I believe that it’s the stories that you read when you’re young that stick with you the most as you grow up, and live with you forever. Maybe it’ll be a book you read in high school that never leaves you, or maybe it’s even earlier than that – a book your parents read to you as a young child that became planted in your mind. Whatever the reason, I think there are just moments when you hear or read a story, and know that you’ll remember it forever.
Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland was one of those books for me. As a young girl I remember watching the Disney film and falling in love with the craziness of the characters, the surrealness of the situation and the curiousness of the whole story. When I was a bit older, I found the book by Lewis Carroll to be even more adventurous, and the book has stuck with me ever since.
Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (commonly shortened to Alice in Wonderland) tells the story of a girl named Alice, falling through a rabbit hole into a fantasy world which is populated by peculiar, anthropomorphic creatures. The tale plays with logic, giving the story lasting popularity with adults as well as with children.
Carroll’s Alice has been enchanting children for 150 years. Curious Alice, the bossy White Rabbit, the formidable Queen of Hearts and the Mad Hatter are among the best-loved, most iconic literary creations of all time.
It is considered to be one of the best examples of the literary nonsense genre. Its narrative course and structure, characters and imagery have been enormously influential in both popular culture and literature, especially in the fantasy genre.
Everyone always remember’s this story mostly because of it’s stranger characters and scenes – the Mad Hatter’s crazy tea party, the strangeness of the smiling Cheshire Cat, and who could forget the Queen of Hearts frantically wandering around shouting “Off with their head!”.
However, although these are the things that originally captured me to the story, I am now captivated by the hidden meaning to the book, the underlining message that I believe Carroll was setting us up to see through these things: the idea that life is just a big meaningless puzzle.
In Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Alice encounters a series of puzzles that appear to have to real or clear solutions, which imitates the ways that life frustrates expectations. Alice always expects that the situations she comes across will make a certain kind of sense to her, but they repeatedly frustrate her ability to work out Wonderland.
She tries to solve the Mad Hatter’s riddle, and understand both the Caucus Race and the Queen’s ridiculous croquet game, but fails to. Each time the riddles and challenges that are presented to Alice have no real purpose or answer. Even though Carroll was a logician, in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland he makes games out of logic and a mockery of riddles and jokes.
When she is at the Mad Hatter’s tea party, she tries to solve the riddle, “Why is a raven like a writing-desk?” with frustration, only to find there is no answer. She says:
“Have you guessed the riddle yet?” the Hatter said, turning to Alice again.
“No, I give it up,” Alice replied: “What’s the answer?”
“I haven’t the slightest idea,” said the Hatter.”
– Lewis Carroll, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland
Alice learns that she cannot expect to find either logic or meaning in the situations that she encounters, even when they present themselves to be problems, riddles or games that would normally have solutions that she would be able to figure out.
Carroll makes a broader point in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland about the ways that life frustrates expectations and resists interpretation, even when problems seem familiar or solvable.
Sometimes life’s problems have no solutions, nothing for us to figure out. Maybe sometimes in life we just need to accept that some things can’t be analysed to the bottom detail and worked out, and maybe sometimes we can’t have all the answers. We just need to put some trust in faith that everything will work out.