Illustrations: June Goulding
First Published: 1865
This Edition: 2006
I just finished reading the very weird, but extremely wonderful "Alice in Wonderland" and its sequel, "Through the Looking Glass" by Lewis Carroll for booklogged's "Winter Classics Challenge". My edition includes an unabridged text and is published by Parragon Publishing in the UK, with illustrations by June Goulding. I think "Alice In Wonderland" is one of those books that must always be accompanied by illustrations or pictures, because, as Alice herself said: "And what is the use of a book, without pictures or conversations?"
I have always maintained that everyone should read "Alice in Wonderland" atleast twice in the their lives, once as a kid to enjoy the nonsensical tale with its wonderful characters,poems and jokes and once as an adult to enjoy the satire, the puns and the cultural references. Having said that however, I wonder if kids are still reading "Alice in Wonderland" today?
I'm sure almost everyone here has read Alice in Wonderland,but to refresh the memory, here's a tiny synposis:
Alice, a little girl with bright blonde hair and a blue dress with a white apron, is sitting with her sister who is reading a book. Having nothing to do she pursues a White Rabbit (wearing a waistcoat and carrying a pocket watch) passing by down a rabbit hole. She falls a long, long way and lands in Wonderland. Whilst there, she experiences a host of puzzling changes and meets some very strange characters who guide her through Wonderland:
The Cheshire Cat, who is always grinning and vanishing and reappearing mysteriously.To say a person looks like a Cheshire Cat is to say that he or she is grinning from ear to ear, looking mysterious and feeling quite pleased with himself or herself.
The Mad Hatter, The March Hare, and the sleepy Dormouse whom Alice joins uninvited at a Tea Party. They make her dizzy with their riddles, their conversations filled with puns and other delicious nonsense. Carroll did not invent the term "Mad Hatter", it was already in existence. Truth is, Hatters really did go mad. The chemicals used in hat-making included mercurous nitrate which caused mercury poisoning. Victims developed hallucinations and other psychotic symptoms. In the case of our Hatter, time has stopped working for him so he is always on tea time!
The curmedgeonly, but wise, Caterpillar who smokes a hookah and gives Alice the valuable gift of the mushroom (one side making her bigger, and the other making her small), which gives her control of her size in Wonderland.
The Queen of Hearts who when crossed in any way, screams "Off with his head!" or "Off with her head!"!!!
The Mock Turtle, a very melancholy character. The Mock Turtle is always crying, and he and the Gryphon tells stories loaded with puns.
In Alice Through the Looking Glass, the sequel, written by Carroll seven years later, Alice wonders what life must look like through a mirror and is able to climb through it to find a world in reverse. Interestingly, Alice's adventures in "Through the Looking Glass" are like a game of chess, in which she starts as a white pawn and finally comes out a queen "in the eighth square" where she gives a very mad dinner party in honour of the event.
Some of the well known characters from the sequel include:
Alice with Tweedledum and Tweedledee
Tweedledum and Tweedledee: The two brothers that Alice meets in the forest. They are pictured as fat twins who are identical in speech, attitude, and appearance. Today Tweedledum and Dee have come to mean two people who are so alike they are indistinguishable.
"Don't you think you'd be much safer down on the ground?" Alice went on.."That wallk is so very narrow".
Humpty Dumpty: Yes, the same guy from the Mother Goose nursery rhyme. He and Alice have a wonderful discussion about semantics, also, Humpty Dumpty claims to be able to interpret all kinds of poetry.
The White Knight: is the kindliest of Alice's guides and advisers, indeed the truest hero of her story; and it is their encounter, we are told, that she will always remember most clearly. Some experts say that Lewis Carroll meant for the White Knight to be him.
Through the years, critics and psychologists believing the work to have many levels of interpretation, have dissected "Alice in Wonderland" in a quest to decipher its hidden, deeper meanings. However, as a result, this work is now surrounded by so much mystery and hoopla that it is a difficult book to traverse on one's own, without the aid of interpreters. I found myself constantly referring to the Alice page on Wikipedia. It's a useful guide on the plot summary, the character allusions and for the interpretation of the songs and poetry.
However, if you just want to read it as a tale of inspired nonsense, go ahead, suspend disbelief and enjoy it. I guarantee it will make you laugh and if you don't, well, "Off with your heads!'