Thursday, 6 August 2015

Review: Alice in Wonderland

"Why is a raven like a writing desk?"

Title: Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass
Author: Lewis Carroll 
Year: 1965/1971
Publisher: Vintage
Pages: 327

7 year old Alice is sat under a tree in her garden and she’s bored. A white rabbit wearing a jacket and checking its pocket watch of course immediately grabs her attention and she follows it, even down into its rabbit hole. Curiously, upon entering the hole she starts falling, and keeps falling, and falling, and falling. So begin Alice’s adventures in wonderland.

 When it was first published in 1865 Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland mainly received bad reviews because it was seen as nonsense. By the time Through the Looking Glass was published in 1871, though, it had gained critical acclaim. Up to this day it’s one of the most widely known children’s stories. Often both of Alice’s adventures are bundled in one volume, as was mine. This review will thus be of both Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass.

This novel works on so many levels, and all these layers are worth exploring and studying, making it a book that can be read over and over again. And you have to, if you really want to understand it. Linguistically, it is so interesting, it makes you think about language, it makes you consider every word you’re saying. However, sometimes the language is incredibly difficult to understand, it doesn’t always make sense. This is mostly so when reading the poems integrated in the story. They’re very hard to understand, but they do add to the story.

In terms of the main plot, a lot happens as well, and many things can be analysed in very different ways. I feel like Alice’s discomfort – never being quite the right size, is something that likely alludes to puberty, meaning the target audience is slightly older than children. But it also speaks to me as a young woman who’s just finishing up her master’s degree and has to venture into the real world, but doesn’t really know how to fit in. This ties in with Alice’s realisation that not all puzzles seem to have a solution – some things just don’t make sense, and you have to give in to that. This struggle is continued in Through the Looking Glass where Alice learns that she cannot control everything that happens to her, which is represented by the chess game. Hashtag relatable!

I myself had interpreted the mushroom as a kind of drugs – allowing all the weirdness. But I read somewhere that people see the caterpillar as a symbol for sexuality because of its phallic shape, and the mushrooms – given to her by this caterpillar – would help her gain control of puberty as it helps her change sizes. This all worries me slightly, as Alice is seven… but I am interested in hearing whether people agree and have evidence from the novel for this claim?

All in all, I really loved this novel. It intrigued me in terms of language, and I didn’t expect its themes to relate so much to my situation. I was a little annoyed by Alice in the first book, but in the second she was much less of a brat.  What did bother me greatly were the lousy endings to both novels. 

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