In Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, Lewis Carroll begins the story with his main character, Alice, drifting off to sleep while her older sister gives her a history lesson. Alice wanders through bizarre and backwards situations in her dream world until she abruptly returns to the real world. Carroll does not give Alice's adventure any closure, but instead jarringly wakes her from her dream and quickly sends her off to tea, strangely choosing to end the novel from the perspective of Alice's older sister rather than Alice herself.

"Oh, I've had such a curious dream!" said Alice, and she told her sister, as well as she could remember them, all these strange Adventures of hers . . . and when she had finished, her sister kissed her, and said, "It was a curious dream, dear, certainly: but now run in to your tea; it's getting late." So Alice got up and ran off, thinking while she ran, as well she might, what a wonderful dream it had been. [Alice's Adventures in Wonderland 116-117]

Carroll could have finished the book at this point, but instead he lets the focus fall on Alice's older sister. She sits and thinks of Alice, and gradually drifts off to sleep where she dreams of Alice's childlike characteristics, her "bright eager eyes . . . looking up into hers" and "that queer little toss of her head to keep back the wandering hair that would always get into her eyes" (117). Alice's sister soon finds herself in Alice's dream world, but instead of allowing herself to completely experience the fantasy world, she views it in a detached manner, only "half believ[ing] herself in Wonderland" (117). She remains grounded in reality, aware that " She had to but open [her eyes] again and all would change to dull reality," and the strange sounds of the dream world "would change (she knew) to the confused clamour of the busy farmyard" (117-118). Carroll then ends the novel with the older sister's vision of a grown up Alice instilling her child-like wonder into the eyes of little children, enjoying "simple sorrows," "simple joys," and "remembering her own child-life, and the happy summer days" (118).

Questions

1. Why does Carroll choose to send Alice off so abruptly? What effect does ending the novel from Alice's sister's perspective rather than Alice's herself produce?

2. Carroll never gives Alice's older sister a name, but instead refers to her repeatedly as simply "she." Why would he make this choice?

3. Why does Carroll allow the older sister to travel to Wonderland? Why does she ground herself in reality during her journey?

4. In the last paragraph of the book, the older sister refers to Alice's "simple sorrows" and "simple joys," even as she becomes an adult (118). Does this wording present Alice's characteristics in a positive light? Does the meaning of these phrases change by having the older sister imagine Alice's adulthood rather than a narrator describe it?


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Last modified 22 March 2004