facebook page in the sidebar in order to keep up to date on when I post.

And, as always...

No comments:

Post a Comment