Lewis Carroll's famous story and one of Walt Disney's hit movies, Alice in Wonderland, is a story about a curious girl named Alice that dreams of having a "world of her own". Her adventure begins when she falls asleep listening to her sister's history lesson and finds herself chasing after a white rabbit. She falls down the rabbit hole and meets strange creatures such as a talking doorknob, who helps her through a keyhole into Wonderland; Tweedledee and Tweedledum, who tell her stories; The Caterpillar, who shows her the mushroom to make her grow; and the Mad Hatter and the March Hare, who celebrate and unbirthday at their tea party. Finally, Alice has a run-in with the Queen of Hearts and her army of playing cards. Eventually, Alice is awakened from this nightmare by the recitations of her sister and the purring of her cat, Dinah. The release date of the movie was July 26, 1951.
Alice’s experiences in Wonderland are free from most of the norms and expectations that guide our lives and for that very reason are both marvelous and disconcerting. There is an unfettered joy as well as a continual disorientation that the reader experiences vicariously through Alice of never knowing what will come next, of realizing that the only certainty is uncertainty--that what one thinks will happen certainly will not. The world that we think we know, which we define logically through cause and effect, and that we ceaselessly seek to tame through definition, is subverted and replaced by a mad rush of unsequenced and inexplicable events. Along with Alice, we encounter a place that is seemingly lawless, whose nebulous experiences spawn from the subconscious and perhaps even more fundamentally from that most basic mystery that is the only core to existence.
Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland parodies, I think above all else, the human effort to create an organized universe in which our experience can be rendered rational. We have devised a language that not only arbitrarily symbolizes the world around us, but also incompletely represents it, and we use language to construct narratives that we take to be true reality, instead of some selective and laughably minute version of reality. Carroll’s continual plays on language throughout the book, especially in using words with multiple or ambiguous meanings, divert the dialogues between characters from any anticipated route by the reader, and thus mock the supposed logic and consistency of language, as well as narrative itself.
Identity is a crucial theme in Alice. Alice is asked to identify herself by several of the creatures of Wonderland and often she is unable to respond. She usually feels that she is too tall to be herself, or too small, or that she is another person altogether (“I must have been changed for Mabel!”). And it is only when “who she is and how she sees herself are no longer subject to the erratic and uncontrollable unknown” can she gain a measure of power to deal with the absurdity around her (Stowell 7).
Phyllis Greenacre takes the allegory of childhood back even farther, to the time when verbal language begins to supplant bodily activity, around fifteen to thirty months. She calls Alice “about as close a portrayal as can be accomplished in language of that realm in childhood’s development when the child is emerging from its primitive state of unreason, to the dawning conception of consequences, order and reason“ (418). And since Alice is a book meant for children that has actually been popular among children for over a century, there seems to be some evidence that children relate to Alice since they are facing the same challenges and issues regarding developing a “reasonable” view of the universe and establishing their own identity.
I believe the best example that illustrates consequences along with order and reasonis the courtroom scene. When Alice is forced in a courtroom and interregated, the council's logic seems like nonsense to her. Where as, in a real life situation, an adult's order and reason for a child's consequences may seem like nonsense in a courtroom also.
Dreams hold different weight in different cultures, but they are and have been of significant importance in Native American Indian tribes. The Indians look to dreams as a way of receiving guidance from the spirits of the earth, and many of these spirits take the form of animals. These animals represent or embody different meanings, and their presence in dreams hold meaning in the lives of the dreamers.
In the 1920's, Walt Disney produced many shorts called 'the Alice Comedies', which was an immediate success. The shorts were based on a real girl named Alice, who dreamed and walking around in her own fantasy world. After creating these shorts, Disney decided to make a movie based on Lewis Carroll's book, "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland." The main idea that Disney and Carroll had in common was the appreciation of childhood, eventually making a perfect team for such a movie. Disney wanted to make a live-action/animated version of the movie in 1933, but postponed the project due to the release of Paramount's version and World War II. In 1945, Disney finally found his perfect Alice that modeled exactly after his creation; a 14-year-old girl named Kathryn Beaumont was picked to play Alice. Finally, in 1946, the production of Alice in Wonderland began, taking five years to finish and costing over $3 million. After the release of the movie, Disney and his audience were disappointed in the outcome of the movies. Disney blames the "lack of heart" Alice displyed and the overwhelming abundance of characters.
The White Rabbit is the first of the animals that readers are introduced to and is the character that leads Alice into Wonderland. In Indian dream interpretation the rabbit can represent fear and overcoming limiting beliefs. Indeed, the White Rabbit seems perpetually frightened of what shall become of him should he be late, lose a glove, or displease in general, and by leading Alice into Wonderland he challenges the limits of reality.
In questioning the nature of this definition, and the Mouse’s miscommunication, Carroll probes the nature of definitions. If words can be so easily misconstrued in this dream world, and if the readers recognize this confusion easily, isn’t it a parody of the confusion of definitions that occur in reality as well? The definitions man believes to be steady, and uses as solid constructions every day, are really as wavering as Alice’s dream world.
Alice is not the only character in Carroll’s stories who misquotes poetry. The Mad Hatter (manifested later in Through the Looking-Glass as Hatta) recites “Twinkle, twinkle, little star” as: “Twinkle, twinkle little bat!/ How I wonder what you’re at!/ Up above the world you fly,/ Like a tea-tray in the sky.” (Carroll 71-72). Not only this, but the Mad Hatter has personified Time to an absurd degree –perhaps Carroll is pointing out how absurd our own slight personification of time is, or how many ‘forms’ Time takes.