Throughout April I’m taking part in the Blogging from A-Z Challenge. I’ll be posting every day (except Sundays) on my chosen theme of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and “Through the Looking-Glass.
For the letter Y, I’m going to discuss one of the core themes of the Alice books: youth.
Alice is just a young girl when she first enters Wonderland and through her adventures, Carroll shows us the challenges she faces as she grows up into a young woman.
“But then,” thought Alice, “shall I never get any older than I am now? That’ll be a comfort, one way – never to be an old woman – but then – always to have lessons to learn! Oh, I shouldn’t like that!”
“Seven years and six months!” Humpty Dumpty repeated thoughtfully. “An uncomfortable sort of age. Now if you’d asked my advice, I’d have said ‘Leave off at seven’ – but it’s too late now.”
“I never ask advice about growing,” Alice said indignantly.
“Too proud?” the other enquired.
Alice felt even more indignant at this suggestion. “I mean,” she said, “that one can’t help growing older.”
“One can’t, perhaps,” said Humpty Dumpty; “but two can. With proper assistance, you might have left off at seven.”
Alice is the perfect representation of both the pros and cons of youth. Carroll shows that she is still ignorant and naive about many things. She still has much to learn about adult politics, relationships, justice, logic and the Victorian class system. At times, she is over-confident and rude to others who hold different opinions. She is also prone to outbursts of anger or tears when she doesn’t get her own way and can be extremely stubborn and childish.
But at the same time, Carroll glorifies Alice’s innocence and vivid imagination. He shows us a version of the real world as seen through a child’s eyes, with pompous and short-tempered figures of authority setting nonsensical and unfair rules. He prompts us to think about why we blindly follow society’s rules and ridiculous social etiquette without questioning.
Throughout her first adventure, Alice grows to understand the adult world a little more, as her physical growth at the end of the book symbolises. She learns how to handle overbearing authority and stand up for herself. By the time Carroll wrote Through the Looking Glass, Alice Liddell had already become a young woman, and he recalls the ‘happy summer days’ of her childhood with fondness in the poem “Child of the Pure Unclouded Brow“. In Through the Looking Glass, Alice appears much more confident and she is nurturing towards some of the other characters, showing she has grown up.
However, the passage at the end of Alice in Wonderland from her sister’s perspective suggests that Alice will keep her childlike curiosity and sense of wonder into adulthood and that we should all try to do the same.
“Lastly, she pictured to herself how this same little sister of hers would, in the after-time, be herself a grown woman; and how she would keep, through all her riper years, the simple and loving heart of her childhood: and how she would gather about her other little children, and make THEIR eyes bright and eager with many a strange tale, perhaps even with the dream of Wonderland of long ago: and how she would feel with all their simple sorrows, and find a pleasure in all their simple joys, remembering her own child-life, and the happy summer days.”
Before you go…
What do you think are the best and worst things about being young?