MacDonald's Phantastes and Carroll's Alice both have similar plot structures — the main character finds him or herself in a different and often strange world. However, each character interacts with the new world in a different manner. Both are certainly curious, but Alice's reaction to her surroundings is very matter-of-fact, and for the most part unsurprised by what she sees. MacDonald's narrator, on the other hand, takes a more surprised but also more scientific tone with his observations.
Either the well was very deep, or she fell very slowly, for she had plenty of time as she went down to look about her, and to wonder what was going to happen next. First, she tried to look down and make out what she was coming to, but it was too dark to see anything: then she looked at the sides of the wello, and noticed that they were filled with cupboards and bookshelves: here and there she saw maps and pictures hung upon pegs. She took down a jar from one of the shelves as she passed: it was labeled "ORANGE MARMALADE," but to her great disappointment it was empty: she did not like to drop the jar, for fear of killing somebody underneath, so managed to put it into one of the cupboards as she fell past it. [Alice in Wonderland, p.8,]
I may as well mention here, that the conclusion I arrived at from the observations I was afterwards able to make, was, that the flowers die because the fairies go away; not that the fairies disappear because the flowers die. The flowers seem a sort of houses for them, or outer bodies, which they can put on or off when they please. Just as you could form some idea of the nature of a man from the kind of house he built, if he followed his own taste, so you could, without seeing the fairies, tell what any one of them is like, by looking at the flower till you feel that you understand it. For just what the flower says to you, would the face and form of the fairy say; only so much more plainly as a face and human figure can express more than a flower. For the house or the clothes, though like the inhabitant or the wearer, cannot be wrought into an equal power of utterance. Yet you would see a strange resemblance, almost oneness, between the flower and the fairy, which you cou! ld not describe, but which described itself to you. Whether all the flowers have fairies, I cannot determine, any more than I can be sure whether all men and women have souls. [Phantastes, p.36]
Can this substantial difference be attributed to solely the difference in ages of the two characters (Alice being 7, MacDonald's narrator being 21)? There seems to be something more at work, especially since both journeys are positioned as maturative. Is it a gender issue, then? Or is the difference in characterization a more practical one, due to a difference between MacDonald's and Carroll's objectives?
Last modified 3 February 2003