Should We Analyze Alice?

Posted On October 29, 2009

Filed under Jenna K.

Comments Dropped 8 responses

In the introduction, Gilvert K. Chesterton says that Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland was not meant to be analyzed, that the story was not meant to be in the hands of scholars and analysts. According to him the story is meant for innocent children and the thoughts behind the text should not be considered.

This makes sense if you consider that Dodgson created this story on the spot and could not possibly have had time to say anything worth analyzing. But then you must take into consideration that when writing the story he added ideas and the story grew from there. In that case there is something worth analyzing. The story may have begun as something not meant to be analyzed, something only children should read.  But as the story expanded and the meaning of the words grew deeper, it would seem that the story transformed from a story for the innocent into a story for the educated.

There’s also a line in the introduction that says, “No joke is funny unless you see the point of it, and sometimes a point has to be explained.”

Children may comprehend the surface of the story, the very obvious jokes that are presented, but there are jokes and ideas behind the text that are meant for adults. Only adults can be expected to be able to explain these ideas. Therefore, it is expected for the story to be analyzed. It would seem that the story has almost dual purposes. One is to entertain the innocent minds of children and the other is some deeper meaning that I have yet to explore. In the end, it seems as if Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland can either be a story of a place where the mind can escape or a story of a place that symbolizes the things in life that should be analyzed but aren’t.

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8 Responses to “Should We Analyze Alice?”

  1. David Bill

    Isn’t the idea that there is value for everyone. The adults who read Harry Potter take away a very different meaning than that of an 10 year old. In a book like this, the value lies in the fact that reading a story can interpreted in a number of different ways and it can spark conversations on a number of different ideas.

  2. Alex C.

    After reading Alice it feels as if we should not have analyzed Alice. There are now so many things to consider. We have to think about why Carroll wrote this book. I don’t even know what the plot is, or the meaning. Some things in the book even confused me, so how would a child understand this story. The morals confused me because they were spoken in riddles. How is a child supposed to decipher those?

  3. Christian Long

    Good points about the distinction of a writer trusting their early instincts (the story for Alice herself) and what he added over time as he drafted the story. This may be — for many of us — the key to making peace with the either/or debate in terms of analyzing the story over time.

  4. Alex F.

    So true. I think that Chesterton was being a bit stingy when he said that Alice wasn’t meant to be analyzed. Sure, sometimes it’s best to just leave a story as it is, because analyzing it would ruin it. But in most cases, looking deeper into the story and finding those little inuendos or links to something else makes the story SO much more interesting, because you actually UNDERSTAND what on earth is going on. It’s like when we had to read Antigone last year. We had absolutley no idea what anyone was saying, and we had to plod through it and pick apart every single little bit of text until we had a chunk of understandable english. Only then did we actually understand the story (whether we liked it or not).
    For Alice, we can either analyze it or not. Either way, it’s a very enjoyable story.

  5. Keith C.

    That is some impressive thinking, well done. I find it very interesting that you point out that Gilvert K. Chesterton said that this story is not meant to be analyzed and was meant for innocent children. I think that he didn’t want it to be analyzed because the story would be completely changed and looked at a whole new way if it were analyzed. Once everyone started to analyze it, the book would no longer be children’s story like it was meant to be.

  6. Jenna K.

    But when he sat down to write down the story he had already orated to Alice Liddell he must have considered having an adult audience which is why he added those complex ideas. It is possible that he didn’t intend on having adults read his story but I don’t think it’s likely. If he didn’t want adults to read it, why would he add all these ideas that appeal to adult audiences?

  7. Kristen K.

    Exactly what I was thinking.

    Dodgeson made up the story on a boating trip; unless he had a list of ideas he wanted to teach the world in his pocket, I don’t see how he could have provided an intense amount of symbolism in the original manuscript. It seems conclusive to me that once Carroll set down to write the story for the public, he inserted ideas important to him into the basic storyline.

    Yes, Dodgeson was a mathematician, but it seems unlikely that he would input so much secrecy as he told it to young Alice Liddell.

  8. Rachel L.

    I agree that there are jokes within the text of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland that only adults would be able to understand. At the same time is it possible that Carroll didn’t intend for anyone else to read this story? He wrote the story for twelve year old Alice Liddell. He may have simply based his story on things he happened to know and think that only adults would get. He had to make it fun for him to write as well as for Alice to read. It is possible that he never meant for adults to read the story.

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