Lewis Carroll (YGtCTO Words #82)

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland

Book written by Lewis Carroll (Charles Lutwidge Dodgson)

I think that we can all agree that any work of art that can withstand interpretation by Walt Disney and Jefferson Airplane has to be something remarkable. That doesn’t even begin to touch on the countless dramatic interpretations or ephemera inspired by Alice and her adventures.

Then there’s the questions about Dodgson… We were fortunate enough to visit a rare book collection a couple years ago which featured a special show on Dodgson. Among many other things, they showed his photography so that attendees could make up their own minds. I truly want to think well of Dodgson for the sake of Carroll.

And that pretty much explains the only way I know to deal with the unknowable weirdness that may very well cross over into the terrible. We compartmentalize so that the good goes in one box and the bad goes into another. (I just erased a long digression about whether or not we are right or wrong about our judgement of Carroll and too much more about that. We’ll never know for sure. There is a lot of evidence that he was a really good guy and some evidence that maybe not so much. In the end- all of that goes in the box. There is no denying that this is all helped by the fact that it happened a long time ago, all witnesses are long dead, and none of the witnesses wrote memoirs describing misbehavior.)

So… Alice… pretty crazy story, hunh?

Lewis Carroll

To my mind,
the miracle of Alice’s tales is that they are so perfectly structured. Like The Phantom Tollbooth, though with a few extra dollops of insanity, Carroll shows the reason behind all the odd behavior. I think that the books succeed ultimately because they demonstrate that logic lies behind the world.

As children, our lives are basically guided and pushed through hoop after hoop. Sleep, eat, go here, go there, don;t step on that, sit there- you get the idea. If you ever ask why, then you are more than likely given an explanation that makes no sense or you are told that the only reason that matters is that the big people want it to be so.

Really, Alice has the same experience in Wonderland and through the looking glass. She rebels as much as possible, but ultimately is guided from one destination to the next. That is the structure of the book, which is part of the reassurance. The events might not make sense, but the forward momentum guarantees that Alice will get where she needs to be.

Then, there is the sneaking realization that everything in the books seems to represent something else. It’s basically a child’s first dipping into the wide range of modern allegory. No one has ever done it as well. Few writers double as math geniuses.

So, if everything can eventually be understood with some perseverance, a little logic, and a willingness to admit that all will become clear, then maybe childhood (or adulthood) will have a payoff.

What’s it all about?

You’ve Got to Check This Out is a blog series about music, words, and all sorts of artistic matters. It started with an explanation. 55 more to go.

New additions to You’ve Got to Check This Out release regularly. Also, free humor, short works, and poetry post irregularly. Receive notifications on Facebook by friending or following Craig.

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