Alice in Wonderland

Author: Lewis Carroll (Charles Dodgson)
Published: 1865
Website: Wikipedia Page

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, it must be said, for all that it is now considered mainstream and has had significant effects on Western culture and literature, is profoundly strange. Really strange. Setting aside the oddness of the denizens populating Wonderland, and the fact that sizes of people and landscapes change at a moments’ notice, and that a dream interpreter would have a field day with young Alice, scenes meld into each other without the barest hint at a transition, characters appear and disappear seemingly at will (not their will, of course, that would restore far too much sense and directionality to the story, but someone’s will), and the stories are punctuated by the oddest poetry I have ever had the pleasure of reading. Call it nonsense literature if you like, but the fact remains that if it were not for Carroll’s (Dodgson’s) wit, charm and a general sense that the author knows what he is doing, even the endearingness of a hookah-smoking caterpillar or the Cheshire cat simply could not overcome the overwhelming insanity that the reader is dragged through.

However, the book does contain these things. Alice has the running motifs of change of size and playing cards, along with more mathematical and historical references than I could hope to recognize. Best of all is the thick wordplay and the poems I couldn’t help but read aloud to myself, even on the subway. These elements make the twisting, unnavigable road of a narrative feel like a glimpse into the mind of a creative thinker, a writer, a jokester, a minister, and a logician. They give the stories sufficient structure to prove that the author is taking the readers on a journey he commands, rather than getting lost in a dreamworld he can no longer control. That journey can be one of fun, or of deep contemplation. For all the lighthearted absurdism, Carroll still wants us to ask what our dreams mean to us, and what worlds we have within us.

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