knowledge in wonderland and the brave new world

Alice’s Adventure in Wonderland can be read as a satire on education and knowledge, which at times reminds me of Brave New World by Aldous Huxley. There are a few nurseries rhymes in the story; two of them, “How doth the little—” (Carroll 11) and “You are old, Father William” (35), Alice recited to find out if she was still the same person after having fallen into the rabbit hole. Knowledge is represented as something that is unique to its owner. Alice decided that she must have become someone else because the rhymes she remembered were different from before. It’s almost mechanical that Alice had to recite the whole rhyme and listen to herself to make that judgement, as if the rhymes were forcibly beaten into her head; she couldn’t help but reciting the whole thing. That reminded me of the use of hypnopedia in Brave New World, to teach children about things like what is the longest river in Africa. When being asked that question, the children wouldn’t know the answer but are able to recite the sentence played to them in their sleep. Likewise, Alice doesn’t think before she recites, like when she said “London is the capital of Paris, and Paris is the capital of Rome, and Rome—” (11).

Another moment that is reminiscent of Brave New World is that the Duchess finds a nonsense moral lesson in everything like “flamingoes and mustard both bite. And the moral of that is—‘Birds of a feather flock together’” (74). The moral is phrased to sound so plausible that it lures people to take it for granted and ignore what it’s actually saying; it sounds almost like a slogan from Brave New World. The slogans are also part of the hypnopedia curriculum and some of them tend to give people guidance in life, like “a gramme is always better than a damn” and “ending is better than mending” (Huxley). Ironically, as moments of satire on knowledge, there is barely any sort of knowledge or sense present in what the Duchess preaches.

Carroll, Lewis. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland & Through the Looking-Glass. Bantam Dell, 2006.