Alice in Wonderland as a Nonsense Creation of Lewis Carroll
In today’s society, it is nearly impossible to think of an original idea. Almost everything has been thought of before at some point. This is why Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland is so well known. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland is a novel about an extraordinary young girl who travels to another world full of misbehavior. During her adventure, she encounters many unique creatures and objects that have personalities of their own. It is a novel of complete nonsense. There are many components which influence his writing. He writes the story because Alice Liddell wants the verbal story she is told to be written down, he has a mathematical background, and he has abnormal eating habits. Lewis Carroll is influenced to write his nonsense novel by past encounters in his life.
The main character in the novel is Alice. This character is based off a real person—Alice Liddell. Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, although more commonly known as Lewis Carroll, is enrolled at Oxford University, and during this time, he becomes close with Harry Liddell, or the grand dean, and with his daughters. His daughters are Edith, Lorina, and Alice Liddell. He spends much time with them, and even takes photographs of them, as he considers himself to be a photographer. He becomes very close with the girls. It is slightly odd that Carroll had so many young, female friends, and, “Some suggest that Dodgson’s relationship with Liddell was more sinister than safe, but there’s no direct evidence to support this claim” (Masters). Carroll and the daughters often go on excursions together, and during one of their expeditions, they are traveling on the River Thames. The young girls want to hear a story. Lewis Carroll has quite the imagination and starts creating a story plot. This is the beginning Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Their travel on the boat takes quite a long time, as it is about five miles, which allows Carroll to create the intricate story. As he constructs every unique animal and talking object, the daughters are engrossed in the words he speaks. All three of the girls love the verbal tale, but Alice takes a special liking to it. She asks him to write the story down so that she can have her own copy and remember every detail. Wanting to obey Alice’s wishes, he starts writing down his story. It takes him two years to complete the story on paper, and on November 26th, 1864, he finally gives Alice her own copy. The novel was officially published on July 4th, 1865. Alice is ecstatic about the new literature, and not just because she shares the name of the main character. The beginning of the novel starts by mentioning, “Alice was beginning to get very tired of sitting by her sister on the bank, and of having nothing to do: once or twice she had peeped into the book her sister was reading, but it had no pictures or conversations in it, ‘and what is the use of a book,’ thought Alice, ‘without pictures or conversations?”’ (Carroll 1-2). This may be in reference to Alice Liddell. She is only ten years old when she is being told the story, and as most young girls do not enjoy reading books with few or no pictures, it is doubtless that she does not enjoy it either. Although she may not enjoy reading, Alice loves hearing stories and having one with her name is exhilarating, as most young girls would feel when they are based on the main role in a story. Lewis Carroll can easily refuse to write the story, he can say he prefer not to. Although he does not. He writes the book because he wants to please the dean and his daughter’s wishes. Without Alice Liddell, the bizarre novel that many have come to know would never have been created.
Lewis Carroll loves mathematics and logic. He is consistently trying to improve tasks and minimize the amount of time it takes to complete the task. He enjoys adding his sense of mathematics and logic into his literature and does it often. Many believe that, “What unifies Carroll’s oeuvre is the wit and colour apparent in the manifestations of his wide-ranging mathematical interests, particularly in geometry and logic,” (Abeles). The cards are a prime example of this. In his famous novel, cards have a somewhat important role. They appear at many different times, and each type of card has their own important position. The spades are gardeners, diamonds are courtiers, clubs are soldiers, and hearts are members of the royal family. In the novel, the cards have a human head, as well as human arms and legs. This signifies how Lewis Carroll can successfully incorporate his love of logic, and normal human characteristics to create an original character. Another example is the games of croquet. Professional croquet players perfect their technique by learning the angles, speed, and learning how hard to hit the ball. Although in this book, that has no meaning. One could hit the ball as hard as they possibly could, and the ball may only move a few inches. On the other hand, one could barely hit the ball, and it may travel a great distance. The physics in this game is illogical. Even the Mad Tea-Party could be used as an example. The Dormouse, Hare, and Hatter are moving and sitting at different places at the table, like numbers on a clock, although they have no sense of time. This shows prime examples of irony. His love for math must come from somewhere. In 1855, he works at Christ Church College in the University of Oxford, United Kingdom, as a mathematical lecturer. He even publishes ten books about math related topics. Carroll is convinced that games and logic puzzles give the solver a sense of power and satisfaction, which is why he includes so many brain-teasers in his writing. Bayley has identified that, “The 19th century was a turbulent time for mathematics, with many new and controversial concepts, like imaginary numbers, becoming widely accepted in the mathematical community. Putting Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland in this context, it becomes clear that Dodgson, a stubbornly conservative mathematician, used some of the missing scenes to satirize these radical new ideas.” One of his famous logical questions is mentioned in the novel. The Hatter often asks Alice the question, “Why is a raven like a writing desk?” (Carroll, 97). This philosophical and seemingly unanswerable question puzzles many. It is not until 1897 when Carroll puts forward an answer of his own. His explanation is, “Because it can produce few notes, though they are very flat; and it is never put with the wrong end in front!” (Carroll). Much of this novel includes unique and even unanswerable questions. The subtle amounts of math and logic in this novel make it so distinctive and unpredictable.
Food plays a critical role in the novel. Alice eats an assortment of food which changes her size in a dramatic way. In chapter one, she arrives in a room. In this room, there is a table with a bottle on it. As she drinks the strange substance, she shrinks a considerable amount. Shortly after, a small box with the words suddenly appears. She eats a small portion of the cake and grows until her head bashes into the roof. Immediately after Alice grew, she becomes curious as to why she could not see her own shoes. Alice exclaims, ‘“now I’m opening out like the largest telescope that ever was! Good-bye, feet!”’ (Carroll, 15). At this time, she cannot seem to find an unchanging height. Another example of her changing is in the Rabbit’s house. She wanders into the house and catches sight of a mysterious bottle. Drinking the fluid causes her to grow and get stuck in the house. Angry animals throw pebbles at her as she is sighted, they turned into cakes as they hit the floor, which allows her to shrink and leave the house. She leaves the house and runs into the woods where she meets the Caterpillar. He informs her how she can use mushrooms to control her height. This allows her to become in control of herself. On the other side of things, there are many times when Alice feels as though she is lacking self-control and therefore does not feel like herself. During Alice’s conversation with the Caterpillar she states, ‘“I can’t explain myself, I’m afraid, sir,’… ‘because I’m not myself you see”’ (Carroll, 60). During this time, she is unaware of who she truly is, so much that she cannot even describe herself. One of the most important meals in the story is the mad tea-party. With the unending talk of tea, the arguing, and the odd foods, this is one of the most unique settings. As Alice arrives, she is offered wine, although they have none. Ardagh voices that, “To the modern reader, the tea party comes across as madcap chaos, with everyone arguing and changing places, a dozing dormouse, meaningless riddles, stories of three sisters living at the bottom of a treacle well and much, much silliness.” This could not be truer. As one reads this chapter, they are overwhelmed. Outside of the novel, the world is mostly calm. As soon as someone reads this scene, they are submerged in another world. Alice does not end up eating anything at this time, and therefore she does not change sizes. Although one can only imagine what would happen if she eats at this setting.
Alice changing sizes can signify many things. Many have made the connection between size and maturity. When she takes on more responsibilities and acts more grown-up, she grows. On the other hand, when she makes impulsive and irrational decisions, she shrinks. Even in her real world, she is growing. She is constantly changing, as all children inevitably do. Carroll wants to prove that everyone grows, and this process can be uncomfortable. He exaggerates this process for Alice to prove his point. Many are not able to make a novel with food playing such an important role. Although, Carroll has inspiration. Lewis Carroll had an obsessively negative relationship with eating. He often binged and became obsessed with eating. This may be why he writes about food so often. In this novel, food is about more than just nourishment.
In the final analysis, Lewis Carroll is influenced to write his nonsense novel by past encounters in his life. His creativity is influenced by many things, including Alice Liddell wanting him to write his verbal story down, his love of math and logic, and his obsession with food. Lewis Carroll is a very creative and intelligent man. From his characters to his setting, he has readers on the edge of their seat from the first page to the last. One can only dream to write a novel as mesmerizing as his.
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