Whose dream, indeed?

Alice deconstructs her fantasy herself. By saying “You’re nothing but a pack of cards!” she denies the existence of the part which she had built with her imagination (102). Nobody in the dream reminds her, like perhaps the rabbit telling her to wake up, in her sister’s voice, for instance. Although the cards to rise up in what looks like an attempt to attack her, they are harmless as she had already denied them of their life and she wakes up moments after. In this way, she is in control of her dream—at least, how it ends.

The way the second dream—of Through the Looking Glass—ends is quite similar as well. She seizes “the tablecloth with both hands: one good pull, and plates, dishes, guests, and candles came crashing together in a heap on the floor” (225). Way to assert power over everyone and everything in the dream! Here she had not yet even grown back to her own size yet, but there is little hesitation in the way she ruins the party.

Then this leads to her grabbing the red queen and declaring that she would “shake you into a kitten”—another ending where she peels off the identity that she had constructed in her dream—or, perhaps, the identity that had been constructed by the dream (225). And she shakes it, until it does become the black kitten, as she had ordered it to be.

All this power assertion makes an interesting intersection with the moment where Alice wonders to whom the dream—which is, then the story—belongs. Is the red king’s—a male figure—or Alice’s? The red king doesn’t have much to call a presence throughout the story, and all that wondering of whose dream is it—and why the red king, of all characters?—has given me the idea that perhaps Lewis Carroll is the red king. So it is indeed the question of whose story is it—the author’s, or Alice’s?

I do believe that the story itself is an argument that the story belongs to Alice. The moment of considering whose dream it, in fact, works to bring up the possibility of this actually being Alice’s story, not the author’s. And the story goes to much length to show how Alice asserts her power, as seen in the moments above and many more, over this story. On top of that, she loves it. Both the dreams are nothing short of a great nightmare, considering all the absurdities Alice goes through in them, yet to Alice, they are not troubling—“what a wonderful dream it had been” (102).

So perhaps these dreams were all just Alice’s attempt to get away from the bleak reality of growing up to become a Victorian lady taking care of the house, and explore her sexuality and her desires to become powerful. And perhaps, this all is only proof that she has no actual power of what happens to her in real life, and this story is actually all in Carroll’s dream, and should he cease to write she would disappear with a small poof.

But the stories end not with such sadness, but instead with Alice’s sister picturing Alice’s future.

… how she would keep, through all her riper years, the simple and loving heart of her childhood; and how she would 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 of long ago; and how she would feel with all their simple sorrows, and find a pleasure in all their simple joys, remembering her own child-life, and the happy summer days.

So the story is Alice’s—she has taken it to be her own, so that it would accompany her through the moments of her journey in real life. And if even that real life is “but a dream”, then even her life as she grows is in a way just another Wonderland (231). This way, despite all the social construction and gender conventions that may attempt to stop her, she would own her own life fully and wholly as well.

Women, Nature, and Beauty

One theme I have been noticing during our recent studies on Victorian  Sexualities is the theme of women being connected to nature. In John Keats’ poem, “La Belle Dame sans Merci: A Ballad” the woman is described as ethereal and immersed in her natural setting. The scene is described near a lake with birds, squirrels, and harvests. Although the scene is being set up as eerie and lacking of life, the poem is still placed in the natural world immediately.  One particularly striking stanza is when Keats writes, “I see a lily on thy brow,/ With anguish moist and fever-dew,/ and on the cheeks a fading rose/ Fast withereth too.” The mention of flowers and dew in this stanza is one of the many ways the narrator using aspects of the natural world  to describe the beauty of the woman he is enchanted by. This portrayal of the beautiful woman as immersed in nature is also shown in the painting titled, “The Fair Dreamer.” This piece, published by the Illman brothers in the nineteenth century, depicts a young woman lounging on a tree, immersed in the shrubbery. Both the woman in the poem and the woman in the painting are portrayed as the epitome of beauty, and both are connected to the natural world. As I mentioned once in class, Sherry B. Ortner’s, “Is Female to Male as Nature Is to Culture” describes how women have been linked throughout history to nature whereas men have been connected to culture and progress. I noticed this in Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein” as well where the women were always somehow connected to nature whereas Frankenstein was the epitome of science and progress. I have been thinking about why this is and one theory I have come up with is that women and nature have two things in common; they are seen as mysterious and as beautiful. Man has been entranced from the beginning of time by nature and its force. In fact, most pronouns for nature are she/her/hers. Nature has also been linked to women as it has been ‘dominated’ by men, similar to the way men have ‘dominated’ society and women, in particular. As a result, in much of our literature and art, women are described as and portrayed as very close to the natural world.