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Is Our Land Wonderland?

December 2, 2009

Back in chapter nine, we read about the Duchess explaining to Alice that “every thing’s got a moral, if only you can find it.” Whenever Alice had paused to think the moral presented to her, she would have her train of thought ran off the tracks with the Duchess’s interrupting. When Alice first met the Duchess, she was an upset hag who acted very rudely to Alice. At this point in the story, Alice has just rescued the Duchess from the Queen of Hearts, and immediately begins receiving affection from her. One of the several morals that the Duchess told Alice was that “love makes the world go round;” this contradicts her earlier quote “the world would go a deal faster if everyone would mind their own business.” What Alice does not see is that the Duchess attempting to make everything a moral is not a big difference from herself trying to make sense of Wonderland.

I don’t think that Alice would want the world to go a “deal faster,” because earlier in the story she took comfort in the fact that in Wonderland, one would “never be an old woman.” According to The Annotated Alice, Lewis Carroll favored children over adults, which might be the reason Alice [Liddell] wouldn’t have to grow old in Wonderland. The Duchess’s contradiction was an example that adults constantly correct themselves in order to seem “right.” The Duchess is the symbol of parents that attempt to place sayings, books, idea, etc. into context to teach their children. In Carroll’s mind, children should be allowed to imagine and think freely.

What confused me was that Alice found life “much pleasanter at home.” Wonderland was designed to show kids how adults sometimes act out and have a need to control. Alice was being ordered by “Mice and Rabbits” at home as well as Wonderland. The mouse told Alice to be quiet while he told his story, and the White Rabbit told Alice to get his gloves. This is similar to the way adults boss children around.

In the chapter, the Duchess was trying to tell Alice the meaning of Wonderland, when in reality the meaning of Wonderland is to stay young at heart, and to not think too deeply of the world. When asked why a raven is like a writing desk, Alice thought for a bit before discovering there is no answer. But did there need to be an answer? Carroll wanted children to not be so critical of everything, and instead let their imaginations wander… or Wonder. Perhaps the reason Carroll described the Duchess as ugly was because he didn’t like adults all that much. The parents who hinder a child’s mind to imagine and wonder are represented in the Duchess’s character.

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