Lewis Carroll – “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” (1865)

The interpretations one can find when discussing nonsense literature, like Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (literature that uses “nonsensical” elements that defy conventional logic or the usual meaning of words), can be vast and various. It all depends on the reader. Both adults and children can enjoy this book, each of them for different reasons. As children, we can enjoy the phantasmagorical side of the story, reading it like a fairy-tale. As adults, we can appreciate more the subtleties of the language.

In trying to make sense of this story (as an adult), one can think of the “logic” of the dream. In a dream world, nothing makes sense, and yet, somehow, everything does. The dream world reflects the real world in which we live. Alice’s world is made of school, lessons, conformity (“How the creatures order one about, and make one repeat lessons! (…) I might just as well be at school at once.” – Chapter X), authority figures, which she doesn’t really accept (“Everybody says ‘come on!’ here (…) I never was so ordered about before, in all my life, never!” – Ch. IX). It is interesting to see that throughout her whole dream, Alice keeps a lucid and rational mind (“Right as usual (…) what a clear way you have of putting things”, Ch. IX). She never gives in to the madness that surrounds her, which is seen by others as a form of rebelliousness and, sometimes, rudeness. In this sense, if there’s one thing that Lewis Carroll tries to teach us, it is, maybe, to always keep our clarity of thought; we should always speak the truth, as Alice does, without compromises, resisting the pressures of conformity imposed by the people around her.

But, maybe, in the end, it is as JJ Lecercle put it: “Nonsense literature is effective because of the human desire to find meaning everywhere, in everything, and where perhaps none exists.”

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Works cited:

1. Carroll, Lewis – Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (http://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/c/carroll/lewis/alice/)

2. Lecercle, Jean-Jacques,1994 – Philosophy of nonsense: the intuitions of Victorian nonsense literature. Routledge. ISBN 978-0-415-07653-1 (http://books.google.com/books?id=98fiZnOEy9gC&printsec=frontcover&hl=ro#v=onepage&q&f=false)

3. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nonsense_literature


5 thoughts on “Lewis Carroll – “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” (1865)

      1. Agreed. The story seems so ahead of its time. I don’t know of any other nonsense stories from that period.

        Do you write all these yourself? How do you turn them out so quickly? It’s quite impressive

        1. I wrote them some time ago, they were published on another website that got closed down. I don’t write that fast :)) I didn’t want them to go to waste, so I re-published them on this blog.

  1. Regarding other nonsense literature from that time, you’re right, there isn’t much prose, but there is a lot of poetry – Edward Lear is the main exponent of that kind of verse. You could check out also S.T. Coleridge’s The Devil’s Thoughts, or J. Keats’ There was a naughty boy.

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