April 1, 1999
CP English IV
A Strange Man of Many Talents
Lewis Carroll by today’s standards would be considered a weirdo. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland was written by Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, also known as Lewis Carroll, who was a separated man who delighted in the consortship of little girls. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland was influenced by Lewis Carroll’s life.
Lewis Carroll, one of 11 children, was born at Daresbury in Cheshire England. As a child, he lived in remote country places. After Daresbury his next home was Croft in Yorkshire and he depended very much on the company of his brothers and sisters, Lewis made up silly games and told silly stories for fun and entertainment. He was a successful scholar that took a distinguished degree at Christ Church and became a senior student in 1855. He contributed humorous poems and parodies to periodicals and for one of these, The Train, he used the pseudonym Carolus Ludovicus. Later he reversed it and retranslated it Lewis Carroll. Lewis was also a mathematician who published a formidable body of work. He was a very shy man with a stammer and always responded to children. He was immediately at ease with them and in their company his stammer left him. The Cambridge Guide to English Literature states that, “he never married, but he probably had an unhappy love affair when he was young: The evidence is inconclusive” (301). Carroll was uncomfortable around people of his own age but was comfortable around children especially little girls.
Lewis was always fascinated with little girls; he liked to read to them, to make up stories for them, to draw them, and to photograph them sometimes in the nude. Richard Kelly in Lewis Carroll Revised Edition states Lewis Carroll said “I confess I do not admire naked boys in pictures. They always seem to me need clothes: Whereas one hardly sees why the lovely fans of girls should ever be covered up” (152). Among the children who became his friends were those of George MacDonald and the Dean of Christ Church, Henry George Liddell. The second Liddell child was a three year old girl named Alice. Six years later he told the Liddell children after a boating party the story of Alice’s adventures underground and he undertook to write it out for Alice.
Lewis Carroll’s life had a large influence on the story. He played a lot of games and told stories to pass the times with his brothers and sisters. Lewis didn’t have many friends, The Cambridge Guide to English Literature states “because of his intimate shyness, although he was subjected to a certain amount of bullying” (901). Carroll also had a stammer and was deaf in one ear, and was left handed which also contributed to his low self confidence. According to Richard Kelly in Lewis Carroll Revised Edition “In a letter to Mrs. Jones Chataway, Carroll goes a step beyond nightdresses in requesting to photograph her daughter Gertrude in the nude” (9). As each child matured they were replaced by a child who shared the secret world of childhood with him.
Carroll’s understanding and love of children had been combined with the precision of a mathematician to produce two wonderful books that as the author himself stated “do not teach anything at all” (145). Alice was his favorite among all of the children. One could probably say that he had a fascination with her.
The main character in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland is of course Alice, a girl that follows a white rabbit down a hole. The White Rabbit also plays an important role. He is running late for a meeting with the Queen. The Caterpillar is a smoking smart alex who Alice comes upon. He is wise and provides her with knowledge in her nonsense surroundings. The Cheshire Cat is a character who talks nothing but nonsense to Alice, and sometimes his whole body is not seen. He also makes fun of the King and Queen towards the end of the story at the croquet ground. The Mad Hatter, Door Mouse, and March Hare engage Alice in a nonsense tea party. The Door Mouse is trying very hard to stay awake. The March Hare goes along with the Mad Hatter in all he does and says. The Queen of Hearts is an angry woman who replies to almost everything with “off with their head” (77). The King of Hearts just follows the Queen around and does what she says. This could be contributed to his life. He spent most of his time with little girls, playing games, telling stories, and photographing them. He may have made the Queen the dominating figure because of his fascination with young girls.
The story starts with Alice getting her lessons under a tree when she dozes off and is awakened by a White Rabbit. She follows the rabbit into a whole and falls (17-19). She looks through a door an the bottom and sees the loveliest garden in the world (20). Throughout the story she is trying to get to the garden. The garden is the Queens court which she comes to for a croquet game towards the end of the story (74). The story may relate to him maturing in his life. As a child he read in the family library which may be an insight to Alice receiving her lessons alone. The White Rabbit could represent young girls and how he fell in love with them which relates to Alice falling down the hole. After falling in love with them he thought they were the most beautiful beings in the world, so he spent his life in the company of them. His dream could have been for women to be in charge and that is where the Queen of Hearts character came from.
Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland is full of meaningless dialogues. An example is a part from the tea party, “have some wine, the March Hare said in an encouraging tone. Alice looked all round the table but there was nothing but tea” (66). In an example from the Queens croquet game he wrote “Alice thought she had never seen such a curious croquet-ground in her life: it was all ridges and furrows; the croquet balls were live hedgehogs, and the mallets live flamingoes” (79). Carrolls use of math could have been present in him choosing cards for the Queens workers and soldiers. A remark from Alice says “‘Who cares for you?’ said Alice (she had grown to her full size by this time). ‘You’re nothing but a pack of cards!'” (114). The story includes a lot of the elements of his life which makes it a interesting and entertaining story for children of all ages.
Lewis Carroll’s life influenced his book Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Lewis was an excellent mathematician, but at the same time he could be very silly. He was a little weird especially in his activities with young children. He is still remembered and many movies have been made about his story Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. He was a man who entertained many children during his life and after his death. His stories will last throughout time.
Carroll, Lewis. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. New York: Penguin Group, 1960.
Kelly, Richard. Lewis Carroll Revised Edition. Boston: Twayne Publishers, 1980.
“Lewis Carroll.” The Cambridge Guide to English Literature, 1983.