End of “Through the Looking-Glass”

Chapter VIII: “It’s My Own Invention”

1. “This took a long time to manage, though Alice held the bag open very carefully, because the Knight was so very awkward in putting in the dish: the first two or three times that he tried he fell in himself instead” (AA 237).

I love when Carroll manipulates physical dimensions, allowing a whole man to fit inside his saddlebag. I think transcending the physical restrictions of reality is an essential element of the imagination. Plus, this passage reminds me of Hermione’s all-consuming bag in Harry Potter, on which she casts a spell that extends the internal dimensions of the bag without affecting its external appearance.

Screen Shot 2015-09-26 at 4.27.33 PM
Hermione’s bag

Chapter IX: Queen Alice

2. “‘[The White Queen] never was really well brought up,’ the Red Queen went on: ‘but it’s amazing how good-tempered she is! Pat her on the head, and see how pleased she’ll be!’ But this was more than Alice had courage to do” (AA 257).

The Red Queen is a bit more subtly mean here than her counterpart in Alice’s Adventures, who was quite verbose about wanting certain heads removed. She treats the White Queen like an animal, marveling over how “good-tempered” she acts and asking Alice to “pat” her on the head. One thing that I didn’t understand about this passage, however, was the last line. Does Alice view patting the queen on the head as a nice gesture, and thus, she doesn’t have the courage to simply be so forward? Or, is she aware of the degrading nature of the act, and doesn’t have the courage to be so belittling? I’m a bit confused as to how Alice’s “courage” plays into it.

3. “‘What is it, now?’ the Frog said in a deep hoarse whisper.

Alice turned round, ready to find fault with anybody. ‘Where’s the servant whose business it is to answer the door?’ She began angrily.

‘Which door?’ said the Frog.

Alice almost stamped with irritation at the slow drawl in which he spoke. ‘This door, of course!’” (AA 259).

We witness a side of “Alice, the Bad” in this scene, who seems to be overcome with a queen’s pretentious sense of self-importance after seeing the inscription “Queen Alice” over a door. Even though Alice has been on the receiving end of many creatures’ irritation (the Duchess’s, the Mad Hatter’s…), she shows no sympathy or patience for the frog. Moreover, the fact that she “almost stamped with irritation” portrays her as a somewhat petulant child, not as a queen.

Petulant children
Petulant children

4. “‘You look a little shy: let me introduce you to that leg of mutton,’ said the Red Queen. ‘Alice—Mutton: Mutton—Alice.’ The leg of mutton got up in the dish and made a little bow to Alice; and Alice returned the bow, not knowing whether to be frightened or amused” (AA 261).

As if we needed any additional incentive to consider Carroll’s portrayal of animals, he literally resurrects Alice’s sheep meat, anthropomorphizing it to the point that it has the courtesy to bow. The Red Queen doesn’t even allow Alice to eat it because they’ve been introduced, and it certainly wouldn’t be “civil” to eat something she’s met.

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Bowing mutton

Chapter X: Shaking

5. “She took her off the table as she spoke, and shook her backwards and forwards with all her might” (AA 267).

As we soon discovery that the Red Queen is actually the kitten, I’m a bit concerned as to how roughly she was shaking poor black kitten. Unlike in Wonderland, reality has consequences for physical tussles.


“The Hunting of the Snark”

1. “There was also a Beaver, that paced on the deck, / Or would sit making lace in the bow: / And had often (the Bellman said) saved them from wreck, / Though none of the sailors knew how” (Anthology 393).
In portraying the Beaver as one who often “mak[es] lace,” a stereotypically effeminate pastime, Carroll ascribes a gentle nature to the animal. At the same time, the beaver seems to possess a mysterious yet significant power in that he/she has often prevented potential shipwrecks. Because Carroll gives so much attention to animals in Alice, I don’t think it would be too far fetched to suggest that Carroll uses the Beaver’s status as a model for that of all animals – highly important, yet frequently gone unrecognized.

2. “The loss of his clothes hardly mattered, because / He had seven coats on when he came, / With three pair of boots – but the worst of it was, / He had wholly forgotten his name” (Anthology 394).
This initially reminded me of when Alice visited the wood of no-names (AA Ch III) and temporarily forgot who she was. Carroll seems to be quite interested in self-identity or lack thereof, as the worst part of the Baker’s misfortune is that “he had wholly forgotten his name.” However, Carroll’s use of “no-name” functions differently in “The Hunting of the Snark” than it does in Alice. While in Alice, Alice’s loss of identity allows her to befriend a fawn, thus transcending cultural preconceptions of man/animal relationships, in “The Hunting of the Snark,” the Baker’s lack of a name causes no immediate results.

In fact, his name-less reality doesn’t reappear until the end of the poem just before he disappears upon finding the Snark: “They beheld him—their Baker—their hero unnamed – ” (Anthology 416). Perhaps, Carroll is making a comment on the historical reality that many heroes go unrecorded or unrecognized, lost to time. Or, perhaps the Baker doesn’t have a name because he simply functions as a medium to elicit the crews fear and perpetuate their belief in the Snark. After all, it was his haunting tale that introduced the existence of the Boojum, and the Baker’s body was never found. Did he ever exist?

No Identity  Source:http://weheartit.com/entry/group/1911646
No Identity

3. “That the Captain they trusted so well / Had only one notion for crossing the ocean, / And that was to tingle his bell” (Anthology 398).
I’m a bit confused as to the significance of the Captain’s bell. Is it a representation of his masculinity which he indulges by embarking upon a dangerous quest in hunt of a mysterious creature?

4. “And the Bellman cried ‘Silence! Not even a shriek!’ … ‘My father and mother were honest, though poor—’ / ‘Skip all that!’ cried the Bellman in haste” (Anthology 401).
In “Fit the Third: The Baker’s Tale,” the Bellman demands absolute silence and then proceeds to rudely interrupt the Baker’s story on two occasions. I found that his complete defiance of his own rule reminded me of the Red Queen and King’s inclination for loud interjections (“Off with their heads!” AA 83, “Stolen!” AA 113). Carroll portrays the Bellman as a very impatient listener who doesn’t take good care of his crew – a poor quality in a leader.

5. “And even the Butcher felt queer. / He thought of his childhood, left far far behind— / That blissful and innocent state— / The sound so exactly recalled to his mind / A pencil that squeaks on a slate!” (Anthology 407-8).
During his hunt for the Snark, the Butcher hears a “scream, shrill and high” (Anthology 407). Thoroughly frightened by the possibility of death, he reminisces on the safety and innocence of his childhood. I’m not a bit surprised that Carroll would depict childhood as the highlight of one’s life, for at the end of Alice he portrays it as a magical time full of imagination compared to the harsh reality of adult life: “So she sat on, with closed eyes, and half believed herself in Wonderland, though she knew she had but to open them again, and all would change to dull reality” (AA 126).
Additionally, it’s interesting to note the Butcher recalls his lessons – represented by “A pencil that squeaks on a slate!” – with a sense of nostalgia, suggesting that even one’s tedious childhood lessons are preferable to adult life.

6. “While the Beaver confessed, with affectionate looks / More eloquent even than tears, / It had learnt in ten minutes far more than all books / Would have taught it in seventy years” (Anthology 410).
I was a little surprised by this line, for it would appear that Carroll is questioning the effectiveness of books. However, after some contemplation, I don’t think Carroll is diminishing academic texts/studies but rather emphasizing the importance of a passionate and good teacher.

Note the flying pigs on the right!
Note the flying pigs on the right!

7. “[The Beaver and Butcher] returned hand-in-hand, and the Bellman, unmanned / (For a moment) with noble emotion, / Said, ‘This amply repays all the wearisome days We have spent on the billowy ocean!’” (Anthology 411).
Among this rugged sea crew, Carroll portrays emotion as the antithesis of masculinity, for the Bellman is “unmanned” by “noble emotion.” The adjective “noble” is significant as it conveys that even well justified displays of emotion (not pathetic or undignified) remain in direct opposition to the nature of man. To me, it’s not completely clear as to whether Carroll supports such notions or if he’s creating a parody of them.

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Kate Bernheimer on Fairy Tales

1. “We know how to speak fairytales.”

I didn’t fully understand what Bernheimer meant when she said this. However, after she showed several images, I realized that I was relating each image with a fairy tale. Well versed in the quintessential elements of our favorite fairy tales (e.g. two lost children, long hair, cruel stepmother), we are able effortlessly identify the language in visual arts, reproductions, adaptations, discussions, etc…

I think there is considerable credence in defining fairytales as a unique language that one “speaks.” Having taken three linguistics courses, I have heard multiple times that languages are easier to acquire and perfect when young, for after a certain age, it becomes increasingly difficult for the brain to learn a new language. Thus, it makes sense that the language of fairytales, taught to us as children, remains with us even as adults.

However, as I never read Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland as a young girl, the story didn’t fully infiltrate my language of fairytales. In addition to this, to me, Carroll’s prose is uniquely his own. After all, I can hardly see the following interaction appear in a “classic” Grimm tale:
“‘I see nobody on the road,’ said Alice.
‘I only wish I had such eyes,’ the King remarked in a fretful tone. ‘To be able to see Nobody! And at that distance too!’” (AA 222-3)

I hope that by the end of this class I can speak Carroll, in addition to speaking fairytale.

Rapunzel II by Natalie Frank
Rapunzel II by Natalie Frank. By merely seeing her golden, braided hair, we identify Rapunzel.

2. “There are several techniques applicable to fairytales: depthlessness, magic, abstraction…”

Unfortunately, I didn’t get down every technique Bernheimer mentioned in relation to fairytales, but the list I did jot down perfectly coincides with Carroll’s Alice. Magic appears when a DRINK ME bottle transforms Alice into a ten-inch high figure (AA 17). Additionally, abstraction emerges when the Caterpillar asks Alice the poignant, mysterious, and unanswerable question, “Who are you?” (AA 47).

However, my favorite technique mentioned by Bernheimer is depthlessness, for Wonderland physically and philosophically goes beyond defined boundaries. For one, it literally resides in a depth below the earth, in the “underground.” For another, it’s comprised of logical and linguistically-inclined animals. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland is inherently depthless, for it enables both Alice and the reader to go into the depths of their imagination and explore.

Down the rabbit hole Source: youthvoices.net
Down the rabbit hole
Source: youthvoices.net
Possibilities of imagination Source:http://garymvasey.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/book_of_imagination_by_t1na-d7mlgj9.jpg
Possibilities of imagination


9/24 Through the Looking-Glass (2)

1. “‘But it certainly was funny,’ (Alice said afterwards, when she was telling her sister the history of all this,) ‘to find myself singing ‘Here we go round the mulberry bush.’ I don’t know when I began it, but somehow I felt as if I’d been singing it a long long time!’” (AA 182).

I didn’t completely love this unexpected reference to harsh reality, post-Wonderland. Even though Alice sometimes mentions her sisters and her cat in Alice’s Adventures, I don’t recall Carroll including any direct references to her time after leaving. The entire narrative (until the very end, of course) remains in Wonderland. However, now, in Through the Looking-Glass Carroll drags us a little back to reality with this parenthetical note during the midst of a fantastical dancing scene with Tweedledum and Tweedledee and musical tree branches. What is his purpose in including this note? Is this to draw back in the “practical” reader whose suspension of disbelief is dwindling?

However, despite my grumblings about this parenthetical note, it’s promising that Carroll uses the word “history” rather than “story,” as the former adds a sort of credence and sincerity to the event, as if Alice were definitely recounting fact, not fiction.

2. “‘If I wasn’t real,’ Alice said—half-laughing through her tears, it all seemed so ridiculous—‘I shouldn’t be able to cry’” (AA 189).

I had to stop for a moment after I read this passage because it seemed like something I would read in a regular fiction novel. After Tweedledum and Tweedledee force her to confront the possibility that she’s a figment of the King’s dream, Alice responds like any mature young woman – both crying at subconscious fear and laughing to hide feeling overwhelmed. I wonder if this is a sign that Alice has matured since the first book.

Additionally, this passage is quite interesting, for in saying, “If I wasn’t real…I shouldn’t be able to cry,” Alice suggests that sorrow is a true marker of reality. In contrast, to Alice, unreality or imagination represents a state/place in which sadness cannot exist, only joy.

3. “‘You know,’ [Tweedledee] added very gravely, ‘it’s one of the most serious things that can possibly happen to one in a battle—to get one’s head cut off’” (AA 191-2).

Much like in Wile E. Coyote and the Three Stooges, it appears that Carroll uses the threat of lethal violence to create humor. Alice responds just as children did by laughing right after Tweedledee’s understatement concerning decapitation.

4. “I daresay you haven’t had much practice,’ said the Queen. ‘When I was your age, I always did it for half-an-hour a day. Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast’” (AA 199).

I clearly remember this last line in Tim Burton’s reproduction of Alice in Wonderland (2010). However, in the film it first appears when Alice remarks to her unappealing suitor, “My father said he sometimes believed in six impossible things before breakfast” (Burton, 6:40). Thus, I was surprised that the line actually comes from the mouth of the White Queen, and not Alice, in Carroll’s book. In the context of the book, it makes sense that the White Queen would say it, for the phrase epitomizes the fantastical nature of Wonderland, separate from Alice. On the other hand, in having Alice say it in the movie, it serves to tie Alice to Wonderland by emphasizing her wild imagination. Burton takes the phrase and runs with it, actually bringing it back in Alice’s final fight with the Jabberwocky, where she recounts six impossible things to give her courage.

5. “‘Let’s hear it,’ said Humpty Dumpty. ‘I can explain all poems that ever were invented—and a good many that haven’t been invented just yet’” (AA 214).

Is Carroll suggesting that most poems, or at least the poems of his time, had the same messages, said the same thing? Thus, in a world full of identical poetry, he had create some nonsense to stand out?

Or perhaps, Humpty Dumpty’s statement is simply another nonsensical remark?

9/20 Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There

1. “One thing was certain, that the white kitten had had nothing to do with it – it was the black kitten’s fault entirely. For the white kitten had been having its face washed by the old cat for the last quarter of an hour (and bearing it pretty well, considering): so you see that it couldn’t have had any hand in the mischief” (AA 137).

I think this passage represents a very suitable start to the Alice sequel, for Carroll establishes some of his common themes. We begin with a very matter-of-fact statement, conveyed through the italics of “white” and “couldn’t” – the black kitten is guilty of some unknown crime; the white kitten is innocent. However, despite the ostensibly black and white nature of the current situation (forgive the pun), we, the reader, have no idea what Alice is talking about – a usual occurrence while reading Carroll. He has a wonderful skill of making things seem quite matter-of-fact but, at the same time, a little confusing, if not nonsensical.

With Kate Bernheimer’s dictionary definition of fairytales still in mind as “cautionary tales with morals for children,” I can’t help but wonder what Carroll wants to achieve by opening with a “right/wrong” situation, in which the white kitten (white usually associated with purity, innocence) is in the right, and the black kitten (black usually associated with sin) is in the wrong. Perhaps, in later revealing that the black kitten’s great “mischief” is simply playing with Alice’s yarn, Carroll turns the presupposition of fairytales implementing morals on its head.

Evil vs. Good

2. “‘Suppose they had saved up all my punishments?’ she went on, talking more to herself than the kitten. ‘What would they do at the end of a year? I should be sent to prison, I suppose, when the day came’” (AA 140).

Alice is surprisingly very self-aware in this scene. Moreover, the fact that she’s confessing her awareness of her numerous past offenses in the presence of a kitten reminded me of Calvin and Hobbes’s close relationship.

Professor Bump’s focus on animals in Carroll’s work also has me wondering about the role animals will adopt in this sequel. In Wonderland, the Cheshire-Cat seemed to act as one of Alice’s few friends in the novel. Here, we once again encounter a cat who acts as “some one [willing] to listen to her” (AA 86).

Calvin confesses to Hobbes
Calvin confesses to Hobbes

3. “‘I’ve been in many gardens before, but none of the flowers could talk.’

‘Put your hand down, and feel the ground,’ said the Tiger-lily. ‘Then you’ll know why.’

Alice did so. ‘It’s very hard,’ she said; ‘but I don’t see what that has to do with it.’

‘In most gardens,’ the Tiger-lily said, ‘they make the beds too soft – so that the flowers are always asleep’” (AA 159).

Here, Carroll provides an interesting metaphor for the idea that one’s greatest growth and success occurs while under adversity. The maxim that hardships make one stronger is conveyed through the flowers’ ability to talk only while in dry soil. Alice, the character, also brings this idea to life in Alice’s Adventures, for while struggling in Wonderland, a nonsensical place full of strangers and dangers, Alice grows as an individual, discovering a piece of her identity and finding self-confidence.

4. “‘I think I’ll go down and – no, I wo’n’t go just yet,’ she went on, checking herself just as she was beginning to run down the hill, and trying to find some excuse for turning shy so suddenly. ‘It’ll never do to go down among them without a good long branch to brush them away’” (AA 169).

Alice’s reaction to the elephant bees perfectly reflects what Professor Bump mentioned in class – how fear can cause us to respond violently. Though initially curious of the elephants, Alice becomes abruptly very afraid of the large creatures – an unstated fact, yet conveyed through her sudden timidity. Thus, full of fear, she turns to violence, declaring that she certainly couldn’t visit the elephants before acquiring a stick to “brush them away” if necessary. In the end, she chooses to avoid her fear all together, going the other way.

  1. A new difficulty came into Alice’s head. ‘Supposing it couldn’t find any?’ she suggested.

‘Then it would die, of course.’

‘But that must happen very often,’ Alice remarked thoughtfully.

‘It always happens,’ said the Gnat.

After this, Alice was silent for a minute or two, pondering.

In Alice and the Gnat’s discussion of the brief life of a Bread-and-butter-fly, we encounter Carroll’s second direct reference to death (the first being at the end of the mouse’s tale). Though it only concerns the death of a small insect, the reference succeeds in evoking an emotional response from the audience, perhaps due to Alice’s reaction. By silently pondering, Alice almost invites the reader to consider the inevitability and constancy of death – a somewhat serious topic for a “children” book but a poignant issue for adult readers, supporting the reality that Alice is often read by adults.

9/17 Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland 110-136

1. “The judge, by the way, was the King; and as he wore his crown over the wig (look at the frontispiece if you want to see how he did it), he did not look at all comfortable, and it was certainly not becoming” (AA 111).

I would deduce that Carroll includes the detail of the King wearing his crown over his judge’s wig to convey the King’s insecurity concerning his position of power. After all, wearing both the crown and wig suggests overcompensation. Additionally, I wonder why the King, and the not the Queen, served as judge, as it seems that the Queen is the dominate one in the relationship with the King merely following her whims. In the Victorian era, would it have been simply too avant-garde for a woman to act as a judge?

Source: http://www.ebbemunk.dk/alice/alice5.html

2. “The twelve jurors were all writing very busily on slates … ‘They’re putting down their names,’ the Gryphon whispered in reply, ‘for fear they should forget them before the end of the trial’” (AA 111).

I was intrigued by Carroll’s portrayal of the jurymen as stupid creatures who feared forgetting their own names in the course of a trial. Perhaps, he was criticizing the court system of the Victorian Era, just as Charles Dickens did in Bleak House a decade earlier.

3. “Just at this moment Alice felt a very curious sensation, which puzzled her a good deal until she made out what it was: she was beginning to grow larger again” (AA 113-114).

As Alice’s sudden growth is not preceded by her consumption of any DRINK ME liquids or EAT ME foods, her change in size serves as our first indication of her body slowly returning to the real world. It’s interesting to note that her increased size also allows her to go out with a bang, as it gives her the courage to stand up to the Queen and King at the end of the final chapter (AA 124).

4. “‘It’s the oldest rule in the book,’ said the King. ‘Then it ought to be Number One,’ said Alice” (AA 120).

I loved Alice’s gumption in this exchange! She was always practical, but, here, she seems to have really applied the quick cleverness she’s learned in Wonderland from other characters, such as the Cheshire-Cat. Additionally, I believe this would classify as a joke which involves logic, and would thus be quite easy to translate into other languages, unlike Carroll’s puns and parodies (Anthology 567).

5. “‘Never!’ said the Queen, furiously, throwing an inkstand at the Lizard as she spoke. (The unfortunate little Bill had left off writing on his slate with one finger, as he found it made no mark; but he now hastily began again, using the ink, that was trickling down his face, as long as it lasted.)” (AA 124).

I’m really quite shocked by how poorly the Lizard Bill has been treated up until this point – Alice has kicked him out of a chimney, stolen his squeaky pencil, and placed him in the jury-box head downwards. Now, the queen assaults him with ink, which he proceeds to quickly use in order to fulfill his job as a juror. This last incident portrays Bill in such a pitiful light as to evoke a good deal of sympathy from the reader. I wonder why Carroll didn’t distribute these random acts of punishment more evenly among the numerous creatures.

Source: http://www.loveitsomuch.com/stores/vintage-lizard-bill-hit-w-black-ink,397051.html/full

6. “Lastly, she pictured to herself how this same little sister of hers would, in the after-time, be herself a grown woman; and how she would keep, though all her riper years, the simple and loving heart of her childhood” (AA 126-127).

I never imagined Alice’s tale to end from the point of view of someone other than Alice. However, through Alice’s older sister, I believe that Carroll skillfully inserts his own perception and hopes for Alice Liddell. While Alice, the person, is still a young girl, Dodgson (from a place of unfortunate reality) looks upon her with joy and love.

Reality Vs. Fantasy  Source:http://drafairies3.deviantart.com/art/Reality-Vs-Fantasy-184379230
Reality Vs. Fantasy

9/15 – Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland 79-110

1. “In another minute the whole head appeared, and then Alice put down her flamingo, and began an account of the game, feeling very glad she had some one to listen to her” (AA 86).

Though a basic reading, this passage reminded me of my best friend, Mikaela, who always seems to show up when I need someone to listen to my complaints. I wonder if Carroll based the Cheshire-Cat on one of his close friends.

My best friend, Mikky, and I
My best friend, Mikky, and I

2. “[And] they all quarrel so dreadfully one ca’n’t hear oneself speak – and they don’t seem to have any rules in particular: at least, if there are, nobody attends to them – and you’ve no idea how confusing it is all the things being alive” (AA 86).

Our last blog got me thinking about how many of the events and ideas in Alice can pertain to real life. To me, this passage, in particular, reflects the chaotic nature of life in general. Just as Alice desperately wants some form of guidelines to manage the game, we often want life to have rules or just, governing laws that make our lives safe and predictable. However, in reality, with “all the things being alive,” we must navigate the variable and sometimes difficult waves of humanity, for all living creatures have their own agendas and desires.

3. “‘When I’m a Duchess,’ she said to herself (not in a very hopeful tone, though), ‘I wo’n’t have any pepper in my kitchen at all. Soup does very well without—Maybe it’s always pepper that makes people hot-tempered,’ she went on, very much pleased at having found out a new kind of rule” (AA 90).

I think one of the most intriguing things about Alice, which this scene portrays, is that she’s a conundrum! On the one hand, she shows some semblance of practicality by recognizing her unlikely chance at becoming a Duchess – “(not in a very hopeful tone, though)” – but within the same minute, she makes the deduction that food gives people their temperament – “Maybe it’s always pepper that makes people hot-tempered.” She can be timid (ex. when approaching strangers, AA 67) or incredibly brave (ex. when she stands up to the queen, AA 82). I guess, in reality, we’re all mysteries, even to ourselves. Perhaps, that’s why Alice is so inexplicably relatable.

4. “‘I’ve a right to think,’ said Alice sharply, for she was beginning to feel a little worried. ‘Just about as much right,’ said the Duchess, ‘as pigs have to fly; and the m—‘ But here, to Alice’s great surprise, the Duchess’s voice died away” (AA 93).

I was a bit perplexed by the Duchess’s disparagement of “thinking” at the start of this chapter. Carroll portrays her as an ugly and undignified character. Possibly, he’s also suggesting that the Duchess supports speaking without first thinking. Or, perhaps, Alice’s “thinking” holds little weight in the topsy-turvy world of Wonderland.

Screen Shot 2015-09-10 at 9.42.54 AM

5. “‘Why, she,’ said the Gryphon. ‘It’s all her fancy, that: they never executes nobody, you know. Come on!’” (AA 95).

I found this final statement to be incredibly curious, especially considering the footnote, which suggests “nobody” is actually somebody. Either way, from what I have thus read of Alice, Carroll appears quite lexically conscientious, often relying on grammatical or syntactic logic for jokes and arguments. Thus, I find it slightly odd that he doesn’t apply subject/verb agreement here, as the plural subject, “they,” doesn’t agree with the verb conjugation in “executes.” Is Carroll implying that the Gryphon doesn’t know basic grammatical principles? Or does the significance lie in a level of lexical complexity beyond me?

Screen Shot 2015-09-10 at 9.51.28 AM

6. “‘Well, I never heard it before,’ said the Mock Turtle; ‘but it sounds uncommon nonsense’” (AA 107).

I love how the Mock Turtle deems Alice’s poem “uncommon” nonsense in a world that is, at its core, nonsensical. It’s as if the Mock Turtle is only willing to go so far in his suspension of disbelief. I wonder what the parameters are for accepted nonsense in Wonderland.

Suspension of disbelief – We once thought this looked “real.” Now, it’s a bit more like nonsense.

9-10 Alice: A Guide to College

1. “‘I don’t know of any [cats] that do,’ Alice said very politely, feeling quite pleased to have got into a conversation. ‘You don’t know much,’ said the Duchess; ‘and that’s a fact.’ Alice did not at all like the tone of this remark, and thought it would be as well to introduce some other subject of conversation” (AA 61).

Alice’s exchange with the Duchess in this passage mirrors a student’s worst nightmare in the classroom. Though I’ve never had a teacher as rude as the Duchess, I’m often held back from speaking up in class for fear of being shot down or sounding dumb. Though I may not feel smart enough to provide intelligent commentary in the classroom, Alice does not share a similar fear in expressing her own thoughts. In fact, despite being surrounded by strangers (as students often are in the classroom), she upholds her ideas and experiences rather than allowing fear to muffle her voice. She even displays one possible mode of response to a rude comeback: change the subject.

2. “The Hatter opened his eyes very wide on hearing this; but all he said was ‘Why is a raven like a writing-desk?'” (AA 70).

This riddle embodies all the most difficult questions I have heard in college, especially the ones for which I had not a clue how to answer. Sometimes, you may have to admit, like Alice, that you simply don’t know, “‘No, I give it up,’ Alice replied” (AA 72).

3. “Now, if you only kept on good terms with him, he’d do almost anything you liked with the clock. For instance, suppose it were nine o’ clock in the morning, just time to begin lessons: you’d only have to whisper a hint to Time, and round goes the clock in a twinkling! Half-past one, time for dinner!” (AA 73).

I love Carroll’s personification of time in this passage. The flexibility of time and its ability to bend to suite the whims of its friends serves as another mystical element of the novel’s created world. In portraying time as a friend with whom you want to stay on good terms, Carroll encourages the reader to appreciate time and to give it the value it deserves. This can certainly apply to students who would love nothing more than to skip “lessons” or studying for the day. However, as we unfortunately do not reside in Wonderland, our goal should be to find some way to enjoy the moment, to stay present rather than looking forward to the weekend.

The White Rabbit is one of the most ostensibly time-sensitive characters.
The White Rabbit is one of the most ostensibly time-sensitive characters.

4. “‘It’s really dreadful…how all the creatures argue,’ Alice mutters to herself at one point, as if the strain of constant logic-chopping was wearing for the author” (Anthology 281).

College can often feel like a constant intellectual battle, especially at such an academically rigorous college as UT. Just as Alice must repeatedly defend her statements and beliefs, I’ve also reached the point of weariness in class discussions and persuasive essays. However, this is not necessarily a bad thing. In fact, disagreements or debates teach you to cultivate well-founded arguments and motivate you to make personal decisions, like when Alice takes matters into her own hands and enters the Duchess’s house without the footman’s aid (AA 60).


5. “Alice is also a hero because she encourages us to “know thyself.” Not only to venture into the unknown in life, but to venture into our soul and deep within our heart to find out who we are” (Anthology 286).

I found this commentary on Alice to be very insightful and applicable to college life, for while we are all on a physical adventure – meeting new people, attending classes, exploring a wondrous city, and trying new experiences – we should remember that college is an emotional and spiritual journey, as well. It’s easy to get caught up in the academic world of college, constantly studying and preparing for class, but we shouldn’t forget to explore our soul by connecting with nature on the greet belt or reading our favorite poetry.


9-8 Carroll Introduction

  1. “‘Well!’ thought Alice to herself. ‘After such a fall as this, I shall think nothing of tumbling downstairs! How brave they’ll all think me at home! Why, I wouldn’t say anything about it, even if I fell off the top of the house!’ (Which was very likely true.)” (Carroll 13)

Beyond the somewhat morbid joke Carroll offers at the end, this passage provides valuable insight into the significance of Alice’s journey down the rabbit hole. In having Alice descend underground, Carroll implies transference to another world. Underworlds usually serve as mythical places where earthly laws do not always apply. Additionally, in Greek mythology, living individuals who entered the underworld often returned enlightened, such as Odysseus who seeks advice from Tiresias, the blind prophet, in the Underworld. In a similar fashion, Alice’s adventure to Wonderland teaches her many things about life and her own identity. In fact, her personal growth begins before she even lands, for, instead of drowning in fear as she falls, Alice soberly contemplates the benefits of her current, precarious situation. From the mere experience of falling, Alice already acquires a new sense of bravery, as the length of the fall, in particular, gives her a unique perspective.

Tiresias speaks to Odysseus in the Underworld. Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tiresias
Tiresias speaks to Odysseus in the Underworld.

2. “How doth the little crocodile

Improve his shining tail,

And pour the waters of the Nile

On every golden scale!

How cheerfully he seems to grin,

How neatly spreads his claws,

And welcomes little fishes in,

With gently smiling jaws!”

(Carroll 23)

I love this parody of a children’s poem because while Alice recites it in a fervent attempt to convince herself of her own intelligence and proper upbringing, she ultimately cannot help but be in conflict with the strict Victorian culture. I actually first encountered this poetic parody on a placard at the HRC’s Lewis Carroll exhibition, where it discussed Carroll’s use of parodies, so I wasn’t completely thrown by its inappropriate content. The placard commented that this poetic example (a parody of Isaac Watt’s poem, “Against Idleness and Mischief”) actually “reflects Carroll’s larger effort throughout Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland to parody and satirize polite Victorian society and the expectations of Victorian children’s literature.” Though I’ve only read to chapter five, I can already see other potential moments of satire and defiance of Victorian society, such as when Alice violently kicks poor lizard Bill out of the chimney – an act quite out of character for an accomplished, cultured young girl (Carroll 43).

Photo by Lauren. Placard at the HRC.
Photo by Lauren. Placard at the HRC.

3. “‘I wish I hadn’t cried so much!’ said Alice, as she swam about, trying to find her way out. ‘I shall be punished for it now, I suppose, by being drowned in my own tears! That will be a queer thing, to be sure! However, everything is queer to-day’” (Carroll 25).

While I initially found the concept of poor Alice drowning in her own tears to be simply tragic, further consideration led me to realize the deeper meaning behind such irony. Perhaps, Carroll is suggesting that wallowing in one’s sorrows ultimately leads to their own detriment. While mourning one’s losses/mistakes is, of course, emotionally healthy and can be quite cathartic, it is an essentially self-absorbing act. It is only after Alice meets the mouse and tries to connect with another creature (though admittedly with poor execution) that she is able to actually lead the way and swim to shore (Carroll 27).

4. “She drew her foot as far down the chimney as she could, and waited till she heard a little animal (she couldn’t guess of what sort it was) scratching and scrambling about in the chimney close above her: then saying to herself, “This is Bill,” she gave one sharp kick, and waited to see what would happen next” (Carroll 42 – 43).

I was surprised by Alice’s behavior during this episode in the White Rabbit’s house. Though I understand her fear at being trapped in a room, she seemed particularly hostile towards the other animals and the owner of house (whose “DRINK ME” bottle she drank without permission). I wonder what Carroll is trying to accomplish with Alice’s behavior in this scene. Does her somewhat violent actions serve to defy the Victorian rigidity impressed upon young children?

5. “From henceforth therefore I resolve to take events as they occur, to adapt my conduct to circumstances, to endure with fortitude the blows and kicks my employers may think fit to bestow upon me, and only to repay them by the most enduring obstinacy!” (Anthology 389).

In his “Thoughts on Thistles,” Carroll includes these thoughts of a donkey which he believes we (as humans) should echo. These ideas, particularly “tak[ing] events as they occur,” strongly remind me of our past discussions and texts related to being present in the moment in order to achieve acceptance and joy. The concepts also transfer quite noticeably to the character of Alice. Alice, after all, is excellent at adapting to her circumstances – When she’s falling down a mysterious tunnel, her greatest disappointment is an empty can of marmalade, and after she shrinks herself, she’s overjoyed that her new size allows her to enter the beautiful garden. Her obstinacy is also evident in her perseverance despite the many “out-of-the-way things” she happens upon (Carroll 19).

Source: http://ircamera.as.arizona.edu/NatSci102/NatSci102/images/extwormhole.htm
Source: http://ircamera.as.arizona.edu/NatSci102/NatSci102/images/extwormhole.htm

6. “Another form of migraine aura, Alice in Wonderland syndrome, has been named after Dodgson’s little heroine, because its manifestation can resemble the sudden size-changes in the book … Some authors have suggested that Dodgson may have suffered from this type of aura, and used it as an inspiration in his work, but there is no evidence that he did” (Anthology 1003).

I was amazed that Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland has achieved such notoriety as to warrant the name of a medical condition. Concerning Dodgson’s supposed affliction of this sort, I would feel incredibly sympathetic to his disorienting condition if it proved true. However, if false, such an attribution to his character undermines his true natural ability to create fantastical and imaginative worlds.