Red-Letter Saturday #4: “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland”
On this day, August 2, 1865, Lewis Carroll published Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. The story was written by Lewis Carroll (Reverend Charles Lutwidge Dodgson) three years after he and Reverend Robinson Duckworth rowed in a boat up the River Thames on July 4, 1862. They accompanied three young daughters of Henry Liddell: Lorina, Edith, and Alice. During the trip, they told the girls a story about a bored little girl named Alice who goes looking for an adventure. The girls loved it, and Alice Liddell asked Dodgson to write it down for her. He began writing the manuscript of the story the next day (under the pseudonym Lewis Carroll), although that earliest version no longer exists. The girls and Dodgson took another boat trip a month later when he elaborated the plot to the story of Alice. In November he began working on the manuscript in earnest.
Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, or Alice in Wonderland, has been delighting children all over the world for decades. As a matter of fact, besides English, the book has been translated into 60 different languages. Indeed, this is a testament to the popularity of this classic tale. And it really is no wonder (no pun intended, but isn’t it wonderful how nicely that worked out) when you take into consideration the fact that the tale plays with logic, giving the story lasting popularity with adults as well as with children. It is considered to be one of the best examples of the literary nonsense genre.
I remember the first time that I read Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. I was twelve, and the librarian who was in charge of our bookmobile, Miss Marge, had recommended that I read this book. Miss Marge always knew which books I would enjoy reading, and she was never wrong. I can even recall hurrying home from the bookmobile with my new book, anxious to begin a new adventure. I was the ultimate bookworm in those days. As a matter of fact, that’s exactly what my mother used to call me – a bookworm. I was proud of that title because I loved to read. Reading opened the doors to a whole new world filled with exciting adventures and amazing characters. I could never get enough of reading, and to this very day, I am still an avid reader.
So I began to read the story about a girl named Alice sitting on the river bank with her sister. Alice was described by Lewis Carroll as “loving and gentle,” “courteous to all,” “trustful,” and “wildly curious.” She was constantly correcting the rude characters of Wonderland when it came to matters of manners and etiquette. Soon this girl named Alice was growing bored and beginning to lose interest in reading her sister’s book. As soon as I read the part about Alice encountering the White Rabbit who was obsessing about being late and eventually following him down the rabbit hole, I was hooked!
And the White Rabbit really intrigued me. I’m really not sure why, but perhaps it was because he was the first character whom Alice encountered, so he immediately piqued my curiosity. I also loved the description of him. He had pink eyes, was wearing a waistcoat, and holding a pocket watch. He is so frantic, so panicked and so worried about the time, exclaiming: “Oh dear! Oh dear! I shall be late!” and this reminds me of myself, actually. Oh, it’s not because I’m late all the time – quite the contrary – I’m usually always early. I’m such a stickler for punctuality, so I guess I can relate to him.
So Alice follows the White Rabbit down the rabbit hole, and before she knows it, the strangest things begin to happen to her. After drinking mysterious concoctions, eating cake, picking up a fan, and eating parts of a mushroom, she shrinks, then grows bigger, shrinks, then grows bigger again. In my opinion, I thought she was terribly brave to do all those things. Oh, the wonder of it all! Oops – I guess that’s another pun, isn’t it? Funny how that word keeps popping up. Anyway, that’s when Alice’s adventures in Wonderland really begins.There were so many other delightful characters that Alice meets along the way during her journey through Wonderland. I remember how fascinated I was by each one of them because every single one was special in their own unique way. As I read through the story for the first time, I tried to conjure up an image of them in my imagination, marveling at the wonderful (another pun – sorry, just can’t seem to help it) plot, images, and storylines.Who could forget the Caterpillar who sits on top of a mushroom while smoking his hookah? I didn’t even know what a hookah was until I read this story. He’s a very rude caterpillar and treats Alice with contempt. Then she meets the Mad Hatter who’s very impolite and who’s always having tea. It seems as though there’s nothing he enjoys more than frustrating Alice. One of my favorite characters is the Cheshire Cat. I think I enjoyed him because he was always grinning and because he seemed to be a bit mysterious, disappearing at will. He’s the one who tried to explain the madness of Wonderland to Alice. At least he tried to be helpful. And let’s not forget the infamous Queen of Hearts. She is the ruler of Wonderland, and is continually screaming for her subjects to be beheaded. To be entirely truthful, she sort of gave me the chills. I was always afraid for Alice because of her – afraid that Alice might lose her life because of the Queen. Oh, yes. The day that Lewis Carroll published Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, he was in fact providing generations of children with the pleasure of entering into their own wonderland full of amazing characters and marvelous adventures. All you need to do to enter into that wonderland is to open the book and begin reading. What a wonderful gift he gave us! Thank you, Lewis.
QUOTE OF THE DAY: Alice: “Where should I go?” The Cheshire Cat: “That depends on where you want to end up.” ~ Lewis Carroll from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland
This post is presented as part of my special weekly feature, Red-Letter Saturday. If you’d like to to know more information about Red-Letter Saturday, click here: