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Psychological Analysis of Alice in Wonderland

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Lewis Carroll’s wondrous story, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, is somewhat familiar with practically anyone. The intricate use of a young girl’s, Alice’s, dream state and imagination are put together, colliding in the most bizarre yet alluring ways. An almost unclear storyline to many, Alice begins her journey as she falls down a rabbit hole in her garden. She faces many challenges and meets a handful of characters, each one more standout- and harder to comprehend- than the one before. Though known of by many, this children’s story reaches down, containing far deeper meanings and messages than one may consider. By dissecting this novel, it is evident that Carroll’s careful way with words, sense of logic and fantasy is what makes this story and its multiple messages so remarkable. Through Alice’s expedition and her interactions with varying personalities, Lewis Carroll was able to mirror multiple concepts including symbolism in exposition, characters, and events; all of these with an over-laying theme of a Victorian-era childhood.

The psychological state of author Charles Lutwidge Dodgson (known better by his pen name of Lewis Carroll) has been questioned indefinitely since the publishing of his work, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Those who have studied Carroll’s work intently have noted a common theme of chaos throughout, possibly originating from his own “distorted life, beginning at a young age. Others have suggested that Carroll’s inspiration for this book had much to do with his social life, involving his interest of little girls. One historian claimed, “A bachelor all his days, held by a strict conscience to super-chastity, Lewis Carroll found in a sublimated friendship with little girls the emotional release which most men look for in love and marriage…” He continues, speaking about how Carroll would often send letters to these children; all subtly hinting a theme of love and romance, but practically disguised as a letter of playful nonsense. This makes sense, considering the character Alice was named and based off the looks of Alice Pleasance Liddell, the young daughter of a dean of Oxford, where he had attended. The child’s sister were also written into the story- Lorina Liddell and Edith Liddell as Lory and Eaglet. However, this accusation has been pulled into several directions, as others insist that, along with the letters, Carroll wrote Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland simply to amuse and comfort a remote child relative of his when he was ill. His lack of a spouse might have been a factor in his alleged actions but regardless of these mad tendencies, Carroll was an intelligent man who used his free time to construct his stories with purpose and as an almost logical fantasy.

The story of Alice’s Adventures in one crazy, unknown territory can be defined as “… a book where everyone takes a little madness as an antitoxin against the self-assured solidity of a world that isn’t what it seems,” (Henry Seidel Canby, An Introduction to Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, 1932). Carroll communicated this “antitoxin” of a dream in a variety of ways of writing including the manipulating of words and/or phrases, mathematical logic, stanzas of poetry, and a perfect amount of complete nonsense. Carroll’s mock turtle and gryphon spoke to Alice about schooling subjects, including “reeling”, “writhing”, “drawling”, “stretching”, and “fainting”; all of these obvious parodies on any child’s elementary study of reading, writing, drawing, sketching, and painting. A pigeon asserts that Alice must be a serpent through a mathematical law-based syllogism, saying, “I’ve seen a good many little girls in my time, but never one with such a neck as that! No, no! You’re a serpent; and there’s no use denying it.” The known facts in this situation is that girls do not have long necks and serpents have long necks. Standing before the pigeon is Alice with a long neck. The pigeon follows the rules of a simple syllogism to make the coherent pronouncement that Alice is a serpent… though she is not. This is just one example of Carroll using the laws of mathematics to convey a logical yet illogical point. He does this another time in the novel when “…with a jab, he goes at a fallacious syllogism, that the bottles not marked poison must be safe to drink from,” (Henry Seidel Canby, An Introduction to Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, 1932). Though very arithmetical, Carroll is also referred to as a “poet logician” as poems seem to be found at almost every-other turn of a page.

However, the poems were simply revised by Carroll to fit the event at hand, not originally written by him. All of the rhymes in “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” are imitations or spoofs of once familiar, older poems. For instance, when Alice falls down the rabbit hole she becomes confused with her identity. She recites a poem to make sure of it, beginning with “How doth the little crocodile improve his shining tail…” This is a parody of Isaac Watt’s “Against Idleness and Mischief”, as it originally begins with “How doth the little busy bee improve each shining hour…” This occurs again in the Duchess’s song to the pig baby, when she says, “Speak roughly to your little boy and beat him when he sneezes”. This parallels to G.W. Langford’s “Speak Gently”, which says “Speak gently; it is better far. To rule by love than fear…” There are several more examples of this parodying of poems within the book, including the revision of poems by poets such as Robert Southey, Jane Taylor and James M. Sayle. It is through these means of writing that Carroll is able to expose a deeper message of “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” in an advanced, beautiful way.

Alice meets several characters and varying personalities as she ventures through Wonderland. Some were full of non-sense, while others were a bit snarky; but all played an important role in her journey. Throughout the novel, some characters seemed to convey a sort of larger-scale theme, moral, or societal image as they interacted with Alice. The first being Alice takes interest in within this story is the White Rabbit, as he is frantically running to serve as the queen’s herald and jumps down the rabbit hole. Alice is quick to follow the anthropomorphic creature and soon finds herself in a fixed reality where time is altered and “space goes queer” (Henry Seidel Canby, 1932). Time became relative for Alice when she saw the rabbit running with a clock in his palm, and even more as she falls down what seems to be a never-ending hole. According to Henry Seidel Canby’s An Introduction to Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, “Time is separated from gravity,” (1932). The caterpillar Alice looks to for advice is also a notable character, looked at as a “curt person, unresponsive in Morse-monosyllables,” (Harry Morgan Ayres, Alice’s Adventures in Education, 1936) the moral drawn from him being to keep your temper. The Duchess and her morals are said to represent “a disagreeable tyrant at home and the unbearably agreeable bone in society,” (Harry Morgan Ayres, Alice’s Adventures in Education, 1936. This mirroring of characters to real life people or themes continues throughout the remainder of the book; including the non-cooperative “perfectly idiotic” (Harry Morgan Ayres, Alice’s Adventures in Education, 1936) frog footmen, the “irritable housewife” (Harry Morgan Ayres, Alice’s Adventures in Education, 1936) of a pigeon, and a corrupt, radical, “ill controlled” ruler (Harry Morgan Ayres, Alice’s Adventures in Education, 1936) named the Queen of Hearts. The contrast of characters makes for interesting interactions between one another, as Carrol “(leaves) out the sane and ordinary traits, letting the eccentricities stand for the character”, (Henry Seidel Canby, 1932). These characters illustrate the adult world as viewed by a child- a world full of worried, busy, incompetent, meddlesome, disagreeable people. Other sources argue that the characters Alice meets are a part of her dream psychology, all of them being different traits and aspects of her own self or waking life. Nonetheless, all of the entities of Victorian fiction that Alice finds herself coming into contact with portray much more than what the story’s surface presents.

The time of the publishing of Alice in Wonderland was during the Victorian Era, a period in England known for its great literary expansion. This story of Carroll’s was one of the most popular books produced then, and it continues that legacy today. However, this book contained very little of themes or ideals of Victorian life. In fact, Alice in Wonderland enforced the opposite of usual Victorian lifestyle and is believed to have been written to mock the kind of children’s literature that was being written at that point of time. The literature being produced for children then had been full strictly of education and morals; completely lacking any form of fun or imagination. As previously mentioned, the use of poetry was implemented throughout the novel, edited from the dull, mundane Victorian stanzas to fascinating lines of made-up creatures. “…the bottoms dismayingly drop out of the didactic poems by Dr. Watts and Jane Taylor which Victorian children were made to learn, and their simple and trite images are replaced by the grotesque and silly ones…”(C.L. Dodgson, 1932). The society of Wonderland itself contrasts the Victorian lifestyle, as Alice is the only character with Victorian-mannered resemblance and is surrounded by those of pure nonsense… this being the reason why she seems to be the misfit or absurdity throughout the book. “(Lewis Carroll’s) mathematical mind was clearly provoked by solid certainties of the Victorian imagination,” says Henry Seibel Canby, in An Introduction to Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (1932). Carroll used his work of Alice in Wonderland to almost satirize Victorian society and question the concise and boring expectations of children who just wanted to play and be imaginative.

Though some may argue that Alice in Wonderland as authored by Lewis Carroll is simply a children’s book about a bad dream, this research, among others, can disprove that. This book is not “simple” at all. It contains a level of depth throughout and a different theme present with every turn of a page. The countless interpretations of this book validate it’s form of intellect and profoundness, though the story can be examined and dissected endlessly. The amount of attention-to-detail as utilized by Carroll, in unison with a certain level of illogic is what makes this story so unique. Lewis Carroll was able to create a diverse composition through his characters, filled with practical poetry, analogies, and rationalities, yet still illustrating a most chaotic and non-sensible land. He was also able to reflect and question the societal ideals of his time, something that may have been controversial at his time. The combination of logic and delusion as presented by the author heightens the significance of this Victorian-age novel. Through Alice’s interactions and expeditions involving the creatures of Wonderland, Carroll’s varied forms of writing throughout Alice in Wonderland mirrored multiple concepts and shed light on few issues of his era.  

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Psychological Analysis Of Alice In Wonderland. (2022, April 29). GradesFixer. Retrieved May 16, 2022, from https://gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/psychological-analysis-of-alice-in-wonderland/
“Psychological Analysis Of Alice In Wonderland.” GradesFixer, 29 Apr. 2022, gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/psychological-analysis-of-alice-in-wonderland/
Psychological Analysis Of Alice In Wonderland. [online]. Available at: <https://gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/psychological-analysis-of-alice-in-wonderland/> [Accessed 16 May 2022].
Psychological Analysis Of Alice In Wonderland [Internet]. GradesFixer. 2022 Apr 29 [cited 2022 May 16]. Available from: https://gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/psychological-analysis-of-alice-in-wonderland/
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