Lewis Carroll, "Alice in Wonderland" as a Work of Nonsense Fiction

Bachelor Thesis, 2010
59 Pages, Grade: 1.0


Table of Contents

1. Introduction

2. The Victorian Author — Lewis Carroll vs. Charles L. Dodgson

3. The Genesis ofAlicein Wonderland

4. The Construction of the Plot

5. The Heroine Alice and her Imagination

6. Nonsense inAlicein Wonderland
6.1 Definition of Literary Nonsense
6.2 Varieties of Nonsense inAlice’s Adventures in Wonderland
6.3 Varieties of Nonsense inThrough the Looking-Glass
6.3.1 “Jabberwocky”
6.3.2 Humpty Dumpty's Concept of Language

7. Allusions to Philosophy

8. A Children’s Book or More?

9. Conclusion


1. Introduction

The following thesis is about “Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland as a Work of Nonsense Fiction”. Carroll’s masterpiece Alice in Wonderland, which includes both books, namely Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and its sequel Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There, does not only belong to the most popular English children’s books, but it is also regarded as a classic around the world. Especially in English-speaking countries, lines from the Alice books have been as often cited as lines from Shakespeare or the bible. Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, who used the pseudonym “Lewis Carroll” for his writings, made up the tale Alice in Wonderland for his most-loved child-friend and muse Alice Liddell and her sisters during a boat trip on the River Thames. Lewis Carroll is known, next to Edward Lear, as one of the most famous Nonsense poets and writers. Moreover, it is claimed that he was the first author to introduce Nonsense into children’s literature, and as result, had a huge impact with his Alice books on English children’s literature. The split between the two personalities, namely the Victorian author Carroll and the Reverend and mathematician Dodgson, who taught at Christ Church, Oxford, has to be considered in order to get a better understanding of the Alice books as a Nonsense Work.

This is exactly what will be done in this thesis. Firstly, there will be given a general overview on the author’s life. Secondly, the boat trip itself and with it the genesis of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There will be discussed. After that, a closer examination of the plot and its construction in both books will be given. In addition, similarities and differences will be shown between the construction of the plot of the first and the second Alice book. Furthermore, the characterization of the eponymous heroine “Alice” will be analyzed and will be regarded under Alice’s ability of imagination.

A special focus will be on the Nonsense fiction as such. A definition of Literary Nonsense will be given and varieties of Literary Nonsense will be examined on the basis of the two Alice books. Additionally, Lewis Carroll’s well-known poem “Jabberwocky” in Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There will be analyzed as an example of Nonsense Fiction. In the context of the poem “Jabberwocky”, there has also to be looked on the still ubiquitous Humpty Dumpty, who is next to the Duchess, March Hare and Mad Hatter, the Red Queen and Tweedledum and Tweedledee one of the queerest characters in the story. Due to the fact that Humpty Dumpty tries to explain the words used in “Jabberwocky” to Alice, his interpretation is of enormous significance for the analysis in the context of the poem. And finally, philosophical implications will be worked out and the question whether the Alice books are only meant as children’s books or can even regarded as something more, will be discussed. To facilitate the writing and reading of this thesis, the titles Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There will mostly be used with the abbreviations Wonderland and Looking-Glass.

2. The Victorian Author — Lewis Carroll vs. Charles L. Dodgson

Lewis Carroll was born as Charles Lutwidge Dodgson on January 27, 1832 in the little parsonage of Daresbury, Cheshire and died at the age of 66 years on January 14, 1898 in Guildford, Surrey. He was the third child and first son of the Anglican clergyman Charles Dodgson and his wife Frances Jane Lutwidge. Altogether, Charles Lutwidge Dodgson had ten siblings and received primary education from his parents. Due to the fact that his father was a clergyman, Dodgson himself grew up with a strict religious education. Very early he showed great interest in mathematics, logic, puzzles and games, like card games, chess and croquet, which “as we all know, provided the background for his two immortal Alice books” (Gardner, Universe 1). However, he was also fascinated by poems and literature. Furthermore, the young Dodgson wrote poems for homemade magazines to entertain and amuse his family. For example, he called one of his magazines “Mischmasch”, which was like three other homemade magazines preserved and published after his death.

At the age twelve, Dodgson attended Grammar school in Richmond, and later on, the private Rugby School. He was a very good and diligent pupil and followed his father’s footsteps, later studying at the Christ Church College in Oxford and at Oxford University, where he excelled in mathematics but still kept his interest for classics and literature. After his graduation from university, he became a lecturer at Christ Church for mathematics in 1856, and additionally, preached at the church of the college from time to time. In various sources, it is claimed that he used to be a rather dry and boring don during his lectures and did not show great personal effort.[1] Nevertheless, he published around thirty essays in the field of mathematics. As a private man Dodgson seemed to have rather preferred the company of young children to that of women, and as a result, he never married and stayed a bachelor for the rest of his life.

In his free time, one of his favorite hobbies, next to drawing, was photography. Since Dodgson could afford the necessary equipment for photography, he could be regarded as a pioneer in this new art. He took thousands of photographs, mostly portraits. Moreover, he preferred to take pictures of famous people and little nude girl models. It is said that Dodgson, in general, enjoyed the company of pretty little girls before puberty rather than the company of little boys. That he took pictures of unclad girls sounds disconcerting and rather perverted from the modern point of view. However, it is proven that taking those pictures corresponds with the prevailing taste of the Victorian Era, since the body of small girls was compared to the one of elves. At least Dodgson asked the girls’ parents for permission, and what is more, cancelled a photo shooting when the girl herself felt uncomfortable.[2] Alice Liddell, who will be discussed later in the second chapter of this thesis, was one of his models for photography. It is also interesting to know that “[i]n 1880, however, some ill-natured gossip must have got up, and Dodgson may suddenly have felt that his interest in nude photography contained the hidden seeds of sin. With his scrupulous honesty and devout sense of duty, he at once gave up photography altogether” (Green 36). For this reason, Dodgson destroyed most of his nude negatives.

Next to Dodgson’s special passion for photography, his character shows some other strange habits. Donald Rackin poses in one of his essays the following three rhetorical questions which certainly give a small impression of Dodgson’s peculiar personality:

What should we make of a man who for fifty years kept a meticulous register of the contents of every letter he wrote or received — summaries of well over 100,000 letters? Of a man who maintained a record of the many luncheons and dinners he gave throughout a sociable lifetime, with diagrams showing where each guest sat and lists of just what dishes were served? Of a man who threatened to break off relations with his publisher of thirty years’ standing because he found slight imperfections in the eighty-four thousandth copy of one of his popular children’s books, then in print for twenty years? (398).

To get a better understanding of additional bizarre characteristics and facts of the lifelong bachelor Dodgson and author Carroll, one must consider the age in which he lived, namely the Victorian Age, which is in general dated from 1830 to 1901. Dodgson can be regarded as a contemporary witness of a period which was marked by the legendary reign of Queen Victoria. Through imperialism the influence of her kingdom increased. Queen Victoria led England to world power and for the first time in history, the whole society was captured by capitalism. The Victorian Age was also a very turbulent period of drastic change. Especially the Industrial Revolution had an immense impact on life in Victorian England. Through technological, medical and scientific knowledge, England changed from an agricultural to an industrial country. Moreover, the population almost doubled during this time. New inventions like the further development of James Watt’s steam engine made an economic boom possible. Nevertheless, secondary virtues like decorousness, discipline, utility and enthusiasm for one’s work as well as morality and prudishness played a major role in the Victorian society.[3] Additionally, the gap between the working class and the middle and upper class increased. A high crime rate, prostitution, women and child labor controlled every day life. On the one hand, there was the very productive period of glory, and on the other hand, a lot of social problems arose in the Victorian society. The discrepancy of the Victorian Era could also be summarized like this:

Die elegante und luxuriöse Lebensweise der gehobenen bürgerlichen Gesellschaftskreise und die bittere Armut breiter Bevölkerungsschichten können gar nicht kontraststark genug einander gegenübergestellt werden. Der dunkelste Punkt dieser äußerlich so glanzvollen und produktiven Zeit aber ist wohl, daß dieselbe Gesellschaft, die von sich behauptete, das Kind entdeckt und das Zeitalter des Kindes eingeleitet zu haben, ungerührt mit ansah, „wie zahllose Kinder im eigenen Lande Sklavenarbeit leisteten und kümmerlich dahinvegetierten” (Sahr 105).

All in all, it can be said that Dodgson grew up in a time of prosperity which had also its drawbacks.

Next to the different influences of the Victorian Era, there are at least two aspects which determined Dodgson’s life and also the development of his personality.[4] On the one hand, there is the religious educated mathematician Dodgson who taught in a usual black vestment for 47 years at Christ Church. This man is often described as reclusive or even neurotic bachelor who was obsessed by order. This man accepted the strict repression and morality of the Victorian society and followed or rather adjusted to its structure.

The same man, on the other hand, developed a second or Janus-headed personality as writer Lewis Carroll. Dodgson started to use his pseudonym “Lewis Carroll” for private and non-scientific publications in 1856. He created his pen name by translating “Charles Lutwidge” into Latin, namely “Carolus Ludovicus”, and after that he anglicized it into “Lewis Carroll”.[5] Carroll’s devotion to poems and literature show the other half of the same man who never became a professional writer since he wrote for private purpose only. Furthermore, Carroll is often regarded as imaginative Nonsense writer, creative photographer, artist and true friend of children, who loved to tell children stories. That he devoted himself to writing nonsense literature could be seen as a refuge in order to endure everyday life:

[F]ür Carroll [wurde] das Reich des Nonsense ein Refugium, in das er flüchtete, ein „ivory tower“, eine Zufluchtsstätte des Geistes, [um] einer allzu nüchternen rationalen Welt zu entfliehen […] (Schöne, Englische Nonsense-Balladen 73).

Moreover, it is claimed that he stammered lightly in the presence of adults, whereas he never did this when he was surrounded by children. Carroll also wore white flannel clothes in his free time, the complete opposite to the black vestment which was expected at work. These are various reasons why it is often suggested that Dodgson developed an alter ego in order to escape the social constraints and pressure of the Victorian society. Where many authors talk about Carroll’s two faces, Elizabeth Sewell suggests that “he had a triple identity, as the Reverend Charles Dodgson, as a professional mathematician and symbolic logician, and as a Nonsense writer” (Lewis Carroll, 122).

In conclusion, it is clear that we cannot properly consider the Alice books without considering the unique personality of the author. No matter how many egos can be found in one and the same person, it can be said that Charles L. Dodgson alias Lewis Carroll was and still is a very ambivalent and often discussed man. Whether it is because of his personality differences or in spite of them, his complicated character is clearly reflected in the Alice books.

3. The Genesis of“Alice in Wonderland”

Lewis Carroll met the four-year old Alice Pleasance Liddell and two of her sisters in 1865 for the first time at the Deanery of Christ Church, when he wanted to take a picture of the Cathedral. Carroll often spent time with the Liddell children. The father of the Liddell children was Carroll’s superior Dean Henry George Liddell, who is also known as the famous co-author of the Greek-English Lexicon Liddell-Scott. Carroll also was the tutor of Alice’s older brother Harry. His friendship with the children “grew and continued for almost ten years, though Dodgson never got well with either the Dean or Mrs. Liddell” (Green 13). From Carroll’s diaries we know today that he mostly visited the Liddells to see the girls when Mrs. Liddell was absent. However, together with their governess Miss Prickett, who had the nickname “Pricks”, the girls came over from time to time to Carroll’s rooms to listen to his made-up stories. In one of Alice’s diary entries she remembers such a day with Carroll:

We used to sit on the big sofa on each side of him [...] while he told us stories, illustrating them by pencil or ink drawings as he went along. [...] He seemed to have an endless store of these fantastical tales, which he made up as he told them, drawing busily on a large sheet of paper all the time. They were not entirely new. Sometimes they were new versions of old stories; sometimes they started on the old basis, but grew into new tales owing to the frequent interruptions which opened up fresh and undreamed-of possibilities (Green 14).

Before the famous boat trip, during which it is said that Carroll laid the foundations for Alice in Wonderland, there had been several boat trips and picnics with the Liddell girls on the Thames, which was then often called Isis in Oxford. Moreover, Alice recalls in her diary that the “party usually consisted of five — one of Mr. Dodgson’s men friends as well as himself and us three. His brother [Wilfred] occasionally took an oar on the merry party, but our most usual fifth was Mr. Duckworth, who sang well” (Green 15). Reverend Robinson Duckworth was Carroll’s friend and colleague from Trinity College.

Finally, on Friday July 4, 1862, the legendary boat trip took place. The date itself is “as memorable a day in the history of literature, [...] as it is in American history” (Gardner, The Annotated Alice 7). The same party as usual participated, as it is recorded in Alice’s diary, namely Carroll, Duckworth, Alice and her sisters Lorina Charlotte (called Ina) and Edith Mary (called Matilda or in short: Tillie). The group went together on the boat to go upstream to Godstow to have a picnic there. To entertain the girls and in order to meet Alice’s demand to tell a nonsensical story, Carroll made up Alice in Wonderland. In his diary Carroll took note of that special day as follows:

Duckworth and I made an expedition up the river to Godstow with the three Liddells; we had tea on the bank there, and did not reach Christ Church again till quarter past eight. [...] On which occasion, [...] I told them the fairy-tale of Alice’s Adventures under Ground, which I undertook to write out for Alice (Green 16).

In this diary entry it becomes clear that Carroll wrote the story down especially for the by that time ten-year old Alice Liddell, whom he certainly loved most of the three girls. In Alice’s diary she describes why she begged Carroll to write down Wonderland: “I think the stories he told us that afternoon must have been better than usual, because I have such a distinct recollection of the expedition, and also, on the next day I started to pester him to write down the story for me” (Green 16). And indeed, Carroll had started to collect ideas for writing down the story after this remarkable boat expedition.

Not only the boat trip of July 4 is several times reflected in the Alice books, but also a boat trip that had taken place two weeks before. On this boat trip, dated on June 17, 1862, it happened to rain heavily, and as a result, the young Alice felt very displeased and started to cry. Furthermore, she had “been accused of causing the flood by her crying [...]” (Green 17) by other members of the party. Due to this incident, Carroll developed The Pool of Tears and A Caucus-Race and a Long Tale as second and third chapters of Wonderland. Martin Gardner explains the characters appearing in the pool of tears in the following way:

Carroll’s Dodo was intended as a caricature of himself — his stammer is said to have made him pronounce his name “Dodo-Dodgson.” The Duck is Reverend Robinson Duckworth, who often accompanied Carroll on boating expeditions with the Liddell sisters. The Lory, an Australian parrot, is Lorina, who is the eldest of the sisters (this explains why, in the second paragraph of the next chapter, she says to Alice “I’m older than you, and must know better”). Edith Liddell is the Eaglet (27).

This passage shows that there are various hidden allusions to the author’s private life as will be seen later in this thesis.

Carroll began to write down Wonderland on November 13, 1862 and intended to be finished by Christmas in order to give the first book to Alice as a Christmas present. Nevertheless, it took him until February 1863 to give the finished book to Alice, even though his illustrations were still missing in this edition. At that point of time, the book was to be seen at the Deanery. The novelist Henry Kingsley, who was a guest of the Liddells, was so impressed by the book, that he “urged Mrs. Liddell to persuade the author to publish it; but Dodgson was doubtful, and did not want to risk losing money over it” (Green 19). As a consequence, he asked his friend Duckworth for advice. Duckworth was also fascinated by the story and suggested Carroll to employ the professional and experienced Punch illustrator and artist John Tenniel to draw pictures for it. In general, it is useful to know that during the Victorian Era, “illustrated books were in vogue” (Kelly, 1990: 114). Although Carroll got good appraisal for his work, he was still indecisive “whether a story composed extempore for three particular children, and based on their own experiences, from picnics on the Thames to unusual games of croquet and cards at the Deanery [...], could appeal to other children” (Green 19). Finally, Carroll gave his manuscript to the writer George Macdonald, who read it out loud to his family. Macdonald’s six year old son exclaimed that he wished “there were 60,000 volumes of it” (Green 20). Now, Carroll felt confident in his plan to publish Wonderland, and immediately, undertook some changes and additions, so that all readers, and not only his closest friends, could follow the plot. Additionally, he changed the original title Alice’s Adventures under Ground into Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.

Carroll finally decided to employ Tenniel as the illustrator for Wonderland. “In working out his drawings for the book, Tenniel had three immediate influences to accommodate: the thirty-eight drawings that Carroll had already created for Alice’s Adventures under Ground, Carroll’s personal supervision of the new drawings, and, of course, the text of the revised and enlarged Alice story itself” (Kelly, 1990: 114). Due to these facts, it is not possible to imagine the Alice books without Tenniel's illustrations, even if many artists tried to illustrate and interpret newer editions, but no one surpassed Tenniel. On December 16, 1864 Macmillan’s started to publish two thousand and forty-eight copies of the book, but Tenniel was very displeased with the quality of his illustrations, and as a result, Carroll took the books off the market, and donated some of the imperfect copies to a children’s hospital. After the misprint, a new first edition was printed one year later in 1865. Alice Liddell also received one of the first copies on July 4, 1865 — exactly three years after the original boat trip. It is also interesting to know that by that time Carroll had had hardly any contact with Alice and her sisters. By June, 1863 Mrs. Liddell decided she did not want her daughters to meet Carroll anymore and she burnt all his letters addressed to her daughters. Various rumors indicated that Carroll only wanted to see the Liddell sisters in order to get closer to their governess Miss Prickett.[6] Mrs. Liddell certainly suspected that this was an excuse and feared that Carroll wanted to propose to one of her daughters. It is often speculated that he wanted to marry Alice.

The genesis of Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There is not as spectacularly recorded as Wonderland. Since Carroll had told many little stories to the Liddell children, by 1866 he was already planning a sequel to Wonderland. Various stories he told the Liddell sisters were based on the theme of chess, a game the girls were about to learn at that time. Carroll wanted to write down his recollection of these stories in a second book because he could not mention them all in Wonderland. For the sequel he once again had problems finding the right illustrator, since Tenniel thought that he could not illustrate one more book for the meticulous Carroll. Nonetheless, Tenniel finally agreed to illustrate it.

Again a special event is connected to the genesis of Looking-Glass: While Carroll visited his uncle Skeffington Lutwidge in London, he met another Alice, his distant cousin Alice Theodora Raikes. This Alice was playing in the garden, when Carroll called her and asked her whether she wanted to see something rather puzzling in the mirror of the room. Many years later after this incident, the already seventy year old Alice Raikes recalls this day in a London Time interview:

“Now,” he said, giving me an orange, “first tell me which hand you have got that in.” “The right,” I said. “Now,” he said, “go and stand before that glass, and tell me which hand the little girl you see there has got it in.” After some perplexed contemplation, I said, “The left hand.” “Exactly,” he said “and how do you explain that?” I couldn’t explain it, but seeing that some solution was expected, I ventured, “If I was on the other side of the glass, wouldn’t the orange still be in my right hand?” I can remember his laugh. “Well done, little Alice,” he said. “The best answer I’ve had yet.” I heard no more then, but in after years was told that he said that had given him his first idea for Through the Looking-Glass...(Green 24).

Many other women claimed after Carroll’s death that as children they were his inspiration for Looking-Glass but left out of their consideration that Carroll might have just told them one chapter out of the novel in order to test how appealing the book would be for children. Finally, the first edition of Looking-Glass was printed in 1871 in time for sale at Christmas, even if the book itself was dated with 1872 inside. That Carroll intended to give Alice Liddell a special edition with an integrated mirror in the book cover, which was simply not possible, still showed his devotion to her. All in all, by the time of Carroll’s death around 180,000 copies had been sold and since then Alice in Wonderland has never gone out of print until today.

4. The Construction of the Plot

This chapter is about the plot in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There and how they are both constructed. At first, the plot of Wonderland, and after that, the one of Looking-Glass will be examined. At the same time, both plot constructions will be compared and similarities and differences will be shown.

The first Alice book does not begin with the actual plot itself since a poem is put in front. These prefatory verses could also be regarded as a dedication poem, in which “Carroll recalls that “golden afternoon” in 1862 when he and his friend Reverend Robinson Duckworth [...] took the three charming Liddell sisters on a rowing expedition up the Thames” (Gardner, AA 7). To get a better understanding of the poem, there has to be looked on the verses themselves:

All in the golden afternoon,

Full leisurely we glide;

For both oars, with little skill,

By little arms are plied,

While little hands make vain pretence

Our wanderings to guide.

Ah, cruel Three! In such an hour,

Beneath such dreamy weather;

To beg a tale of breath too weak

To stir the tiniest feather!

Yet what can one poor voice avail

Against three tongues together?

Imperious Prima flashes forth

Her edict “to begin it”:

In gentler ones Secunda hopes

“There will be nonsense in it!”

While Tertia interrupts the tale

Not more than once a minute.

Anon, to sudden silence won,

In fancy they pursue

The dream-child moving through a land

Of wonders wild and new,

In friendly chat with bird or beast—

And half believe it true.

And ever, as the story drained

The wells of fancy dry,

And faintly strove that weary one

To put the subject by,

“The rest next time—” “It is next time!”

The happy voices cry.

Thus grew the tale of Wonderland:

Thus slowly, one by one,

It is quaint events were hammered out—

And now the tale is done,

And home we steer, a merry crew,

Beneath the setting sun.

Alice! A childish story take,

And, with a gentle hand,

Lay it where Childhood’s dreams are twined

In Memory’s mystic band,

Like pilgrim’s wither'd wreath of flowers.

Pluck'd in a far-off land (Gardner, AA 7).

Even if this poem will not be regarded in detail, it is interesting to see how far it describes the genesis of Wonderland. From Alice Liddell’s memories we know today that Carroll intended to call Alice’s oldest sister Lorina “Prima”, Alice herself “Secunda” and the youngest Edith “Tertia” in the third stanza of the poem. Martin Gardner remarks that the word “little”, which appears three times in the second stanza, is a pun and is pronounced like the sisters’ last name “Liddell”.[7] Right at the beginning of Wonderland the personal reference to the author’s life becomes clear. Undoubtedly, this boat trip with the Liddell sisters played a major role for Wonderland and the prefatory verses are related to the formal construction and structure of both Alice books.

The first chapter of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland starts in medias res with the heroine and fictional Alice sitting with her sister on a bank, the latter reading a book which does not appeal to Alice since it is “without pictures or conversations” (Gardner, AA 11), when Alice suddenly spies the White Rabbit. The curious Alice follows the White Rabbit with its pocket watch down a rabbit-hole and she falls a long way down in a well. After her fall she finds herself in a hall with a lot of closed doors. With a golden key Alice manages to open the tiniest door and sights a beautiful garden but is too big to enter it. Soon after, Alice finds a little bottle which says “Drink me” (Gardner, AA 16) and later a cake with the note “Eat me” (Gardner, AA 18). By drinking the liquid content of the bottle and eating a piece of the small cake, Alice becomes either too small to reach the key or too tall to fit through the door.

Frustrated by not being able to adjust the right size, Alice starts crying, and soon notices that she is swimming in a pool of her own tears which she cried when she was nine feet tall. The pool gets crowded with other animals and birds like the Mouse, the Duck, the Dodo, the Lory and the Eaglet. As a consequence, they all swim to the shore, where the Mouse is drying the animals with her “dry” tale. After all animals and birds have left the gathering, Alice sees the White Rabbit again, which mistakes her for his maid “Mary Ann” and wants her to fetch his pair of gloves and a fan from his home. At the White Rabbit’s house, Alice again changes size and is so large that her body fills out the whole house. Together with his friends, under them Bill the Lizard, the White Rabbit tries to manage the situation. Nevertheless, through eating some cake, Alice changes size again and becomes very small, so that she can run out of the White Rabbit’s house into the woods, where she encounters an enormous puppy.[8]

When Alice continues her way through the woods, she comes to a Caterpillar who is sitting on a mushroom and gives her some good advice, namely to eat from either the right or the left side of the mushroom in order to shrink or grow. Alice grows immensely from one piece of the mushroom, and as a result, a Pigeon thinks that she is a serpent and wants to eat her eggs even though Alice assures her that she is a little girl. Alice leaves the Pigeon and gets to the Duchess’ house where she first watches a Frog- and a Fish-Footman and then enters the house and meets the Duchess herself, who is nursing a child, her cook and the Cheshire-Cat. Alice gets the chance to hold the Duchess’ baby, which turns into a pig. In the woods again, Alice finds the Cheshire-Cat sitting on a tree with a grin and Alice asks him which way to go. The Cheshire-Cat tells her that a Hatter lives in one direction and in the other direction a March Hare, who are “both mad” (Gardner, AA 65). Finally, Alice decides to visit the March Hare, where she joins the Mad Tea-Party consisting of the March Hare, Mad Hatter and the Dormouse. In general, the members of the Mad Tea-Party debate the most with Alice in comparison to the other Wonderland creatures.

After leaving the party, Alice finds a door in a tree, which leads her directly to the hall from the beginning of her adventures. There, she manages to get into the beautiful garden.[9] Soon, Alice notices that this garden belongs to the Queen of Hearts. She also watches three gardeners in form of playing cards painting white roses red because of the fact that they have planted white roses, which have the wrong color, instead of red ones. Shortly afterwards, the Queen of Hearts appears with her entourage. The Queen wants the gardeners beheaded, as almost everybody in her realm, but Alice can hide the playing cards just in the right moment. Alice is invited to play croquet with the Queen, which is pretty tough since the croquet balls are live hedgehogs and the mallets live flamingoes.[10] Through the appearance of the Cheshire-Cat, whom the King of Hearts absolutely dislikes, the croquet game is interrupted. The Queen of Hearts suggests Alice be taken by the Gryphon to the Mock Turtle to listen to his history. At the Mock Turtle, Alice listens to his story about underwater school and to his melancholic songs and she is taught in the Lobster-Quadrille.

Thereafter, the Gryphon takes her to trial of the Knave of Hearts who is accused of stealing Queen of Hearts’ tarts. Almost all Wonderland creatures are present. Alice follows the absurd process, and has to give evidence herself in the trial. While growing to her full size again, Alice is more and more offended by the utterances of the King and Queen of Hearts, so that she shouts at them “You’re nothing but a pack of cards!” (Gardner, AA 124), and finally, wakes up from her curious dream in the lap of her sister, who is still sitting outside on the bank. Alice tells her all about her dream and when finished she runs away, whereas Alice’s sister stays on the bank and starts dreaming of Alice’s dream and her sister’s future.

Wonderland is divided formally into twelve chapters. The reader gets to know the heroine Alice right from the beginning of the novel and can follow her adventures through a heterodiegetic third-person narrative, a typical feature of traditional children’s literature. Due to this fact, the reader is very close to the character Alice and can see “things through Alice’s eyes” (Kelly, 1977: 81). Nevertheless, the narrator also shows some omniscient comments, especially at the beginning of Wonderland.[11] It can be said that the plot of Wonderland consists of two plot-lines. On the one hand, there is the first scene of action, where Alice sits with her sister on a bank and feels already sleepy.[12] Here, Alice is still awake. This plot-line could be regarded as reality in the text-immanent world, which also comes close to the readers’ perception of the empirical reality since time and space follow their usual order. Furthermore, this first scene indicates the frame of the plot as a whole. On the other hand, when Alice starts to see the White Rabbit and follows it down the rabbit-hole, the second plot-line or the plot within a plot is introduced. This second plot could also be seen as a dream structure, where anything is possible in Wonderland:


[1] Cf. Sahr 106.

[2] Cf. Flemming 355.

[3] Cf. Sahr 105.

[4] Cf. Sahr 106.

[5] Note that the Latin translation “Ludovicus” contains the Latin word “ludo” which means “to play” and could be an allusion to Carroll’s interest in games or even wordplays. However, this is only a speculation and could be a lucky coincidence.

[6] Cf. Green 37.

[7] Cf. AA 9.

[8] Cf. Gardner, AA 44-46.

[9] Cf. Gardner, AA 78.

[10] Cf. Gardner, AA 84.

[11] Cf. Kreutzer 61.

[12] Cf. Gardner, AA 11.

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Lewis Carroll, "Alice in Wonderland" as a Work of Nonsense Fiction
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Christin Maier (Author), 2010, Lewis Carroll, "Alice in Wonderland" as a Work of Nonsense Fiction, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/287317


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