“Would you like an adventure now, or shall we have our tea first?” – Alice In Wonderland
Alice’s Adventure in Wonderland, or Alice In Wonderland for short, is considered as one of the world’s most influential novels.
It was written by Charles Lutwidge Dodgson under the pseudonym Lewis Caroll in 1865. Dodgson was a mathematician and a clergyman for the Church of England.
Dodgson told the story of Alice’s Adventure in Wonderland to the three daughters of Henry George Liddell, Dean of Christ Church. It was during the boat trips with the three sisters and an adult friend where the story was first told
The girls liked the story so much and Alice, the youngest of the three, pleaded with Dodgson to write the story down. Alice was the favorite of Dodgson among the sisters and if not for her pleadings the book may not have been written.
And now 155 years later, it is still one of the most beloved children’s books of all time. It has been translated to over 174 languages and has been made into stage plays, movies and television adaptation all around the world.
So let’s try to unravel some of the symbolism and hidden meanings in the book, which has been the subject of many studies by literature experts who have been fascinated by this masterpiece.
Alice In Wonderland Symbolism and Meaning
The story starts with Alice, a 7-year old girl who was feeling bored and sleepy along the riverbanks with her elder sister. She then noticed a clothed white rabbit that talks and was carrying a pocket watch. She chases it and follows the rabbit until she falls into a rabbit hole.
Experts say that the symbolism of Alice going down the rabbit hole is equal to a philosopher’s thirst and search for the truth. Wonderland is a world of philosophers, and Alice going down there finding that she must let go of her preconceptions and inhibitions, to gain true wisdom and knowledge.
The White Rabbit
The White Rabbit is the main reason why Alice ended up in Wonderland. Her curiosity about this creature that wears a waistcoat and holds a pocket watch, sparked her curiosity. He is always in a hurry and seemed always nervous.
In Lewis Carroll’s own words, the White Rabbit is the opposite fo Alice in temperament and personality. While Alice is youthful, has vigor, and directness of purpose, the rabbit, in contrast, is elderly, timid and “nervously shilly-shallying”.
While Alice is “reasonably polite” to those she meets, the White Rabbit can be two-faced, treating those below him terribly, while bowing incessantly, and uttering insincere flattery to the queen. While Alice was sincere, truthful and innocent, even standing up for what she thinks is right, the White Rabbit is the exact opposite.
The Queen of Hearts
She is one of the playing card characters that Alice meets in the story. She rules tyrannically over Wonderland and her favorite expression or command is “Off with his head!”, or “Off with her head!” but seemed these orders are not actually carried out.
She’s a dominant ruler who likes to play by her own rules an
d she must always win. She is feared by all inhabitants of Wonderland because of her explosive outbursts and bad temper. She terrorizes the whole land and never conducts fair trials.
Alice is never intimidated by the Queen of hearts. She remembers that her threats are non-sense and that she is flat and thin as a playing card. In the end, she overcomes her. The Queen seems to symbolize the oftentimes irrationality of rules, and the punishments meted out by adults to children.
The Cheshire Cat
“But I don’t want to go among mad people,” Alice remarked.
“Oh, you can’t help that,” said the Cat: “We’re all mad here. I’m mad. You’re mad.”
“How do you know I’m mad?” said Alice.
“You must be,” said the Cat, “Or you wouldn’t have come here.”
The Cheshire Cat is one of the most interesting characters in the book. With its ability to appear and disappear whenever he wants. This makes him a bit of a smug even in the presence of the King and Queen of Hearts. It is a large, grinning cat that seems to answer questions in circles based on its interaction with Alice.
The Cheshire Cat symbolizes someone that points the obvious in a confusing and tricky way. Or somebody that seems to want to explain things clearly, only to muddle it and end up confusing the person who asked it.
Alice In Wonderland is a story that is full of symbolism and meanings. It has been a century and a half since it was written by Lewis Carroll, but its significance hasn’t diminished for one bit. This is truly a classic masterpiece that will be enjoyed by generations to come.