PAPERBACK; 239 P. PENGUIN USA, 2000/1876 SOURCE: PURCHASED
Weary of her storybook, one “without pictures or conversations,” the young and imaginative Alice follows a hasty hare underground–to come face-to-face with some of the strangest adventures and most fantastic characters in all of literature.
The Ugly Duchess, the Mad Hatter, the weeping Mock Turtle, the diabolical Queen of Hearts, the Cheshire Cat–each more eccentric than the last–could only have come from that master of sublime nonsense, Lewis Carroll.
In penning this brilliant burlesque of children’s literature, Carroll has written a farcical satire of rigid Victorian society, an arresting parody of the fears, anxieties, and complexities of growing up. Carroll was one of the few adult writers to successfully enter the children’s world of make-believe: where the impossible becomes possible, the unreal–real, and where the height of adventure is limited only by the depths of imagination.
The story of Alice in Wonderland is familiar to almost all of us thanks to the Disney movie from 1950’s – a true classic that I still enjoy watching – and the latest movie adaptation directed by Tim Burton. However, it is regrettable that before this year I had never read the actual books. Only after an English module in Oxford last year did I realise how little I truly knew of this classic.
After finishing City of Ashes last week, I wanted to read something short and fun. And Lewis Carroll certainly delivered. The two books had so many poems, riddles, word-play, and beautiful illustrations that it was truly a pleasure to read. It was interesting to compare the storyline of the 1951 movie with the original plot of the books as you could see how it had been adapted. However, the movie does follow more on the story of the first book, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, including characters and riddles from the second. I especially found it interesting how the education norms – that is, norms in 1865 – were questioned in the books (not just by the creatures but also by Alice herself). The logical debates were interesting to ponder upon, and I did make it a habit of only reading a few chapters at a time and then going back to read some passages again. Lewis Carroll’s writing is timeless and the story is presented in a way, that I can see myself reading this book again and again without growing bored.
Tenniel’s illustrations fit perfectly into Carroll’s work and I could not imagine that reading the book without them. Similar to Quentin Blake’s illustrations in Roald Dahl’s books or Ernest Shepard’s illustrations in The Wind in the Willows and Winnie-the-Pooh, the pictures are not just there to fill the pages. They integrate into the story and let the reader’s imagination fly. I think that to categorise these two books as only Children’s Literature would be a mistake as they feature many puzzles that might be hard to grasp – especially by today’s reader as so much has changed compared to the 19th century. However, the story of Alice and her adventures definitely presents us a challenge of having a courage to think different from others and of asking questions, even if they appear nonsensical.
‘I dare say you haven’t had much practice,’ said the Queen. ‘When I was your age I always did it for half an hour a day. Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.’