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7-9-2020

Books

Alice in Wonderland

Alice in Wonderland


Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (commonly shortened to Alice in Wonderland) is an 1865 novel by English author Lewis Carroll (the pseudonym of Charles Dodgson).  It tells of a young girl named Alice, who falls through a rabbit hole into a subterranean fantasy world populated by peculiar, anthropomorphic creatures. It is considered to be one of the best examples of the literary nonsense genre. The tale plays with logic, giving the story lasting popularity with adults as well as with children.


One of the best-known and most popular works of English-language fiction, its narrative, structure, characters and imagery have been enormously influential in popular culture and literature, especially in the fantasy genre. The work has never been out of print, and it has been translated into at least 97 languages.  Its ongoing legacy encompasses many adaptations for stage, screen, radio, art, theme parks, board games, and video games. Carroll published a sequel in 1871, entitled Through the Looking-Glass, and a shortened version for young children, The Nursery "Alice", in 1890.





In The Annotated Alice, Martin Gardner provides background information for the characters. The members of the boating party that first heard Carroll's tale show up in Chapter 3 ("A Caucus-Race and a Long Tale"). Alice Liddell herself is there, while Carroll is caricatured as the Dodo (because Dodgson stuttered when he spoke, he sometimes pronounced his last name as Dodo-Dodgson). The Duck refers to Canon Duckworth, and the Lory and Eaglet to Alice Liddell's sisters Lorina and Edith.


Bill the Lizard may be a play on the name of British Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli.  One of Tenniel's illustrations in Through the Looking-Glass—the 1871 sequel to Alice—depicts the character referred to as the "Man in White Paper" (whom Alice meets as a fellow passenger riding on the train with her) as a caricature of Disraeli, wearing a paper hat.  The illustrations of the Lion and the Unicorn (also in Looking-Glass) bear a striking resemblance to Tenniel's Punch illustrations of Gladstone and Disraeli as well. 


Gardner has suggested that the Hatter is a reference to Theophilus Carter, a furniture dealer known in Oxford, and that Tenniel apparently drew the Hatter to resemble Carter, on a suggestion of Carroll's.  The Dormouse tells a story about three little sisters named Elsie, Lacie, and Tillie. These are the Liddell sisters: Elsie is L.C. (Lorina Charlotte); Tillie is Edith (her family nickname is Matilda); and Lacie is an anagram of Alice.


The Mock Turtle speaks of a drawling-master, "an old conger eel," who came once a week to teach "Drawling, Stretching, and Fainting in Coils." This is a reference to the art critic John Ruskin, who came once a week to the Liddell house to teach the children drawing, sketching, and painting in oils.



Carroll wrote multiple poems and songs for Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, including:


"All in the golden afternoon..."—the prefatory verse to the book, an original poem by Carroll that recalls the rowing expedition on which he first told the story of Alice's adventures underground

"How Doth the Little Crocodile"—a parody of Isaac Watts' nursery rhyme, "Against Idleness and Mischief"

"The Mouse's Tale"—an example of concrete poetry

"You Are Old, Father William"—a parody of Robert Southey's "The Old Man's Comforts and How He Gained Them"

The Duchess's lullaby, "Speak roughly to your little boy..."—a parody of David Bates' "Speak Gently"

"Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Bat"—a parody of Jane Taylor's "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star"

"The Lobster Quadrille"—a parody of Mary Botham Howitt's "The Spider and the Fly"

"'Tis the Voice of the Lobster"—a parody of Isaac Watts' "The Sluggard"

"Beautiful Soup"a parody of James M. Sayles's "Star of the Evening, Beautiful Star"

"Jabberwocky"

"The Queen of Hearts"—an actual nursery rhyme

"They told me you had been to her..."—White Rabbit's evidence




Symbolism

The book is to be filled with many parodies of Victorian popular culture, suggesting it belongs in spirit with W. S. Gilbert and Alfred Cellier's Topsyturveydom.


Most of the book's adventures may have been based on or influenced by people, situations, and buildings in Oxford and at Christ Church. For example, the "Rabbit Hole" symbolised the actual stairs in the back of the Christ Church's main hall. A carving of a griffon and rabbit, as seen in Ripon Cathedral, where Carroll's father was a canon, may have provided inspiration for the tale.


In the eighth chapter, three cards are painting the roses on a rose tree red, because they had accidentally planted a white-rose tree that The Queen of Hearts hates. Red roses symbolised the English House of Lancaster, while white roses symbolised their rival House of York, thus the wars between them were the Wars of the Roses.


While the book has remained in print and continually inspires new adaptations, the cultural material from which it draws has become largely specialized knowledge. Dr Leon Coward asserts the book 'suffers' from "readings which reflect today's fascination with postmodernism and psychology, rather than delving into an historically informed interpretation," and speculates that this has been partly driven by audiences encountering the narrative through a 'second-hand' source, explaining "our impressions of the original text are based on a multiplicity of reinterpretations. 


Alice in Wonderland is a “classic” because it is talking about a timeless truth and it contains a warning which is based on wisdom.


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