Literary Nonsense: Alice's Adventures in Wonderland March 09 2016, 0 Comments

by Bethany Wagner

If you have ever held disdain for a book with no pictures or no interesting characters and conversations, you will understand Alice’s terrible plight at the beginning of her Adventures in Wonderland. Bored and growing drowsy as her older sister reads from such a dry book, Alice suddenly notices a White Rabbit. And not just any White Rabbit—this one is clothed in a waistcoat and glancing anxiously at a pocket watch, dashing by for fear of being late. 

Alice leaves the dull, dusty books behind and follows this strange creature, all the way down a rabbit hole, where she falls down a long hall covered in strange locked doors. And thus begins Alice’s journey to and through Wonderland, a place filled with beautiful, strange, frightening, whimsical, and certainly never boring sights, sounds, and characters. This is the world Charles Lutwidge Dodgson created, under the now-familiar pseudonym Lewis Carroll.

While at a first read Alice’s adventures may appear nonsensical, the book is renowned for analogies, poetic symbolism, and clever puns. Carroll, a professor of mathematics at Oxford University, drew inspiration for his whimsical story from his own life. Many characters are believed to be exaggerated depictions of people Carroll knew in real life. Some locations throughout the novel and its sequel correlate with actual places in Oxford. 

Along her way through a literary masterpiece, Alice encounters a number of Carroll’s original poems, now treasured classics, as well as nonsensical parodies of poems by other authors. In addition, many humorous dialogues draw inspiration from logic and math. For example the March Hare, Mad Hatter, and Dormouse contemplate over tea the logical and mathematical concept of the inverse relationship, exclaiming, “Why, you might just as well say that ‘I see what I eat’ is the same thing as ‘I eat what I see’!”

Follow Alice down the rabbit hole and encounter strange yet endearing figures including a lecturing Mouse, a bossy Dodo, Bill the Lizard, the wise old Caterpillar, and the classic characters of the Cheshire Cat, March Hare, Mad Hatter, and the ever-ferocious Queen of Hearts. Alice grows and shrinks, attends a mad tea party, and plays croquet with a flamingo for a mallet and a hedgehog for a ball. 

With characters and events like these, Carroll creates humor not with scattered moments of wit or jokes, but by crafting a world that is, in itself, wit and humor. Like other works in this genre, the Wonderland books overthrow language conventions and challenge logical reasoning in ways only a master of the written word and fantasy genre could could.

Alice herself would approve of Open LORE’s accessible e-book version of her Adventures in Wonderland and the sequel, Through the Looking Glass, both complete with vibrantly restored original artwork. Journey to Wonderland yourself by visiting Open LORE's Genuine Classics library.