Well hello there!
I dunno if you remember or read, but about a year ago I made this silly little personal post I used to get so frustrated. What?! You don’t remember?! It was only from ONE year ago! No matter, if you clicked on the link above you’ll know that post was my meditation on children going to fantastic worlds just to leave. They leave! Don’t ask me why they preferred to do that rather than stay… Or do, because that’s kind of what this next series of posts will be about. Children who venture to fantastic worlds to learn new and exciting things about themselves, and then return home.
To begin, I’ll go underground and chase a white rabbit.
For those of you who have only seen Alice in Wonderland and haven’t read the book, fear not! The two don’t differ all that much, so you won’t find yourself out of the loop. If you haven’t read the movie or seen the book… my Mad Hatter escaped me there… I’m going to leave that slip up for the sake of the post, haha! Moving on! If you haven’t read or watched, you’re probably still in the loop as Alice’s story is found in a plethora of media. From fashion to music to rave themes, Alice and the white rabbit are quite famous. Though I will say that if I had to recommend one book to someone, it would be this one. It’s one thing to hear about Wonderland. It’s another to go there.
So, let’s talk about Alice and how she gets to Wonderland, shall we?
The animated Disney movie and book begin the same, with Alice’s sister reading. It’s a warm day, and Alice is bored, sitting in the grass, her eyes wandering to her sister’s pointless book without “…pictures or conversations in it.” Her thoughts drift toward the idea of making a daisy chain but getting up seems too tedious, when she sees a white rabbit with red eyes.
The rabbit mutters to himself, “Oh dear! Oh dear! I shall be too late!”
Perfectly normal for a rabbit to say in Alice’s hazy mind.
Then he brings out a pocket watch from his waistcoat and Alice is on her feet.
She chases the rabbit, falls forever. “…forever can be as long as one second…” you know. Can’t open the talking door, grows too large, then too small. She recites lessons to the doorknob, the caterpillar, and all manner of other characters. She is accused by the Red Queen and sent to court to fend for herself. She grows brave. She wakes up.
I realize that’s an oversimplification, however, the message is still in there. My point is in that small paragraph. She recites her lessons, is made to fend for herself, she accumulates confidence, she leaves. Alice is a child, Wonderland is full of nonsense –some may believe the two to be synonymous– and yet Wonderland teaches her important skills to take into the tangible world with her.
She is tested on her knowledge from school. As we all are.
She is made to figure out where she is, all the while discovering who she is in the process. For some of us that may be college, or when we enter into the workforce.
She takes charge of herself, her destiny, her life. She doesn’t stand for what other people say about her, and she says that aloud. She stands her ground. Then she leaves. Returns home. As we all do, in some function or another. What is most fascinating about Alice’s story is the way in which Carroll subtly prepares Alice for the adult world.
Perhaps her most famous line from her conversation with the caterpillar is, “…I know who I was when I got up this morning, but I think I must have been changed several times since then.”
And the way Carroll ends Alice’s story. Alice’s sister wakes Alice up to tell her she’s been asleep a long time. Alice starts and tells her sister about her most curious dream. Her sister listens, tells her to run to the house so as not to miss tea, but doesn’t follow. She watches Alice run, the setting sun backlighting her trek to the house, and she thinks of how young her sister is –with fondness– she journeys to Wonderland for herself for a moment and revels in the fantasy of it. How great it must be for Alice to experience and dream about such things, before she grows into a woman and tells wide, wondering eyes about Wonderland. And her sister sits there, reluctantly returning to the real world with the final words and thoughts of the book on how Alice will relate to those younger; their sorrow, their joy, and remember her own childhood as her sister is.
Is the book about growing up? Yes. And no. I would argue it’s more about childhood than growing up. After all, childhood makes adults out of all of us.
If you’d like to read more about children who go to fantastical worlds and return wiser than before, check out my post C.S. Lewis’s The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe or click the Follow button on the righthand side of the page for the next post in my Home Again series!
Thank you for reading.
Don’t be afraid to run after things 😉