The Regained Innocence

Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland — which is the main focus of this blog should you not yet have noticed — is cherished all over the world by both children and adults.

Why it is loved by children is evident very quickly, from the very childlike language Carroll uses and the addresses he makes to the reader, to the visuals he provides. Children seem to love the book, not only because it is an adventure story in which they can relate to the main character, but also because the presentation given by Carroll is so extremely interactive and tangential that it is easy to keep reading. While these interactions and different layers give the story a very interactive, discrete, ever-changing feel to it, they do make it harder to follow specifics within the story, however, and keep the children to the main focus of the story, the entertainment.

Once we realize why the children love this novel so much, it becomes quite clear why adults too cherish it.

Not only is it something to talk to the children of, but it is entertaining to anyone who reads it. Even if you disagree with the writing and dislike the imagery, you still are drawn towards the book, simply because you too can relate to it. When Alice gets “tired of sitting by her sister on the bank, and of having nothing to do” you are reminded of your own days as a child. You remember Running in a Field and worrying for nothing. You also remember the wish to be older back then, and are maybe a little saddened by the haste you had to pass those years. But sadness is not allowed to take over, because right after you begin to wonder about how back then it was a better and easier life for you, the rabbit and its pocket watch jump out and call for your attention.

You follow Alice right behind the rabbit, crawl down the tunnel with her and then, suddenly, fall into emptiness, floating only a few meters above her, being able to see all she sees. Once more, when Alice pulls out the Orange Marmalade, you are allowed to reminisce about your own childhood, and the summers you enjoyed. Next Alice thinks of her cat and about caring for her and how the cat will surely miss her while she is gone. As an adult reader, one notices this and smiles at the naïveté displayed by her. But while you smile and maybe laugh a little about it, you are reminded of how innocent you were, and how you lost your innocence. Carroll effectively tells you to think about the summer, about oranges and rabbits, about cats and your own innocence, while slowly leading you towards your next destination.

Once in the hall of doors at the bottom of the rabbit hole, an adult will most likely think about a way out, even before he considers the room itself. The adult in us is alarmed, but Carroll’s imagery is so sweet and candid that we are already succumbed in Alice’s grasps and don’t worry about what is possible and impossible anymore.

When Alice imbibes, even gulps down the bottle of what she had believed to be poison at first, we are for the first time a mite alarmed. We remember that, at some point in our childhood we burnt ourselves somewhere or got sick from eating something. Carroll directly plays at these memories by making Alice put our mindset back to our childhood years and recalling that one can be burnt and get sick.

One last time before we go down the rabbit hole even further, we are reminded about the childish view on a world we didn’t understand. When Alice fells she “must be shutting up like a telescope” we already accept this fact and only have minor objections to it coming from our rational mind. We already are allured by Alice’s adventure, even before the Chapter ends.

Carroll’s Alice reminds anyone, whether young or old, of the sweetness that is childhood. We can see the riverbank and taste the oranges. We remember when we thought nothing of science and were still free to explore the world without boundaries given to us by science. We remember knowing little, but having an imagination that made up for the lack of knowledge tenfold. We recall being a child. A child, the thing so many try to be.

While this is not necessarily the sole reason for the success of the book, there is still the tons of imagery and depth of interpretation it allows for, it is surely a main element of its appeal to a broader public and to the children it was meant for. What makes Alice so successful seem to be the layers of meaning, and the cataclysm of imagery. Carroll’s writing style is also very interesting to analyze, as is done by this blog entry by Connor, a member of another team on the alice project. Overall the story is successful because it is so multilayered that it appeals to a very wide audience, captures their hearts early in reading and in their life to not let them go.

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