Spotlight on Wonderland: Alice


Are you the curious sort? Ever catch yourself daydreaming in class or at work, yearning for more excitement in your day? Then you may have found a kindred spirit in Alice!

Alice is the much-loved protagonist of Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. She is headstrong, well-mannered, adventurous, intelligent, and imaginative. Her daydreaming leads her to follow a white rabbit with a pocket watch down the rabbit hole and into a vibrant world of talking mice, mad tea party guests, murderous royalty, and petulant insects.

Alice is quick tempered at times and, given the madness that surrounds her, understandably so.  After all, wouldn’t you get riled up trying to have tea with a rude Hatter, crazed March Hare, and a constantly napping Dormouse?

`Really, now you ask me,’ said Alice, very much confused, `I don’t think–‘

`Then you shouldn’t talk,’ said the Hatter.

This piece of rudeness was more than Alice could bear: she got up in great disgust, and walked off; the Dormouse fell asleep instantly, and neither of the others took the least notice of her going, though she looked back once or twice, half hoping that they would call after her: the last time she saw them, they were trying to put the Dormouse into the teapot.

`At any rate I’ll never go THERE again!’ said Alice as she picked her way through the wood. `It’s the stupidest tea-party I ever was at in all my life!’

Just as she said this, she noticed that one of the trees had a door leading right into it. `That’s very curious!’ she thought. `But everything’s curious today. I think I may as well go in at once.’ And in she went.

Alice and the QueenAlice is undeterred by the nonsense that surrounds her as she explores Wonderland and its bizarre cast of characters. She remains ever-curious, using her wits navigate the (quite literal) ups and downs of her journey.

She may be a child, by Alice is inquisitive, bright, and starts to adjust to the strange logic of Wonderland. She holds her own in a conversation with the puzzling Cheshire Cat and isn’t afraid to speak her mind and challenge authority. Even when that authority is a execution-happy, ill-tempered queen!

`No, no!’ said the Queen. `Sentence first–verdict afterwards.’

`Stuff and nonsense!’ said Alice loudly. `The idea of having the sentence first!’

`Hold your tongue!’ said the Queen, turning purple.

`I won’t!’ said Alice.

`Off with her head!’ the Queen shouted at the top of her voice. Nobody moved.

`Who cares for you?’ said Alice, (she had grown to her full size by this time.) `You’re nothing but a pack of cards!’

There’s a charm to Alice’s tenacity.  Although she often (unintentionally) upsets the creatures she meets, she is still polite, inquisitive, and eager. Alice is endearing because she reminds us of the innocence and curiosity of childhood. Shrinking down to the size of a three inch caterpillar and talking to a grinning cat whose body disappears into thin air might seem frightening to some , but it also sounds like a lot of fun! Even surrounded by madness, Alice looks back fondly on her time in Wonderland:

Oh, I’ve had such a curious dream!’ said Alice, and she told her sister, as well as she could remember them, all these strange Adventures of hers that you have just been reading about; and when she had finished, her sister kissed her, and said, `It WAS a curious dream, dear, certainly: but now run in to your tea; it’s getting late.’ So Alice got up and ran off, thinking while she ran, as well she might, what a wonderful dream it had been.

What do you think of Alice? Would you follow the White Rabbit into a strange world of nonsense, madness, and fun?

Did you Know:

  • Tenniel’s drawings of Alice look nothing like Alice Liddell, on whom Carroll’s heroine is based. Alice Liddell had short, dark hair, and straight bangs.
  • In the story, Alice has a cat named Dinah. Alice Liddell was also fond of her family’s two cats – one of which was named Dinah.
  • According to Lewis Carroll, Alice is:

    “courteous to all, high or low, grand or grotesque, King or Caterpillar…trustful, ready to accept the wildest impossibilities with all that utter trust that only dreamers know…wildly curious…with the eager enjoyment of Life that comes only in the happy hours of childhood.”

Visit the Maryland Room gallery in Hornbake Library from October 2105-July 2016 to discover more about Alice and the rest of the Wonderland cast of characters in the exhibit Alice 150 Years and County…The Legacy of Lewis Carroll: Selections from the Collection of August and Clare Imholtz.



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