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Alice in Wonderland

Alice in Wonderland and children's literature

richard dury

on 25 March 2013

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Transcript of Alice in Wonderland

Moral tales stories for children
with a clear moral message 1765: Anon., Goody Two-Shoes
- virtue rewarded 1762: Francesco Soave, Novelle Morali
– children civilized by teaching Cautionary tales moral tales in which naughty children come to a bad end 1873: Elizabeth Newberry, The History of Little King Pippin
– includes 'an account of the melancholy death of four naughty boys, who were devoured by wild beasts’ Pious verse poems with moral and religious messages 1715: Isaac Watts,
Divine Songs for Children 1845: Heinrich Hoffmann’s Der Struwwelpeter
(Piero Porcospino)
– parodies cautionary tales a girl plays with matches...
and burns to death reaction: 1846: Edward Lear’s Book of Nonsense
– no didactic purpose reaction: There was an Old Man of Coblenz
The length of whose legs was immense... How doth the little busy bee
Improve each shining hour
And gathers honey all the day
From every opening flower! Parodies Victorian society and education she had read several nice little stories about children who had got burnt, and eaten up by wild beasts and other unpleasant things, all because they would not remember the simple rules their friends had taught them: such as, that a red-hot poker will burn you if you hold it too long; and that if you cut your finger very deeply with a knife, it usually bleeds; and she had never forgotten that, if you drink much from a bottle marked ‘poison,’ it is almost certain to disagree with you, sooner or later. = parents = give you
indigestion Carroll makes fun of cautionary tales:
absurdly violent
ineffective Alice and cautionary tales Alice and pious verse Every chapter contains some moralistic verse remembered badly by Alice
transformed by one of the characters parodied by Lewis Carroll The 'little busy bee' (model of hard work)
becomes the 'little crocodile' (symbol of deception
and aggression)
How cheerfully he seems to grin,
How neatly spreads his claws,
And welcomes little fishes in
With gently smiling jaws! sogghignare artigli fauci 1832 b. 1851
to Oxford 1862 boat trip 1865 Alice's Adventures in Wonderland 1898 d. 1871 Alice Through the Looking Glass 1876 The Hunting of the Snark 1863 break
with Liddell family

1864 manuscript
Alice rabbit ! normal world down the
rabbit hole pool - Caucus race in the
rabbit's house mad tea party stories and songs the trial Alice in danger doors - garden riverbank the garden riverbank normal world pig and pepper journey return chaos helpers suspense The plot of Alice in Wonderland climax Alice In Wonderland:
children's story without a moral parodies
social conventions,
school learning,
‘moral tales’
pious poetry for children basic comic situation Charles Lutwidge Dodgson Charles = Carolus = Carol
Lutwidge = Ludwig = Louis Language, games and society are governed by rules absurd — arbitrary — exploited by the powerful the Caucus Race (Ch. 3),
the game-like Mad Tea Party (Ch. 7),
the Croquet game (Ch. 8)
the Lobster Quadrille (Ch. 10)
the Trial (Ch. 11). ingenuously Alice
politeness and reason with adult-monsters
in Wonderland Alice's innocence exposes
the teaching as inadequate,
adults as hypocritical satire Alice's identity not clear to others:
'Mary Ann' (a housemaid, Ch. 4)
a serpent (Ch. 5)
'Who are you?' (Ch. 5) Alice is not sure of her own identity
"Who in the world am I?" (Ch. 2)
"if I’m not Ada and I’m not Mabel, then who am I?" (Ch. 2)
"I--I'm a little girl" (Ch. 5) Social identity = a name
names = conventional labels name always the same
person changes Alice Liddell (1852-1934) 1856: meets LC
1862: boat trip (Alice 10 years old) (1858) (1859) (1859 in 1874 MS) social 'games': Social roles: arbitrary: cards are re-coloured
created by language — 'King' just a name “Who cares for you?” said Alice, (she had grown to her full size by this time.) “You’re nothing but a pack of cards!” Who in the world am I? I—I'm a little girls irony satire Carroll and Alice in Wonderland chaos Society Language Identity 2. a literary genre which
continually overturns
conventions of language and logic Nonsense 1. words without meaning
e.g. 'colourless ideas' long tradition of the nonsense literature
e.g. in some nursery rhymes: Hey, diddle, diddle!
The cat and the fiddle,
The cow jumped over the moon;
The little dog laughed To see such sport,
And the dish ran away with the spoon. no cause and effect meaning is suggested
– and taken away Two key texts in 'literary nonsense':

Edward Lear, The Book of Nonsense (1846)
Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (1856) literary nonsense is not
meaningless gibberish
satire, parody have a clear meaning no meaning at all In nonsense, meaning and order is
(i) suggested, and (ii) taken away Nonsense has no final meaning like social conventions? like life? 'Twas [adjective] , and the [adjective] [pl. noun] Did [verb] [verb] and in the [sing. noun] 'Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe an English sentence but no clear meaning "Why is a raven like a writing-desk?"
"No, I give it up," Alice replied. "What's the answer?"
"I haven't the slightest idea," said the Hatter. we start trying to find the answer no answer saying to herself ... 'Do cats eat bats?'
and sometimes, 'Do bats eat cats?' possibly meaningful impossible;
question made by inverting rhyme-words Alice in Wonderland parodies social rules How doth the little busy bee
Improve each shining hour
And gathers honey all the day
From every opening flower! Language and society In Ch. 6 of Alice through the Looking Glass, LC
links absurd language and society    "When I use a word," Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, "it means just what I choose it to mean—neither more nor less."
   "The question is, " said Alice, "whether you can make words mean so many different things."
   "The question is," said Humpty Dumpty. "which is to be master—that's all." In Ch. 3 of Alice Through the Looking Glass Alice enters the wood where things lose their names Redemptive child George Eliot, Silas Marner (1861)
Johanna Spyri, Heidi (1881)
Frances Hodgson Burnett, The Secret Garden (1911) Thomas Cooper Gotch, The Child Entroned (1894)
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