Saying I like Alice in Wonderland* is an understatement. It would be like saying that Stephanie thinks Harry Potter is a pretty good series, or George W. Bush probably didn’t deserve to be the 43rd president of the United States. I LOVE (underline that three times) Alice in Wonderland. I like it childlike, I like it nonsensical, I like it dark, I like it morbid, I like it fantastical. Any way you serve it I will devour it, although I may not always go back for seconds — I’m looking at you Tim Burton version.
*A note to all Alice purists, I am completely aware that Lewis Carroll’s books are actually titled Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass and What Alice Found There, but for the sake of brevity I will refer to the series as Alice or Alice in Wonderland throughout this post.
My apartment is covered with all things Alice, from books to knick-knacks, to costumes. I suppose you could refer to it as my Alice collection. I have been Alice for Halloween on two separate occasions and have a 3rd dress laying around “just in case.” I own nine different copies of the Alice series, two of which were published in 1899. I have jewelry, posters, makeup, perfume, plushies, weapons, kitchenware, clothing — you name it and I probably own it. Ask me what fictional character I would choose to be and I will tell you Alice. Ask me to show you my wrists, my love for Alice is tattooed on them. As I mentioned before, this is a serious obsession.
I was first introduced to Alice, not through either book, but through the classic 1951 Disney adaptation. When Alice ate the cookie labeled “EAT ME” in the White Rabbit’s house, that cookie was palpable to me. I could feel it, I could taste it. When Alice laid down in the field of daisies in the beginning I could transport myself there. It’s hard to describe something so visceral, but I’m sure you’ve all had experiences where you could literally feel or taste something intangible. I’m certain it was then that I was hooked.
Combine this with my love of fantasy and the themes of never having to lose the power of your imagination and the ability to make your own world and you have a winning combination.
When I became older, I read the books, and fell in love with the nonsense and whimsy. If my writing is any indication, I prefer to keep my life lacking in complete seriousness and Carroll’s nonsensical Wonderland meshes well with the (mostly) silly portion of my personality.
Talking animals? Fuck yes! I perpetually tell stories to people as if my beasties — my dog Boxcar and my kitten Jameson — can talk. The ability to grow and shrink through the imbibing of various foodstuffs? I can’t list the usefulness of such a skill. All these things = totally awesome. Not to mention that unicorns exist. I wouldn’t be opposed to living in a world where they happen to tussle with lions. If it were a Jesus allegory lion that would be even better.
My favorite quote in the entire series is reminiscent of this nonsense writing, but adds a sense of realism as well, a fact which I could appreciate when I re-read the series later on. In the scene I am referring to, the Red Queen is dragging Alice back and forth across the chess board they are trying to traverse, barely stopping for so much as a breathe. When Alice asks her why, the Red Queen (not to be confused with the Queen of Hearts) wisely says, “Now, here, you see, it takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place”. Sadly, I could not agree more. In order to stay in the same place one finds themselves in at this moment, they must work hard to stay there, and to move beyond that position it takes twice as much work to get ahead. Depressing, but true. Damn you corporate America! Imagine me shaking my fist in anger here.
I tend to lean toward slightly darker literature, which Alice also has in abundance. From the sadly deformed and perpetually crying Mock Turtle to the erratic and at times frightening Mad Hatter to the depressing story within the story of the Walrus and the Carpenter, the books have some darker elements which modern adaptations seem to have latched onto.
The second book closes with a poem Carroll penned about real life Alice, Alice Liddell (pronounced “little” for some reason that may or may not have something to do with phonetics). This poem is particularly eerie and pairs well with the darker aspects of the books.
“Long has paled that sunny sky:
Echoes fade and memories die:
Autumn frosts have slain July.
Still she haunts me, phantomwise,
Alice moving under skies
Never seen by waking eyes.“
Insert creepy ghost noises. It is here that I can’t help but draw a connection to another famous blonde literary creation, Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita. Below you will find an excerpt from an equally haunting poem written by protagonist Humbert Humbert in this literary masterpiece. Note the same use of time and aging, references to death, and the eternal quality placed upon the female character.
“My car is limping, Dolores Haze,
And the longest lap is the hardest,
And I shall be dumped where the weed decays,
And the rest is rust and stardust“
I know what you’re thinking. Cassie-la, don’t mention Lolita and Alice in the same sentence or people will start to make claims about Lewis Carroll being a pedophile which will in turn get the hippies started on how Alice is all about drug use. Well to that I say, “For serious?” You did not live in the 1800’s (unless you’re a vampire/demon/warlock/angel/leprechaun) and do not fully understand the social mores of the time period and therefore cannot make an assumption that the relationship between Carroll and Liddell was actually inappropriate. Furthermore, to assume that male/female relationships have to be sexual ruins the many different forms of love that life offers us.
Finally, to the drunken hippy who accosted me at work about my Alice tattoos, commenting that he knows I must love weed if I love Alice. Yes, one of the reasons the Alice series is so lasting is because it can be modified to resonate with different time periods, but its original purpose was not to promote or parallel drug use. Maybe it can be altered to represent that, and the Disney movie can be enjoyed on various substances, but that does not mean that it was written for this express purpose. Although I do appreciate that it can transcend its original intent.
And this is where I’ll stop ranting, because I could waffle back and forth for six more paragraphs given the time. So I’ll stop now and head into this concluding paragraph written in an entirely different style at great expense and at the last minute.
Show me an Alice adaptation and I’ll watch it. Send me a link to an Alice product and I’ll buy it. Hand me an Alice book and I’ll read it. Turn on a YouTube clip of Johnny Depp doing the futterwacken and I’ll cry at the damage being done to my retinas. But no matter what happens to the pint sized blonde in the blue dress, I will always love all things Alice.