For the Coursera course in Science Fiction, we read Alice In Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass. My essay on it is included below. As I read the books, it struck me how much more I got out of them as an adult as opposed to when I was younger. They both seemed written for both adults and children – a rare feat to do well, but Lewis Carroll certainly managed it. My essay:
The Alice books follow the maturation of Alice from a little girl to a mature woman. The first book is her initial transition into adulthood, while the second represents her adaptation and conquest of the adult world.
In the first book, Alice enters Wonderland (the adult world). She encounters characters that consistently make seemingly arbitrary demands of her, and all the while her body grows and shrinks out of her control, symbolizing puberty. She suffers an identity crisis, forgetting who she is, and trying on different personas to see if they seem right, much as adolescence is a struggle to find one’s identity as a separate adult. During the trial of the Knave of Hearts, she finally asserts her identity, openly disobeying the orders of the King and Queen, and instead relying on her own judgement. This is the end of Alice’s adolescence, as an adult she can establish her independence from her symbolic mother and father.
The second book charts Alice’s mastery of adulthood. In contrast to the first book, she is no longer flummoxed by seemingly arbitrary rules, the rules of the world are now clear to her, and her path to motherhood (becoming a Queen) is clear from the beginning. She is not deterred by the strange characters she encounters, despite their attempts to demoralize her (Tweedledee and Tweedledum claiming she is just a character in a dream, Humpty Dumpty denying her individuality) or keep her a child (Haigha and Hatta,with the King, Lion and Unicorn treating her as a child). In the end, Alice makes it to Queen (motherhood) with the help of a man (the White Knight) she would remember forever, who sings to her to the tune of “I Give Thee All, I Can No More”. Once Queen, she asserts her dominance over the other Queens at dinner, completing her transition to adulthood.