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Behind the Key and the Bottle: Analysis of Chaper One (Part 3 of 3)

October 30, 2009
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Alice’s chase for the rabbit continues as she hopes to finally catch him after her unusually safe landing. But what would Alice do if she ultimately meets the rabbit; what does she hope to gain from it?

The White Rabbit had eventually led Alice to a hall of doors. Doors are openings to different opportunities, yet here in Wonderland, all the doors had been locked. Since entering Wonderland, either it being the empty jar on the shelves, the locked doors, or the inability to catch up to the White Rabbit, Alice has been met with constant disappointment. Wonderland, at our first glance, appears to be a world where anything is possible, but not always reliable.

At this moment in the story, Alice stumbles upon a “golden key.” It’s not only a chance for Alice to continue the story, but also hope is given to her when she became saddened by the thought of not escaping the hall. The notes in The Annotated Alice spoke of the golden key as the key to Heaven, but in this case it might be apart of Joseph Campbell’s The Hero’s Journey; the key might was shown to Alice as if given by “Supernatural Aid,” one of the aspects of the Hero’s Journey. The key appeared like magic, right when Alice was on the verge of giving up.

As Campbell said, the supernatural “mentor” would give the hero an object that would help them later on, only after said hero has already “committed to the quest.”

The key presented to Alice does unlock a door, but she discovers that she cannot fit through it’s entryway. When Alice looked through the door, she could see all these beautiful flowers and landscapes, but could not be with alongside them, only viewing them at a distance. Lewis Carrol himself was said to have been more comfortable with children than fellow adults. He felt as though he belonged with younger people, but could not really be their equal; he couldn’t actually be among them, just as Alice could not be in the garden. Like the key, the bottle marked “DRINK ME” appeared before Alice to help her along when she met the dead-end. Before actually drinking its contents, she mentioned inspecting it first, to be sure it was not poison. Although the potion did not necessarily harm Alice, it may have cursed her. No, she was not physically harmed, but after the contents of the glass were drunken, Alice shrunk to a size where she could fit through the door, but also a size that could not reach the key left on the table, meaning (although not marked with poison) the bottle had within it a different set of problems for Alice. This is unlike other fairy tales when drinking a mysterious liquid in a bottle often led to a “worse” case scenario. Referring back to Carrol, this size change could also be a representation of his desire to be a child, but the fact that Alice could not reach the key on the table also gave a picture of helplessness.

The final idea that I stumbled upon was the realization that when the bottle asked Alice to drink it, she did so. Again, when the cake asked Alice to eat it, she did so. I saw Alice responding to all these demands as a representation of people following society’s rules; people tend to not act out because they think of what society would think of them. In this case, Alice did as society told, literally in an attempt to “fit in.”

Link to Joseph Campbell’s “Hero’s Journey” explanation.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. Connor M. permalink
    November 26, 2009 4:38 am

    I love that pun at the end, “fit in.” As for the overall analysis, there are many interesting points here, although maybe you are looking into it a little too much. I’m sure the bloggers here at the Alice Project who believe Alice should not be analyzed would be furious over this, though I see many valid points.

    In the last part you mention that Alice is following all the rules of society as they are told to her. She is now in Wonderland, a bizarre world full of irrational and mad circumstances. In the future, will she follow those rules to the extreme as they get increasingly mad?

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