I remember the first time I laid eyes on Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland. My mother took me to an antique book shop that was selling book sets for cheap. The Alice in Wonderland book was midnight blue with elaborate gold trim. I couldn’t believe no one had snatched it up yet. It looked expensive and special. I took it home and felt wise leafing through the textured, manila pages. I felt much like Alice at the time: self-important, curious and cautious.
when the Rabbit actually took a watch out of its waistcoat-pocket, and looked at it and then hurried on, Alice started to her feet for it flashed across her mind that she had never before seen a rabbit with either a waistcoat-pocket, or a watch to take out of it, and, burning with curiosity, she ran across the field after it . . .
Alice in Wonderland is a fascinating read even as an adult. Carroll’s mastery of wordplay is continually impressive. And his ability to capture the innocent delight and demands of children is captivating. Everytime I read it I feel that youthful hope that very few things are impossible.
The rabbit-hole went straight on like a tunnel for some way, and then dipped suddenly down, so suddenly that Alice had not a moment to think about stopping herself before she found herself falling down what seemed to be a very deep well.
It bothers me when people call Carroll a pedophiliac or a Peter Pan. When they try to make something ugly out of something innocent. I think he just liked being around people (admittedly small people) who were unaffected and artless. His world was filled with duty, prudence, societal expectations and strict propriety. I’m sure there was little room for freedom and creativity among these stuffy Victorians.
Presently she began again. “I wonder if I shall fall right through the earth! How funny it’ll seem to come out among the people that walk with their heads downwards! The Antipathies, I think – ” (she was rather glad there was no one listening, this time, as it didn’t sound at all the right word). . ..
Carroll created a world in which the rules adults had seemed out of place and silly. A world where a girl might employ logic, no matter how out of place it is to make sense of things on her own. A world where one could ask questions and find out answers while being slightly removed from the demands of propriety and reality.
She ate a little bit, and said anxiously to herself “Which way? Which way” holding her hand on the top of her head to feel which way it was growing; and she was quite surprised to find that she remained the same size. To be sure, this is what generally happens when one eats cake; but Alice had got so much into the way of expecting nothing but out-of-the-way things to happen, that it seemed quite dull and stupid for life to go on in the common way.
His fantastical world is a place I come to visit at least once a year. I hope you enjoy my installments of his delightful little treasure.