Reading Lewis Carroll’s ‘Alice in Wonderland’ for the first time, the Nonsense and Silliness struck me. The joy of word play, absurd dialog, impossible characters and fantastic scenes.
This is a strange book. There is not really a plot. It is very imaginative, both the characters and the dialog. Witty and funny. I wouldn’t call it a novel. There is no growth in the characters, almost no agency, they just bounce along. I am struggling to understand what it is about. Is there a point?
There is a world of cultural touch stones here. Down the rabbit hole following the white rabbit wearing a coat and kid gloves, checking his pocket watch and fretting about being late. Alice growing larger than smaller after eating cakes and mushrooms. The March Hare and the Mad Hatter having tea. The Queen of Hearts, ‘Off with their heads’ and the croquet game with hedge hogs for balls and flamingos for mallets.
All curiouser and curiouser.
I read the second half ‘Through the Looking Glass’ and tried to better understand what Lewis Carroll was getting at. Is it a bit of showing off with language? It has some linguistic arrogance by the author. And the notes from the illustrator, Sir John Tenniel complain about ‘That conceited old Don’, ie Dodgson.
It was also sort of mental Chinese food; I wished for something of more substance soon after. But it is a children’s book. I can see how it would entertain and keep youngsters interested. Who or what will they run into next? Fun.
To think it has survived and thrived for over 150 years is a testament to Carroll. We all hope our work can stand such a test of time.
Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll , Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, illustrated by Sir John Tenniel