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In Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Alice experiences a series of puzzles that appear to have no apparent solutions, which emulates the ways that life aggravates expectations. Alice anticipates that the situations she experiences will make a positive kind of sense, but they repetitively frustrate her capability to comprehend Wonderland. Alice tries to comprehend the Caucus race, resolve the Mad Hatter’s puzzle, and understand the Queen’s ludicrous croquet game, but to no reward. In every occasion, the riddles and challenges offered to Alice have no intention or answer. Even still Lewis Carroll was a theorist; in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, he creates a farce out of riddles, jokes, and games of judgment. Alice learns that she cannot anticipate finding meaning or logic in situations that she goes through, even when they materialize to be riddles, problems, or games that would usually have solutions that Alice would be capable to figure out. Carroll provides a broader point concerning the ways that life frustrates prospects and opposes explanation using symbolism, even when problems seem recognizable or solvable (Carroll 88).
Loss of Childhood Innocence
According to Brooker (230), the book illustrates the inevitable and tragic loss of childhood innocence which is narrated and explored when Alice goes through absurd physical changes at the Wonderland. The changes in bodily size and the accompanying discomforts are a symbol of changes that occur during puberty stage.
The changes are traumatic, uncomfortable and sometimes frustrating and saddening. An adolescent may struggle to keep him/herself at a comfortable physical size but the physical changes are sometimes beyond the control of the growing child. This is symbolized by Alice’s struggle to keep a body size that will allow her to enter the garden. When her neck grows to an absurd length, it makes the pigeon to attack her in a presumption that she was the snake who was fond of eating the pigeon’s eggs.
The continued fluctuation in body part sizes is representative of the child’s feelings on the body changes as she/he grows. The changes are unstable and altered by the everyday occurrences which also impact on the daily moods. The writer employs symbolism to drive his point’s home by relating the fluctuating body size change to the actual growth of a child which is complicated and hard to understand. Growth and transition from child hood always presents many sets of challenges most of which the growing child and the people around him/ her do not know how to handle.
According to Spark Notes (2), the pigeons attack on Alice with a thought that she is the snake who eats the pigeon’s eggs makes Alice defenseless and doubtful about her true identity. Estranged by the new revelations, she thinks that she has actually become a snake; this denotes the ultimate shakiness of her identity since she can not seem to predict who she truly is.
The Use of Symbolism as Formal Element
Meaninglessness of Life
Alice faces a series of life challenges that do not seem to have solutions. This imitates the manner in which life has frustrated man especially a child’s expectations. Alices desire to figure out Wonderland is continually frustrated by the situations she encounters while there. This is shown in Alice’s quest to understand the Queen’s ridiculous croquet game, her endeavors to solve the Mad Hatters Riddle and her inability to understand The Caucus Game in which she did not succeed at finding solutions.
Alice does not find logic in the things she encounters at the Wonderland and the meanings to situations she encounters. The games that would normally have solutions are not bearing the fruits that Alice expects. This illustrates how life frustrates expectation; problems that have been solvable and familiar suddenly become hard and unimaginable by resisting interpretation.
At the Caucus Race the animals run randomly in circles but do not seem to make progress. They then adjourn abruptly and without notice or any clear conclusion (Hollingsworth 57). This is used to symbolize the great deal of circumstances and pomp with which the politicians of the day are doing things without any measurable accomplishments. It suffices to say that The Caucus Race in itself signifies the obliqueness of life, that it is rather unpredictable and does not have a clear purpose and meaning to itself. Though the race accomplishes the intended purpose of making everyone dry, there is no clear path of understanding their (the inhabitants of the Wonderland) undertakings. This is the explanation of why life sometimes takes unexplainably arbitrary turns and twists and sometimes ends in the right place without a real clear purpose.
In Spark Notes (2), Alice can not recite the ‘Father William’ poem as requested by Caterpillar, a revelation of just how much Alice has lost her identity. Her identity gets so confused that her thoughts become adulterated in the process. The Caterpillar though being a Wonderland citizen can recite the poem better and shows his prowess by showing Alice how and where she has gotten the poem wrong from the start to the end of her recitation. Her inability to remember the things that she had known well shows the extent to which Wonderland has impacted on Alice’s brain and growth levels. The presence of the Caterpillar who signifies authority further compounds her already flustered state.
Death is a Menace
Alice has never considered death a possible outcome of her taking of risks that have the potential to kill her because she has come to the realization that her experiences at the Wonder land have far much potential to kill her than any other experiences elsewhere and what she actually imagines of the Wonderland. When the Queen orders the chopping of Alice’s head, Alice suddenly realizes that Wonderland is not just a realm where expectations are continually frustrated but death is areal threat (Brooker 199-201).
She realizes that the risks she faces are neither absurd nor ridiculous but a reality. Given the grounds on which the queen wants her head chopped; she has grown more than the standard one mile tall level thereby causing the fall of the jury stand. She cannot quite defend herself adequately on the loss of the tarts and is faced with a death penalty without fair hearing and trial on the King’s part. She is however saved by the persistence of the White Rabbit at defending her. She escapes thinly having known just how close she is to death at the Wonderland than anywhere else. She can actually loose her life at the Queens command (a symbol of authority) without much ado.
In essence, there is a direct connection between age, size and maturity. The changes in body size are unpredictable, beyond the control of whoever is growing and an arbitrary process at the same time. Growing up has the capability to make one feel awkward and sometimes puts individuals and the people around them in danger. The only way to freeze ones age is through death.
Dreams as a Formal Element
The Adventures in Wonderland only happen in Alice’s mind and dreams so there is a fusion between the real world and the unconscious state of mind of Alice. The dream motif gives evidence of the presence of desperate and nonsensical events in the story. Alice encounters various self realization episodes in which she tries to find out the relationship between her world and herself. Alice does not seem to obtain a coherent explanation and interpretation of life much as the experiences at the Wonderland offered meaningful observations.
While her sister is reading for Alice a book, she doses off into a dreamlike state in which she capture the sight of a white rabbit who speaks English. She seems to be in anticipation of the strange and nonsensical events that will later take place in the book. The invitation of the rabbit that they get into Wonderland though the rabbit hole through which Alice cannot pass is a sign and symbol of the departure from the known conventional rules of the real world.
Though in deep slumber and dreaming (Brooker, 229), Alice does not let go the established patterns of thought and logic of the waking world. She has a desire symbolized by her chase of the elusive chase on the rabbit without clear knowledge of what she wants to do once she catches the rabbit. Out of sheer curiosity Alice believes that by catching the rabbit she will attain some satisfaction and knowledge. She does not seem to know the outcomes of her chase, but in essence the act of chasing in itself is a show of a desired goal that resides within Alice. The rabbit here is the symbol of a frustrated desire and wonderland with its uncertainties is the source of inconveniences that thwart her desire and expectations at every turn of life.
In the last chapter of the book, Alice wakes up only to find herself on the laps of her sister at the river bank. She reiterates the story of the Wonderland to her sister who only hopes that even as Alice grows older she will retain her childlike spirit and recount her adventure to her age mates. It narrows down that Alice Wonderland is just but a childhood fantasy (Brooker, 201). The growth of Alice during trials is a show of her increased awareness on the illusive nature of the Wonderland.
Alice during her travels realizes that the only aspect of the Wonderland that is truly reliable and expected is that it will frustrate, scuttle and test her expectations and understanding of the world’s natural order. She comes to the conclusion that her life’s lessons no longer translate directly to her thoughts as she botches multiplication tables and almost always recites the poems that she had memorized before coming to Wonderland incorrectly. Alice may want to carry out a cause- effect analysis using the logical framework to fit her experiences at the Wonderland but cannot because her desires have been frustrated and perhaps scuttled by Wonderland (Hollingsworth 59).
At the entry of Alice into wonderland, she could not fit into the rabbit hole and after drinking a portion labeled ‘drink me’ she suddenly becomes just the right size to go through the rabbit hole. This however hampers her move to the next stage since she has grown t small to get to the key at the top of the table right over her head. She feels so hopeless and helpless at her inability to reach the key and cries herself silly until her attention is caught by a small piece of cake labeled ‘eat me’. She tends towards thinking that the piece of cake will do her the justice of making her big enough to reach the key on the table. Much to her disappointment, the key does not impact on her size.
Symbolically speaking, the spurt that resulted from the cake represents the awkward, unexpected by the growing child and undesired aspects of bodily transformations that accompany puberty much to the displeasure of the growing child (Bloom, 53-56). Much as Alice’s growth lets her into her much anticipated destiny, it slowly but surely separates her form childhood pleasures that she so would like to cling to.
The Use of Language
In Wonderland, things happen spontaneously and sporadically; there is unlimited possibility for anything to happen any time. To explain that things might happen beyond convention and describable events, the words in Alice’s exclamation ‘curious and curiouser’are used (Carroll, 37-39). These are not the only words that Alice uses symbolically since anytime she is faced with a confusing but tolerable circumstances she endures the curiosity and confusion with a hope that she will gain a clearer picture of the functions of those experiences in life.
In Spark Notes (2), Alice uses the words nonsense, curious and confusing interchangeably sometimes to describe phenomenal things that happen yet she does not have an explanation for. She realizes the nonsensical nature of the Wonderland when the King decides to attach meaning to words in the poem which she considers nonsense i.e. without any coherent meaning enough to penalize an individual of wrongdoing. Alice has been charged for forgetting how tall she has grown. According to Carroll (88-90), Alice’s growing tall makes her knock over the jury stand much to the disdain of the King and the Queen. The King wants to penalize Alice because of the importance he attaches to the tarts, but the White Rabbit comes on the way convincing the King of how the tarts are actually unimportant.
The King having targeted Alice then interjects with rule 42 that demanded that everyone who had grown to more than a mile high left the court. Alice is the only one more than a mile tall but she accuses the King of fabricating the rule in the book. Having failed to produce enough evidence that warrants the punishment of Alice, the Queen turns to telling the king to behead Alice thereby providing a leeway for sentence before any proven verdict.
When Alice confuses the mouse’s tale for its tail and visualizes the tale in the shape of the tail, it openly shows her incapacitated nature at understanding the inhabitants and the happenings in the Wonderland. Words are supposed to convey consistent meanings and portray fixed definitions. This is however not the case in Wonderland since no aspect of Wonderland has a lasting impact beyond the context and scene within which it operates. There is therefore no consistency in the patterns of meaning that are expected to create a logical framework of reasoning in the Wonderland. Verbal miscues are used by Alice to show just how invariable life and expectation in Wonderland is. By and large the actual life of a growing child and the expectations are always thwarted by external factors on which the growing child may not have an established control.
The garden has been used to symbolize the Garden of Eden, a place of beauty and solace that Alice is apparently not allowed to access by the moral order of life at the Wonderland. The garden also represents the desire of Alice to hold on to her childhood feelings and innocence which she has to forfeit as she matures. The idealized garden is off limits to Alice since she can no more fit through the infant passage way, she has to face the maturity life and the womb and security that comes with it is no more a place for her (Spark Notes, 2).
In the garden is a mushroom that is used symbolically to represent the body. Its fluctuating size signifies the frustrations that Alice goes through daily during puberty and the entire growth process. The mushroom is also used to give view of Alices distorted opinion of the Wonderland.
The Caterpillar at the garden is a symbol of an antagonist authority that foreknows that Alice has lost her actual identity in the process of acquiring in genuine identity at the Wonderland. He appears as the wise counselor that teaches Alice what part of the mushroom will make her grow big and which part will have the opposite effect. The Caterpillar also emerges as a representative of sexuality as explained by its phallic shape. Alice is threatened by the Caterpillar’s bodily transformation into a butterfly at maturity. However, Alice is drawn into obeying the Caterpillar who seems to have read her mind even before she could open her mouth to speak.
The Use of Imagery as Formal Element
Alice seems to be bored from her sister’s incessant reading of a book and doses off when the White Rabbit suddenly appears complaining of how late he is having looked at his wrist watch. The White Rabbit disappears into a rabbit hole leaving Alice wanting to follow him. The rabbit has been personified to illustrate the entry of Alice in a world full of illusions, the Wonderland. It only remains to be imagined how Alice by taking a drink from a bottle labeled drink me can possibly shrink to the size of the white rabbit hole (Bloom, 150). When Carolle talks of Alice in a pool of tears, it only remains to be imagined how massively a person has to cry to form a pool enough to cover her feet. In rather unclear circumstances she gets a fan from Duchess and fans herself to consolation, with a belief that she no longer is Alice.
The fanning motion causes her to shrink down to the size enough to fit through the door. She comes out of the pool for the door, but falls back into a pool of salt water in which she swims; this is her own giant tears (Spark Notes 2). The sudden change of the pool of tears that was just about the knee into a see in which Alice could swim leaves a lot to be desired and thought on the readers side.