April 16, 2013

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland

I’m going to guess you probably know this one, but I’ll give you the big picture anyway.

Alice is playing in the garden with her older sister when she spots a white rabbit checking his pocket watch and remarking on his lateness. She chases him and falls down the famous rabbit hole. She finds herself in a hall full of doors, all of which are locked. She eats and drinks and changes size several times trying to get into a tiny door that leads to a beautiful garden. But it’s all to no avail.

As a tiny person she comes across a whole group of animals and spends some time with them. She insults the mouse several times when she brings up her beloved cat, Dinah. In this way she puts off all the animals she’d been talking to and goes wandering off by herself.

Here she runs into the rabbit again who sends her to his house to fetch him a pair of kid gloves. She finds the house and the gloves, only to grow very large while inside the house until she is trapped. A bevy of animals under the rabbit’s direction then tries to get her out of the house by throwing things at her. The things turn out to be little cakes, which she eats; they shrink her back down and she runs out of the house.

Next she meets the caterpillar. He shares with her the secret that one side of his mushroom will make her grow larger and the other smaller. With that she goes off to the Duchess’s house. There the cook is throwing things and demanding more pepper. The Duchess is breastfeeding an ugly baby that won’t stop screaming. The Duchess leaves to get ready for croquet with the Queen and hands Alice her baby. The baby promptly turns into a pig and wanders off.

It’s then that Alice notices the Duchess’s grinning cat in the tree. The Cheshire Cat gives Alice directions to the March Hare’s house, where Alice finds a tea party in progress. There she also meets the Mad Hatter and the Dormouse. Apparently it’s always tea time there and the group keeps progressing around the table from place to place, drinking more tea.

After a few rounds of riddles, Alice leaves and finds herself in the royal garden. There she meets some playing cards who are trying to paint the white roses red. The Queen catches them and orders their heads cut off. She then presses Alice into playing croquet with her using a flamingo for a mallet, a hedge hog for a ball, and more playing cards for the arches. Of course the game gets nowhere, and the Queen spends all the time ordering people’s heads cut off. 

Finally the Queen takes Alice to the Gryphon, who introduces her to the Mock Turtle. The Mock Turtle proceeds to tell some thoroughly confusing stories until they hear that a trial is beginning and Alice and the Gryphon run off to see the Knave of Hearts tried for stealing the Queen’s tarts. After much silliness Alice grows in height again and tells off the King and Queen. When the cards begin to attack her, she wakes up to discover that her adventures were really just a dream and the cards were just some leaves falling from a tree.

Other Thoughts:

  • When I was a little kid, I danced the part of a flamingo in Alice Through the Looking Glass. Just thought you should know.

I thought I was "da bomb" in this costume.
  • Lewis Carroll clearly had a vast and vivid imagination. I would say that he perhaps had some recreational habits, but the writing reminded me a good deal of A.A. Milne and Winnie the Pooh, which is to say, it’s clearly the sort of silliness you invent for the toddler/young child set.

  • I once again missed a whole rash of very English, very period references. Alice recites several poems which are meant to be comical because they are slightly off from the real versions. Having no acquaintance whatsoever with the real versions, the references were lost on me.

  • I was impressed by how many of the stories I did actually know. Quite a bit of the original story has made its way, in one form or another, into popular culture.

  • My copy has a color illustration of the tea party on the front, which has prompted H to ask me about Alice. I’ve had rather a good time telling her some of the stories—abridged for both content and time. She’s a very practical child and doesn’t understand the comedy of the cook throwing things for no reason whatsoever.

Next up: The Wind in the Willows.

1 comment:

  1. I'm sure it won't surprise you that this is one of my favorite books of all time. It's my favorite Disney movie, too. When I was little, I wanted to BE Alice. I've probably read the book twenty times. Also, Will and I are reading The Wind in the Willows right now!


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