Is Alice Free in Wonderland?

“Still she went on growing, and, as a last resource, she put one arm out of the window, and one foot up the chimney, and said to herself ‘Now I can do no more, whatever happens. What will become of me?’

Luckily for Alice, the little magic bottle had now had its full effect, and she grew no larger: still it was very uncomfortable, and, as there seemed to be no sort of chance of her ever getting out of the room again, no wonder she felt unhappy.”

I chose a passage in the beginning of the book, where Alice is first experiencing her stages of uncontrollable growing and shrinking. Throughout Alice in Wonderland, I noticed that Alice’s lack of control over anything that happens to her was a common theme. Specifically, Alice is often trapped or confined to an area, which I read as a metaphor for the boundaries women faced in the Victorian era.
In this passage specifically, in the fourth chapter of Alice in Wonderland, I felt as though her physical growth and the negativity it brought mirrored what happened as people grew older. Specifically for female children, I believe they’re given more freedom as children than they are as adults. Children can say and do things that offend people, but are excused because of their age, and lack of understanding of the consequences. But, as they grow older, they are reprimanded, and unable to do things like play outside or explore the world independently, as Alice does in Wonderland. When Alice asks the question “What will become of me?” I think it’s interesting that there’s no evidence of her panic or hysteria in this moment. She is simply asking the question, and is not asking herself what she can do to get out of the situation, but is admitting she cannot help herself further, leaving the solution to someone or something else. The ending of the passage, “there seemed to be no sort of chance of her ever getting out of the room again, no wonder she felt unhappy.” I felt was a reflection of Alice’s fears of growing older and being confined to a set of responsibilities and chores. It was a happy coincidence that Alice grew just to the point of being too big for the room, and not bigger still. I think this section would have been interesting if Alice grew so big she broke the barriers of the room and was free to the outside world.
The physical entrapment of Alice in this passage strongly alluded to the invisible barriers women faced in the Victorian era. I felt as though Alice’s situation here reflected her fears, and the eventual end to her freedom in Wonderland.

6 thoughts on “Is Alice Free in Wonderland?”

  1. I particularly like your observation about the narrowing freedom of people (women specifically) as they move out of childhood and into adulthood. I think this is true- even as you learn more as an adult, the realm of possibility still narrows as you become more mature. For instance, I think the end of the story when Alice tells the court “You’re nothing but a pack of cards!” is representative of her moving from naivete into knowledge. Indeed, it’s like when you’re a child and you realize that Santa or magic is not real- yes, you are better informed, but the world becomes a little smaller.

  2. I also liked your discussion on women’s shrinking freedoms the curious exuberance of childhood; for me, I think, though, that she has more agency in the beginning than a loss of control. She has the choice of going down the rabbit hole, the choice of drinking and eating the mysterious items provided, and the choice of how she behaves around the people/animals she encounters. Like we discussed in class last week, I think that of all the female characters we’ve read, she has the most agency of any of them. I think Alice likes to feign a lack of control, wondering why things keep happening to her and not contemplating her own actions and how they affect her. It’s an interesting parallel between agency and lack of control, but I think she has more control than people see on the surface.

  3. I think that you pointed to an important part of the text, where Alice grows so big that she is trapped inside the Rabbit’s house. I completely agree that this represents Alice feeling confined by the domestic role expected from her in Victorian society. The freedom she experiences in Wonderland is temporary, and returning to the real world brings back the pressures and expectations of growing up as a young girl in that time period. Alice’s return to these social pressures is emphasized by her sister’s certainty that someday, Alice will be a mother with children of her own, forcing her into the domestic lifestyle that felt so cramped in Wonderland.

  4. I really liked your interpretation of this passage! I totally agree with you when you say that the transition from childhood to adulthood particularly results in a decrease of freedom and I think Alice knows that. She seems to understand that this transition is inevitable and that the freedom she is experiencing in Wonderland is therefore only temporary. At the end of her journey the fact that she realizes that the court is “nothing but a pack of cards” symbolizes her growth and the loss of her naïveté. Her parting from Wonderland and the account she gives of her dream to her sister can therefore be seen as her leving her childhood behind.

  5. This is awesome! I really like your ideas about female children and how they have more power before they grow up. I also agree with you that the house Alice grows within is in itself a metaphor for the Victorian boundaries that women faced and were against. Originally Alice growing larger and larger made me think of colonialism however, your idea seems stronger and I am interested in taking it further.

  6. This is a very interesting interpretation of the text. I wonder whether the conclusion of the novel complicates or reinforces this theory? I think it reinforces it, as Alice’s sister imagines her, not as a free woman doing as she pleases, but solely in the form of motherhood, as would have been expected of both sisters at the time.

Comments are closed.