Sunday, March 21, 2010

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland

In light of the newest representation of this book coming out in theaters, and having never read it during my childhood, I decided to read Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. This is a classic story that is filled with an abundance of memorable characters, pages upon pages of wordplay and symbolism, and a seductive world filled with complete madness and wonder, where Alice finds herself in all sorts of curious predicaments, where common sense fails and the nonsensical comes to be expected.

Lewis Carroll begins his story with the infamous sight of the white rabbit dressed in a waistcoat and pocket-watch, muttering to himself: "I'm late! I'm late!". Abandoning her sister, Alice follows the curious rabbit down a rabbit hole and unexpectedly finds herself drifting deep underground, and so begins our invitation to be a part of the wonderland. It is here that Alice encounters a copious amount of strikingly unique and wonderful characters, unforgettable in the world of literature. Alice herself, based largely on Alice Liddell, a real-life child, is a wonderful heroine that you can't help admiring. Other characters you won't soon forget include the White Rabbit, the sagacious caterpillar, the Queen of Hearts, the Mad Hatter, the March Hare, the grinning Cheshire Cat, the Gryphon, the Mock Turtle, and the Duchess and her peppery cook. These characters join together to take Alice on countless remarkable adventures.

What I find most intriguing as an adult reader, is Carroll's brilliant use of wordplay and symbolism throughout the story. Not only does the book have fantastic qualities and imaginative inspiration, but nearly every page contains a clever pun, nonsensical poem, mathematical puzzle, or some sort of double meaning. There are hidden messages and subtle witticisms on every page, making it all the more entertaining.

One of the things I found very interesting, is that Alice is often considered the first realistic representation of a child in literature. She's curious, but sometimes a little shy. She's polite, but her manners give way to frustration and outbursts. She's intelligent, but she relies heavily on an education that often fails her. She tries to stand tall in the presence of the contradictory natures of the people she meets, but more often than not, is baffled and belittled by them. She possesses some degree of common sense, but does some remarkably unintelligent, and irresponsible things. She's likable, but she's also a bit of a show-off. In other words, she's the first, and perhaps the best example of a three-dimensional child character in literature. One that can be related to on many levels, and throughout numerous generations and cultures.
This is a timeless story, that will forever be engraved in the hearts of many generations.

I would suggest to find an edition of this novel adorned by illustrations. If you want to go one step further find the 2004 Barnes and amp; Noble Classics printing, with introduction and notes by Tan Lin. This edition includes some extra things in addition to the text of the book. There is a brief biography of Lewis Carroll, a time line of his life and career, a fascinating and insightful introduction, information on various film adaptations, a short story by Carroll - "What the Tortoise said to Achilles," commentary on the text by various individuals and publications, and a set of questions designed to aid the reader's thought and analysis of the text. The book also contains all of the original illustrations, which are indispensable to a full enjoyment of the story.

I saw the newest Alice in Wonderland film, and it was truly a delight. Although it's drifts slightly from the book, as most movies do, it truly brings everything to life. You will find yourself lost in a wonderland, unlike any portrayed on screen before. And so my next suggestion. Go see the film. It will help you to appreciate each remarkable character, my favorite being the Mad Hatter, and leave you anticipating your next night's sleep where, perhaps you too, will find yourself in a world apart from this one. 

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