"Tickets, please!" said the Guard, putting his head in at the window. In a moment everybody waws holding out a ticket: they were about the same size as the people, and quite seemed to fill the carriage.
"Now then ! Show your ticket, child!" the Guard went on, looking angrily at Alice. And A great many voices all said together ("like the chorus of a song", thought Alice) "Don't keep him waiting, child! Why his time is worth a thousand pounds a minute!"
"I'm afraid I haven't got one," Alice said in a frightened tone: "there wasn't a ticket office where I came from." And again the chorus of voices went on. "There wasn't room for one where she came from. The land is worth a thousand pounds an inch!..Why the smoke is worth a thousand pounds a puff!...Language is worth a thousand pounds a word!" [Through the Looking Glass, 129-30]
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and additional discussion.
This passage supports the theory that Alice's imaginary world, with all its madness, represents the bewildering, unfriendly and materialistic adult world into which young children were (and still are) prematurely thrown. One of only two passages in the Alice books that frankly addresses capitalism and the monetary value of certain objects, this excerpt reminds an adult reader how foreign the concept of money, buying and selling, must be to a child, and therefore not only how physically and emotionally taxing but also how mentally baffling it must have been for young children of the Vistorian era suffering in poverty and working under extreme labor conditions. No young child should have to think or worry about finances. No child is born with an inclination for business, with an appreciation for money; these things must be taught and learned (often too soon and under unfortunate circumstances).
The idea that one must accumulte wealth and power to be happy is one that a child can only receive from its elders, from society. To a child's uncorrupted mind, cold hard cash is no more than exactly that. The concept that it must be possessed and then redistributed in order to access food, clothing and other neccessities is bizarre, if not absurd. Why, wonders a child, can't I just have it? And where, Alice wonders, was I supposed to get a ticket?
Children often realize that "money makes the world go round", (though fools might assert otherwise) at an unnaturally early age. This realization, Carroll seems to suggest, can be quite frightening considering the child probably has no direct access to, or direct control over, a reliable source of income. (Charles Dicken's Pip, for instance, must toil for money only to have it taken from him and placed in a container he is forbidden to touch.)
Alice, merely seven and a half, initially encounters the problem of money in Wonderland when she boards the train. She is scolded and ridiculed for having no ticket. Yet where she came from, no ticket was made available. The conductor should not hold her responsible. She is inherently disadvantaged like those born into poverty. Alice sits in the vestibule with her head bent in shame and confusion, listening to insensitive passengers whose life-sized train tickets seem to represent the enormous role wealth and what can be bought with it plays in their respective lives. She knows not what to make of their telling her how much everything is worth, only that she will surely dream "about a thousand pounds tonight." She is severely distressed by the unkindness of the passengers, while suffering the unfortunate and irreversible loss of childlike purity and innocence that occurs with each bit of knowledge and awareness gained about money.
Last modified 8 November 2021