The world of Wonderland appears as a very childlike place; the talking animals, nonsensical reasoning and absurd events that occur reflect a stereotype of what a young child's imagination might be like. Although amidst such a world, Alice tries to prove her maturity to herself and others, however her naivety often conflicts with her attempts to act mature. After being unable to reach the tiny golden key to open the small door in the beginning of the story, Alice begins to cry, and the reader subsequently learns of Alice's fondness for pretending to be two different people -- a tendency that best illustrates the conflict between her inner child and her desire to be mature.

"Come, there's no use in crying like that!" said Alice to herself rather sharply."I advise you to leave off this minute!" She generally gave herself very good advice (though she very seldom followed it), and sometimes she scolded herself so severely as to bring tears into her eyes; and once she remembered trying to box her own ears for having cheated herself in a game of croquet she was playing against herself, for this curious child was very fond of pretending to be two people [12]

Scolding herself for acting like a child reflects one way in which Alice views maturity. She also sees maturity as being able to recite knowledge, something she continually does to validate herself to others. While visiting the Duchess and discussing how much faster the world would go if everyone minded their own business, Alice relishes the chance to flaunt her knowledge:

"Which would not be an advantage," said Alice, who felt very glad to get an opportunity of showing off a little of her knowledge. "Just think what work it would make with day and night! You see the earth takes twenty-four hours to turn round on its axis--"[48]

Although in this instance Alice states something correctly, she often recites information incorrectly, particularly the various verses characters like the Caterpillar and Mock Turtle command her to recite. The constant stress on Alice to regurgitate information draws parallel to a school environment, and her continual failure to say certain things correctly symbolizes how she still has more to learn and has not yet graduated from childhood. However, by the end of the story her concern about seeming grown up diminishes, and when she awakes from her dream about Wonderland, she only has happy thoughts about it, "As Alice got up and ran off, thinking while she ran, as well as she might, what a wonderful dream it had been." [98] The story's concluding paragraph with Alice's sister then puts childhood in a positive light, as she imagines Alice as a grown woman:

And how she would keep, through all her riper years, the simple and loving heart of her childhood; and she would gather about her other little children, and make their eyes bright and eager with many a strange tale, perhaps even with the dream of Wonderland of long ago; and how she would feel with all their simple sorrows, and find a pleasure in all their simple joys, remembering her own child-life, and the happy summer days. [99]

In the final analysis, the conclusion of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland suggests the blissfulness of childhood and how its happy memories can provide benefits into adulthood. If a moral could be taken from this (and the Duchess would argue "Everything's got a moral, if only you can find it," [70]) it would be to value one's childhood and perhaps not be too keen to grow up so fast.

Questions

1. In Victorian times, it was common for children to work at a very young age if their family was poor. However, the narrator makes clear that Alice comes from a middle class background. What does the lifestyle of a young, middle class girl consist of? How does Alice fit or not fit this lifestyle?

2. How does the structure of the last paragraph resemble stream-of-consciousness narration by Alice's sister? Does the diction indicate a sense of longing felt by the sister for a similar childhood experience?

3. Size plays an important role in the story, though Alice's maturity doesn't progress or regress with a change in size. Can this be interpreted to mean in a metaphorical sense that no matter how big you are (or old) you never stop learning or growing up?

4. How does Alice's naivety and concept of maturity compare/contrast with Pip's in Great Expectations?

5. Throughout the story, knowledge, logic, and reason become obsolete. Given the emphasis on the importance of emotional experiences during childhood in the last few paragraphs, what conclusions can one make about the role of facts and knowledge?


Victorian Web Overview Lewis Carroll Leading Questions

Last modified 11 March 2009