Alice’s Adventures in Puberty

Alice’s journey in Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland can be interpreted as a metaphor for her transition from child to adult. This would then suggest that Wonderland becomes a place for Alice to go through puberty, and the sister’s narrative at the end of the novel suggests that she has become an adult.

Alice’s realization that Wonderland is “nonsense” suggests that she has grown out of its wonders: ‘”No, No!” said the Queen. “Sentence first – verdict afterwards.” “Stuff and nonsense!” said Alice loudly. “The idea of having the sentence first!” (102). In comparison to many earlier events in the novel, when Alice for the most part seemed perplexed or fascinated by Wonderland’s creatures and events, Alice here takes a firm stance on her beliefs of what is right and wrong. This suggests that she no longer is susceptible to possibly accept the “nonsense” of Wonderland, and goes by real life’s “rules” that she sentence should follow the verdict.

Alice also feels superior to the cards at the end of the novel: ‘“Who cares for you?” said Alice (she had grown to her full size by this time). “You’re nothing but a pack of cards!”’ (102). Her realization that they are “nothing but…cards” further suggests that she has lost Wonderland’s sense of fantasy as reality, and is “superior” to childhood’s ideas. Additionally, the note that she has grown to her full size after multiple changes to her body in the novel, and her waking up right after growing to her right size (102), further suggests that Wonderland is a place for childhood, which she no longer belongs to. The multiple changes to her body in the novel can symbolize her transition through puberty, as she does not understand all the changes that she experiences, and the end of those changes implies that she has now grown to become an adult.

The sister’s narrative about how Alice will one day tell her children of Wonderland further implies that Wonderland is only accessible to children: “…she pictured to herself how this same little sisters of hers would…be herself a grown woman… and…gather about her other little children, and make their eyes bright and eager with many a strange tale, perhaps even with the dream of Wonderland long ago” (104). The sister’s idea of how Alice will one day gather her children is reminiscent of how Alice already told her sister her dream, which implies that she already is “a grown woman.” Alice’s leaving Wonderland, telling her sister her tale, and then running off thinking “what a wonderful dream it had been,” seems then to symbolize her leaving behind her childhood.

4 thoughts on “Alice’s Adventures in Puberty”

  1. I think this is such a great analysis. There are so many moments in the novel that support this idea. For example, Alice’s size and appearance are constantly changing. In addition, she is depicted as overly emotional in Wonderland when she often. One might interpret this as her being hormonal. Alice also struggles with her identity throughout the entirety of the novel, something that would again support the concept that Alice is pubescent and is changing at this point in her life.

  2. Your piece is really interesting! It’s certainly true that Alice is going through a lot of changes and struggling with identity. I’m curious whether you find the book to be advocating for puberty and the heternormative life path (puberty, maturity, marriage, children, death) or is in fact cautioning it’s readers against every growing up. Does Alice’s feelings of superiority towards Wonderland mean that she is in fact an adult? Are fantasy and adulthood incompatible? I’m curious as to our classes definitions of adulthood and childhood and how those color what we think of as Wonderland. Are we happy to see Alice as an adult? Do the rules and structures that Alice returns to make us feel bad for her?

  3. I think this is a really interesting interpretation of Alice’s journey through wonderland. I especially like your interpretation of the constant changes of Alice’s size and her body as a metaphor for puberty. In the above comment, I really like the specific attention to Alice’s emotions. As Victorian women are often seen as overly emotional and hysterical, I think this detail and the relation to her hormones changing is fascinating. I think looking at the passage with this lens could offer even more insight.

  4. I find this reading of the novel very interesting and totally plausible. But since Alice enters Wonderland as a child and leaves as a woman, there must be a specific turning point in her coming of age journey through the dream world. As you mentioned above, she only starts to reject teachings and rules towards the end of the story, so it would make sense that there must be a moment where she changes and begins her transition from girl to woman. Finding that moment would be an exciting addition to your argument.

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