Alice And The Wonderland To millions around the world, Lewis Carrolls Alice in Wonderland is merely a childhood dreamland filled with riddles, fairy tails, and games without rules. However, to the trained eye, Alices world translates into much more than a childs bedtime story. There are many undeniable patterns and connections seen throughout his story that are simply too radical to be mere coincidence. The story of Alice is both a mixture of contradictory patterns and a metaphor for growth. With the right train-of-thought and a little imagination, this otherwise straightforward fairy tale becomes a key to Carrolls inner thoughts.
Psychoanalysts have analyzed Alice in Wonderland since the early 1900s. Psychoanalysis is, the theory of the talking cure. In other words, it is used to help understand inner (subjective) meaning. Psychoanalysis was first used as a clinical practice to help people suffering from troubles without any organic cause. (Bokay 2) However, it has also proven very effective in uncovering subliminal motives in dreams, art, and literature. The following should not be looked at as definite concepts, but more like a key to help understand some popular interpretations of lewis text.
If the whole of Alices journey may be read both as a passage from the surface to the abyss and as an achievement, a hard conquest from the abyss to the surface, the leaven, the engine of this twofold passage is to be found in the series of events which are written in Alices body. (Roncada 2) To grasp the concepts and to fully understand underlying ideas in wonderland, it helps to think of wonderland as a real world with real rules. Non-law and a non-measure of Alice herself govern wonderland, which in turn results in a large amount of nonsense. What is isn’t, what isnt is, a very hard concept for young Alice to grasp at first. Alice morphs from tall to short, from small to big, and always maintains her psychological and biological age.
Her body (the engine) is disconnected from her physical life. (Roncada 4) Her body goes through four phases throughout this trip: 1) and unexpected growth/decrease 2) a growth/ decrease openly driven by the other characters 3) a growth/decrease manipulated by Alice (with bits of mushroom) 4) the spontaneous, self induced growth without the use of any object (during the trial). (Roncada 4) This is the most obvious metaphor suggesting growth seen throughout Alices trip. Alice does not look for any explanation for her re-occurring metamorphic changes. To Alice, eating and drinking does not mean nourishment just as growing up does not mean maturing or getting old; it is only used for alteration. The use of food in this world is not incidental. In Wonderland there are many distinguishing factors between eating and drinking.
The act of eating is not ritual, it is necessary for Alices metamorphosis, it is a prize at the end of the Caucus race, and a never-ending punishment at the mad tea party. The food never becomes a real meal because it is broken into several snacks. (Roncada 6) Food categories are separated into liquid and solid (which share the same result: grow shrink), raw and cooked, and sweet and salty. A fine example of this is during Alices first size change in the hall. When Alice drinks the liquid marked appropriately drink me she states, It had, in fact, a sort of mixed flavor of cherry-tart, custard, pine-apple, roast turkey, toffee, and hot buttered toast.
This part entwines a number of distinct patterns contradicting each other. First off, the liquid assumes the flavor of solid food. Sweet (cherry-tart, custard, pineapple, toffee) and salty (roast turkey and hot buttered toast) stay together. Inside the sweet category there are other contradictory patterns: toffee is solid and custard is non solid; cherry-tart, custard, roast turkey, and toffee are all cooked (or mixed) while pineapple is raw and natural. And finally, the tastes have been organized according to different culinary techniques: custard, toffee, and cherry tart are all made with low heat and turkey and toast are made with high heat.
Roasted Turkey, hot buttered toast, and custard are all served hot while toffee and cherry-tart are served cold. ( Roncada 4) This seemingly innocent observation made by Alice contains too many patterns to have been plain train of thought. Perhaps Lewis had something else on his mind while he wrote it. In Wonderland everything has the potential to be food, even non-edible items. The characters form a simple, somewhat idiotic, pattern that combines food with whatever is at hand.
For example, during the tea party the Mad Hatters watch is smothered with butter. This implies that WATCH=TOAST, which becomes clearer when the watch is dipped in the cup of tea. (Roncada 57) This begins a new pattern of events which could be formulated as-food on object-object is food. The Doormouse himself, who also has been in contact with food (tea had been dipped on his nose) is eventually dipped in the teapot as well. As the tea party continues, the relationship between food, objects, and characters mingle further until no definition of eatable and drinkable exist.
This is seen finally as the Mad Hatter takes a bite from his tea cup. It is here that Alice begins to accept food as a factor able to influence ones character: Maybe its always pepper that makes people hot-temperedand vinegar that makes them sourand camomile that makes them bitterand barley-sugar and such that make children sweet tempered. (73) There is a special pattern through which Alice treks through Wonderland. Her journey begins at the riverbank, she falls down the rabbit hole into a long narrow hall, and from there she enters an open pool. This open outside to closed inside pattern is a constant through Wonderland.
(Brandt 4) Also, she is constantly separated from spatial objects by her size. In the hall, it is impossible for Alice to reach the garden because of her size. For a rational person, with an unstable body, transferring from the hall to the garden would be easy. However, Alice takes things as they come at this point in time and simply says oh well to the fact that she was the wrong size for the door, (as any child would). Her size control system at this point in time is bottle (liquid, wet) shrink vs.
cake (dry) grow. The rabbits fan also turns out to be a shrinking operator. At this point in time Alice also looses linguistic control and begins speaking homophonic nonsense to insult the mouse, taletailnotknot. (Brandt 5) The pool and the rabbits house are spatially connected, with the help of Alice running off. Here the growing system reverses: bottle (liquid) grow vs. cake (dry) shrink. Even in Wonderland Alices size control appears to be unique.
This is seen when Alice grows too large for the rabbits house and her arm startles both the white rabbit and the lizard Bill. An arm you goose! Who has ever seen one that size? says the white rabbit. If size control were an everyday event in wonderland, Alices connection with the real world obviously still remains, as seen when she confuses growing large with growing old. While stuck in the rabbits house she says to herself theres no room for me to grow up anymore here referring to her size in comparison to the houses. Shall I never get any older than I am now? Thatll be a comfort, one way-never to be an old woman. Throughout her journey, each time she enters a house she sees and experiences something unpleasant. From the house to the wood, there is a second motory transition, Alice running off.
Here she meets the caterpillar. He is sitting on a mushroom and smoking out of a hookah. Whether or not these two objects were placed purposely to represent the use of mind-expanding substances shall forever be left unknown. However, the idea of such subliminal messages should not be ruled out. Alice here finds it almost impossible to answer simple questions such as who are you and why? Here the caterpillar introduces a new growth system to Alice: right hand mushroom-shrink vs. left hand mushroom-grow.
From now on Alice uses her growth system a bit more wisely and has wise rebuttals towards characters she comes across. She is slowly growing familiar with the ways of Wonderland. The second house she comes upon belongs to the Dutchess. Once again the house is a horrible place for Alice to visit. The Dutchess is a mean tempered woman.
She is also considered by many as the most radical pole of madness. She is first aggressive towards Alice and then more conciliatory as their conversation proceeds. (Roncada 7) The deformed pig baby, which Alice holds, is another taste of the horror seen when Alice enters a house. Perhaps the violence of this scene (the Dutchess throwing pots and pans) sends the white rabbit now to the queen instead of the Dutchess: a significant switch between female characters. (Brandt 6) From this point on Alice will not enter anymore houses, they are too violent. Once again Alice walks off through the wood and to the final house, the Mad Hatters.
Here they sit outside and she once again becomes frustrated by her companys lack of sense. Alice walks through the wood, finds a tree with a door in it, and stands once again in a hall. Now, a more intelligent Alice, takes the key, nibbles the mushroom, and enters into the garden. She has now figured out how to use Wonderlands.