In Alice and Wonderland Alice finds herself in a fantasy world where she learns quickly that she can only expect the unexpected. When she finds a small bottle labeled "DRINK ME," she is not surprised when its contents cause her to rapidly grow to the size of the room. Instead of being alarmed or afraid, Alice reacts with mild bewilderment and a nostalgia for her days in the regular world when her life was simpler.
"It was much pleasanter at home," thought poor Alice, "when one wasn't always growing larger and smaller, and being ordered about by mice and rabbits. I almost wish I hadn't gone down that rabbit-hole--and yet — it's rather curious, you know, this sort of life! I do wonder what can have happened to me! When I used to read fairy tales, I fancied that kind of thing never happened, and now here I am in the middle of one! There ought to be a book written about me, that there ought! And when I grow up, I'll write one--but I'm grown up now," she added in a sorrowful tone; "at least there's no room to grow up any more here."
Alice is clearly a child, yet she speaks in a confident way that lets the reader know that she has been educated. She recalls the fairy tales that she used to read, implying that she no longer reads them. She then makes the assertion that she would like to write a book when she grows up, but then corrects herself by saying that she has already grown as much as she can here.
"But then," thought Alice, "shall I never get any older than I am now? That'll be a comfort, one way — never to be an old woman--but then--always to have lessons to learn! Oh, I shouldn't like that!"
Alice belongs to a wealthy Victorian-age family and we see how this has shaped her perception of what being a "grown up" means. In Wonderland, it seems that Alice does fit the role of an adult. She feels the confidence to criticize authority and impose her supposed intelligence on those around her. Despite the fact that Alice's facts are often wrong, she feels superior to everyone around her.
1. What age group do you think Carroll intended to be the prime audience of this book? Why?
2. Is Alice's superior attitude characteristic to someone of her class and time? At what age did Victorian children become adults?
3. In what ways does Alice's childhood differ from that of Pip's in Great Expectations? Do their attitudes reflect the types of families that they have?
4. Alice believes that never becoming an old woman means that she will always have lessons to learn. Does Alice mean general life lessons or actual school lessons? What would a child of the the Victorian age consider old?
5. Throughout Alice in Wonderland, Alice speaks aloud to herself. What purpose might Carroll have had for this? Did this simply make Alice's thoughts easier to convey to the reader?
Last modified 18 March 2009