Which Way?

I just recently adopted a kitten, so I couldn’t resist writing something related to cats.

The Cheshire Cat is perhaps one of the most well known and loved characters in Wonderland. The Cheshire Cat is perhaps the character most fit to act as a guide for Alice, simply because he offers her helpful insight into the workings of Wonderland. That might be due to the fact that out of all the characters, he can relate to the world from which she came the most.

The Cheshire Cat says, “A dog’s not mad. You grant that?’ `I suppose so,’ replies Alice. “Well, then,’ the Cat went on, `you see, a dog growls when it’s angry, and wags its tail when it’s pleased. Now I growl when I’m pleased, and wag my tail when I’m angry. Therefore I’m mad.”

His explanation of madness is very interesting indeed. This is wonderland where anything can be flipped inside out. It would not be weird for a cat to growl when pleased and wag its tail when angry. Is it not peculiar that the Cat thinks his behavior is unusual in a place where that kind of flipped behavior would be considered normal? Following that thought it is safe to assume that the Cheshire Cat can understand logical reasoning as Alice can. Successfully making him one of the few characters that can relate to Alice.

The advice he offers her can also be applied to a logical world, whereas most of the other characters offer rules that make no sense. For instance he states Alice will get somewhere if only she walks “long enough”. This piece of advice is true to the general ways of life. We never know where we are headed in life, but if we are persistent enough eventually we will get a result. The Cheshire Cat then points Alice in two directions, one to the Hatter, one to the March Hare. He goes on to state that whichever way she chooses will lead her to the same destination, madness. Therefore in Wonderland there is only one direction she can head towards, the madness connecting them all.
Lastly would like your opinion concerning an issue:

Which Cat Is Cuter?(poll)

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Returning to Reality

Chapter 12 ended in a more predictable manner, but I thought it fit well within a children’s story. What child wouldn’t want to doze off only to find themselves in wonderland? However, there is one thing that baffles me about the way Carroll ended his story. Isn’t it a little ironic that his ending made perfect sense? Of course the only logical explanation acceptable to our reality would be for these particular occurrences to be merely a dream, but I was expecting an ending that made complete nonsense.

I also noticed that Alice is one again in normal proportion compared to the animals and cards. There are minor indications that her link with the reality outside of her dream is gradually coming back into focus. Alice is now trying to putt events back into logical perspective, even stating “I don’t believe there’s an atom of meaning in it.” It seems Alice is also less acceptable of the queer customs in wonderland, perhaps that also means she has developed her own views (and her own identity?). Alice is more confident, and a little disbelieving as well towards the end of her dream. This is the first time she rejects the reality of wonderland saying “You’re nothing but a pack of cards!” By not believing those cards are more than they seem, the magic of wonderland seems to have worn off. It’s like Alice has matured, and when we grow older the things that seemed magical to us when we were little are made mundane by our capacity to explain everything with calculated reason.

The Beginning of an End?

Chapter 11 seemed to go around in circles, with the trial not progressing very much, and ending up where it had started. Following this thought, maybe Wonderland was meant as a experience Alice “never had” and when she wakes up, that is where the beginning of the end starts for her. An end because the line where ordinary and strange intercept are clearly defined. A beginning because now it’s Alice’s turn to integrate the abstract conceptions into her own world’s reality. In a sense, Alice now needs to take charge of what will happen.

Alice also seems to be more accustomed to the ways in wonderland, and is even told, “You’ve no right to grow here,” by the Dormouse when she suddenly started to get bigger.

Is this implying that Alice’s purpose, or lessons to learn in wonderland is coming to a close? The Dormouse then proceeds to say, “Yes, but I grow at a reasonable place.” Maybe implying that Alice is growing up too fast, and wonderland is a place of imaginative innocence with no more room for the boundaries created by mature reasoning.

I also found it quite interesting that the last witness called to be examined was Alice herself. What evidence could Alice possibly have? In fact it is curious how easily Alice is accepted by the characters dwelling in wonderland. This brings me back to wonder about the possibility of each character being presented as a manifestation of her inner personalities. After all, the Cheshire Cat, Mad Hatter, and Caterpillar all seem like a sort of guide for Alice to discover many alternative paths to travel down.

Meandering Musings

Chapter 10 is one of the more nonsensical chapters in my opinion, with even more puns about the predictable ways of daily life. I find it rather odd that when Alice repeats her lessons out loud, the Mock Turtle and Gryphon know the original version, and not a version with a unusual twist to it. In fact they find it very confusing when what Alice repeats is not the “normal” lesson. You would think that since this is wonderland, that things would be naturally warped, like the song the Mock Turtle sings about Soup being a spin off of a song called “Star of the Evening”. Isn’t it very wierd that the Mock Turtle himself would say, “What is the use of repeating all that stuff, if you don’t explain it as you go on? It’s by far the most confusing thing I ever hear!” Perhaps Carroll is adding a bit of irony into his scenes, something other than his clever parodies to draw in the audience’s attention.

It seems Alice has also learned some lessons from her trips through wonderland. The Gryphon asks Alice to offer some of her experiences, with which she replies “I could tell you my adventures-going back to this morning, but it’s no use going back to yesterday because I was a different person then.” Before Alice would have gotten very confused, trying to figure out how she had changed. Now she at least knows its no use looking at the past to figure out who your are, instead she focuses on the present. It seems Alice had been looking for the answers back home, when it may be she is to learn her lesson here in Wonderland, and she could miss that if she was too focused on what she thought she knew.

One other thought that occurred to me was that there is no justification regarding the ideas that have been given to Alice since birth, for instance the invisible rules of society. How do you know, what you know is really true? You might merely think you know the reason for something. I would say overall, Alice has learned to think in a different way, and when she returns back to her world she will begin to question (or even wrestle with) the very idea of what we see as logical.

Permission to Reason

In chapter nine the Duchess presents morals for a multitude of seemingly scattered thoughts. One moral, however, was left unfinished. Alice begins with the statement “I’ve a right to think” and the Duchess replies with “Just about as much right, as pigs have to fly; and the m-” when she was interrupted by the Queen. I have been pondering many possible ways to finish that thought, but am only left with a sense of puzzlement. Which ever way I approach this concept, it seems I can only come up with contradicting facts. I believe the right or ability to think is what distinguishes a person from everything else.

No matter the external conditions, every person still possesses the ability to grasp at their surrounding ideas, so what’s to say we have no right to think? How can we be given permission if it is within human nature to think, and at the very foundation of our ambition? In fact the levels with which we can comprehend the world around us, should lend itself to further inquiry. This innate capacity to grasp intangible thought is what separates us from other animals . Without thought, we may not be all that different from animals who hunt, eat, and sleep just as humans do.

The moral “Be what you would seem to be” also makes one wonder. How do you know what you ‘seem’ to be? Is that referring to the way others perceive you, or the way you see yourself? Or perhaps this can be taken as a suggestion to protect one’s own individuality? This quote can, once again, tie back to Alice discovering identity. A possible  implication of wonderland functioning like a mirror, where Alice meets the reflection of herself through her experiences.

Unjustly Bizarre

After reading chapter eight I have come to notice how unjust most of the logical rules in wonderland are. The Queen’s method of playing Croquet, give her a higher leverage to win. Is it perhaps the unfairness that makes this story so queer to some of its readers?

We like to believe that our world is made up of rules that are sensible, but how much are we willing to bet on that? Take for instance the rule of school. Everyone knows that a good student is always someone who makes an A on their paper, or plays the role of a student well within the confinement of the classroom walls. What happens to the students who are, let us say, not necessarily book smart, but have their own creative mindsets different from what typical schools allow for?
We think ‘sensible’ in terms of fairness quite a bit more than we realize, and if one takes a step back to observe the way we work, we may some to the conclusion that our regular coherent customs are far from the normal we think. In this way, the world Alice is in may be a closer reflection of our own world than we thought. The rules that make no sense, the irregular impulses of the characters, are we really that far from it? In our world there are many such oddities that we do not notice simply because it has been ingrained into our consciousness from the day we were born. Truly, our ways of operating life are in itself, as much of a puzzle as Carroll’s whimsical tales.

Turn It Inside Out

In chapter 7 I find the conversations between Alice, the March Hare, and the Hatter very thought provoking. Most of their comments were be intended as puns, cleverly reversing the context of several phrases. For instance,saying what we mean is not the same thing as meaning what we say. When we contemplate the ideas in our head, they always morph into a different idea by the time it comes out of our mouth. This implies we do not truly understand what we are saying most of the time. Seeing how the nature of words themselves are tricky to grasp, one needs to possess the ability to wield them correctly.

I  found it to be quite curious that the characters are able to speak to time. If Alice could convince time to stop, would she be eternally young? We view children as the image of youth due to their curiosity and innocence. So can someone truly lose their youth even if they stayed ‘young at heart’, regardless of their appearance?

Carroll’s play on words also provided much entertainment. Quotes such as “they were in the well” “Of course they were, well in” had me suppressing a laugh. These ridiculous inserts got me thinking Carroll-like. Thus the phrase “much of a muchness” referring to things that are similar, caught my attention. We all know things are similar if they posses something alike to each other. Then would things that have nothing in common be similar as well? After all, they all have nothing in common.

I would imagine,  if reading about Alice’s experiences makes the wheels in my head spin this much, Alice herself must be befuddled by now. This has increased my respect for Alice’s ability to adapt to her surroundings, and led me to realize the unique power of a child’s mind.

Going Somewhere?

Chapter six is one of my favorite chapters, which I am sure is true for others as well, due to the long-awaited appearance of the Cheshire Cat. The Cat’s conversation with Alice has provoked many unidentifiable yet entertaining thoughts to wrestle with. We are all heading somewhere just as Alice is in her journey, but many of us have no idea where. How do we get to where we want to be, if we don’t know what it is we are looking for? A little bit of madness wouldn’t hurt. First we must ask ourselves what we define as mad. One may think madness leads to nothing, but some of the most brilliant inventors or artists have been known to be “mad”. The Cheshire Cat says “Call it what you like”, but we cannot deny that this sort of madness has led to the most prominent ideas impacting those all around it.
A little madness is also what makes us unique, what defines us. For instance, one persons’ interpretation of “mad” is different from another’s interpretation. This is just like the way a person views the world in terms of their own perspective. Our perspectives affect our actions that take us on a path we are traveling. Therefore madness may be one vessel through which we discover a new route. One may also note that the Cheshire Cat, who resembles madness, offers Alice advice on her journey pointing her towards multiple directions. We may not even have a specific destination, but a person is sure to get somewhere if only they “walk long enough.”

Multiple Me’s

In chapter five of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland she stumbles upon another animal, this time it is a Caterpillar, who seems to make her question herself even more. For Alice says, “I ca’n’t explain myself, I’m afraid, Sir,” but the Caterpillar merely asks her why it’s important for her to know. This leaves Alice at a loss, why is it important to know who you are, or who I am? Perhaps the Alice did not lose herself, but the characters to this point are a part of her.

Each animal she encounters posses a different type of human mindset. The White Rabbit is nervous and timid when we first meet him. His attitude towards Alice changes quite suddenly later one, when he mistakes her for a servant. His tone becomes harsher, and he even suggests burning the house down. Alice can also be hard on herself at times, berating herself until she cries.The mouse and eagle display intellectual thought through their knowledge of history and use of big words. Alice has proven she can be quite clever through the questions she asks herself, which seem to be beyond the level of an average child. Then we have the Caterpillar, who in contrast to the rabbit displays a laid back attitude, not worried about anything in particular. Alice has also been quite easy going given all the odd situations she has been in. She is quite accepting of the queer ordeals.

Not only do the characters seem to be a part of Alice, but also the events that occur. Alice can not seem to recall the exact words of the verses she memorized, but instead makes the verses her own. This could mean her experiences now are her own, and not what she was taught by other people. The distortion in her size also relates back to Alice herself. Her body grows, shrinks, and stretches representing the her own experiences in her journey.

And Up We Grow

Chapter four was indeed a very entertaining chapter. The White Rabbit makes another appearance, to which I am glad seeing as he is becoming quite an endearing character to me. Carroll kept me guessing at which animal Bill might be, but I did not expect a lizard. I also wondered why the pebbles were turning into cake. Perhaps it is not so unusual in a children’s book?

Alice drinks from an unknown bottle yet again, this time growing bigger. Before, Alice shrunk till she almost dissapeared, hinting at a loss of  ‘herself’. Maybe the growing of her body, resembles the unconscious start of her identity in this new adventure. Alice also declares, “I almost wish I hadn’t gone down the rabbit hole and yet-and yet- it’s rather curious”. As humans we seek to find the answers to what we do not understand, yet our impulsiveness sometimes gets the better of us. Questions are what leads us to new revelations, but do we truly want to know the answer? What we deem impossible might be just within reach. Luckily for Alice, the effect of the bottle stopped and she did not continue to grow forever.

Alice also thinks “at least there’s no room to grow up any more here.” this might also imply that she can retain her innocence in this world, while in the world she left, sooner or later she would have to face the realities of growing up. The “lessons to learn” Alice refers to, once again reflects her naivety towards thinking there is always a set way to experience life, and a definite answer for every experience.

  • Welcome to the “Alice Project”

    What happens when a group of insightful 10th grade students explore Alice's journey into Wonderland?