Alice in Wonderland
Lewis Carroll

by contributor

Sharon Fleming

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Themes
Themes are described as ideas that dominate a particular piece of literature. In almost all cases, pieces of literature will be centered a theme or a number of them.
The Inevitable End of Childhood Innocence

Initially, Alice appears an innocent girl who is not bothered by much in her environment. She does not express concern for her appearance and demeanor. However, as the story progresses, Alice notices and frets over her ever-changing size. This shift in Alice’s self-awareness mirrors puberty and a development of conscientiousness that occurs with age. Like many children who experience growing pains, Alice feels frustrated and uncomfortable with her condition. Before entering Wonderland, Alice attempts to adjust her size so she can pass through a door into the beautiful garden. She reacts with frustration when she cannot fit. Thereafter, Alice realizes she retains no control over her body’s growth when her neck gets so long that it towers above trees. It takes Alice a while to become comfortable and confident in her own skin.

The Randomness of Life

Throughout her journey in Wonderland, Alice experiences a barrage of challenges that have no discernable solutions. In fact, Wonderland presents Alice with circumstances that contradict her lived experiences. Moreover, Wonderland does not meet Alice’s expectations. Whereas she is accustomed to polite interactions outside of Wonderland, within it Alice encounters constant rudeness and lack of courtesy. Whereas Alice lives by reason and civility, those in Wonderland thrive on irrationality and disorder. Alice comes to realize that Wonderland would appear sensible to her if she modifies her expectations of it. However, the cognitive dissonance Alice experiences in trying to apply her conception of the world to Wonderland impairs her ability to adapt to it.

Alice initially believes herself intelligent enough to comprehend Wonderland’s madness. However, she falls short through her inability to understand the Queen’s croquet game, the Caucus race, and the Mad Hatter’s riddle. These failures cause Alice to question her ability to comprehend Wonderland. As she continues encountering randomness and meaninglessness, she struggles to make sense of it all. These events demonstrate the fact that, despite humankind’s best efforts to grasp and control the world, it is rife with mystery.

Death’s Looming Presence in Life

Many instances in Alice's Adventures in Wonderland suggest death’s presence in life. From the moment Alice decides to follow the White Rabbit down the hole, it is clear her venture into unknown territory could result in her demise. For example, at the beginning of her time in Wonderland, Alice drinks liquid from an unmarked bottle. Had the bottle’s contents been poisonous, Alice would have died. In many instances, Alice aggravates creatures in Wonderland. Had she harassed these creatures beyond their tolerance, they could have killed her. Moreover, the Queen of Hearts orders for Alice’s beheading, just as she does with other characters. However, Alice evades death in these situations. She is too confident — and too naïve — to consider death a possible outcome of her circumstances.

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