Alice in Wonderland: Why we Still Venture Down the Rabbit Hole
by Bobby Fisher
Published in 1865, the story of Alice in Wonderland has undoubtedly stood the test of time. With Lewis Carroll’s original story spawning numerous live action movies, animations, comic books and even games, Alice has transcended the printed word to become a part of mainstream culture. So why do generations of children and adults alike continue to venture down the rabbit hole?
Alice in Wonderland - Childhoods and Growing Up
Going back to my childhood I can still picture that ten-year-old boy on a long train journey, making his way through a strange, wondrous world inhabited by a host of completely ridiculous yet fascinating characters. I felt like Alice herself, constantly being thrown from one situation to the next as I tried to get a grip on what was happening. It was a wild ride I would not forget! In any good story the reader should be able to identify with, or at least understand the protagonist. What could be more identifiable for a child than being thrown into a world full of unknown people and places? Though she is guided by the Cheshire cat amongst others, Alice must ultimately overcome each obstacle alone while trying to make sense of the people and situations she encounters - much like a child growing up in today’s world.
People Identify with Alice the Person
Conversely, it may seem unusual at first that readers become attached to Alice’s character. She is introduced with little information about her background, making her initially difficult to relate to. Despite this, Alice is much loved as readers can connect with her not through her background, but through her interactions with the characters and events taking place in Wonderland. After all, is it not through our actions that people learn who we are and what we are remembered for?
Alice in Wonderland Mirrors the Complexities of Life
Alice retains her kindness and purity despite hardship while demonstrating strength and resolve. Coupled with proper manners and values, she is undoubtedly a strong role model for any child following her adventure. However, she is also independent and headstrong with a streak of rebellion, which engages young readers. For older readers who have experienced more of life, she serves as a reminder to hold on to that part of themselves as they endure life’s challenges. She really is a character for readers of all ages.
Alice in Wonderland’s Characters Stay with us a Lifetime
As I progressed into my adult years, my love for Alice in Wonderland only grew. I remember selecting my costume for a Christmas work party I attended several years ago. It took me all of ten seconds to decide that I would be arriving in the guise of my favourite character, the Mad Hatter. As I arrived, everyone I met recognised the iconic appearance of the Hatter’s outfit which won me second place in the costume contest (narrowly losing out to the most realistic looking Hellboy I’ve ever seen!). It struck me then, how memorable the descriptions and visual depictions of Wonderland truly are.
Alice in Wonderland was a Trend Setter
While fantasy worlds are a staple of modern fiction, they were not as common when Alice was created. Rich in depth and detail, Wonderland was one of the first settings to immerse readers to such a level while inspiring and serving as an example for years to come.
Lewis Carroll’s masterpiece has not only made its mark in the literary world. Its influence has spread into mainstream culture with examples such as the popularisation of the phrase ‘as mad as a hatter’. References can also be found in songs such as Jefferson Airplane's ‘White Rabbit’ and the Beatles’ ‘I Am the Walrus’ as well as movies like ‘The Matrix’.
Carroll’s story is also very linguistically memorable. The words, phrases and structures used are, to put it plainly, odd. But attempting to fully describe a world full of absurd beings with illogical, nonsensical actions, while incorporating a range of emotions from excitement to melancholy, using ordinary prose would have done the story an injustice. It is exactly this quality of writing which has allowed the story to stand out from its peers, even to this day.
Alice in Wonderland Syndrome
Alice in Wonderland has engaged society as more than a book and has been interpreted by people from many fields of study. Doctors have diagnosed a condition called ‘Alice in Wonderland Syndrome’ where a patient’s perception is altered, resembling a view from the wrong end of a telescope. It has been said that Carroll suffered from this condition which served as inspiration for the scene where Alice grows and shrinks. Others have explored theories that the story was written under the influence of drugs, which helped to shape Wonderland’s insane inhabitants and environment.
With talk of a third release in the current movie franchise, there is no sign of the story fading away any time soon. Love it or hate it, Alice’s tale has reached far beyond its pages to become a widely-known icon in popular culture and with its timeless quality, Alice is here to stay.
Originally from England, Bobby Fisher currently lives in Australia with his wife and family of ten birds and sixteen guinea pigs.
He has been an avid reader of a variety of genres since childhood, including Science Fiction, Horror, and Fantasy. He enjoys the works of authors such as Philip K. Dick, William Gibson, Stephen King and more recently Colin F. Barnes and Rosa Montero.