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.


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