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What I’ve Learned from Alice

December 3, 2009

Imagination is a beautiful thing and is often not used enough. Lewis Carroll had a niche for such creativity. Although his story Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland was very unorganized and I didn’t really agree with the style it was written in, Carroll had a lot of originality. The dream he gave to Alice was so different from anything I’ve ever read, and I think that’s why it’s such a popular book. It makes no sense and seems like a terrible book, like Michael P. said in his blog “Why So Special?”, but the morals, puns, and lessons laced within the journey is something that intrigues any reader.

If I’ve learned anything from Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland as far as writing it would be to take an idea and just go with it. The paths taken in the adventure of Alice are curious and odd, but rather interesting. Carroll’s use of imagination is what makes this story. If it wasn’t as strange and peculiar as it is, then it would be awfully boring. If the story was a more normal dream that wasn’t so complex then we would become tired and pick up another book. Because Carroll used such imagery and ingenuity this book aroused imagination in the reader.

It also gave me a thought that anything’s possible. Alice’s journey was just one random act after another, there were no limitations or rules in Wonderland. It felt like anything could happen, and it did.

Alice has made a fever of adventure and imagination rise within the people reading her journey. Carroll wrote a different book and although some people dislike it entirely, I think it is one of the great children stories strung with lessons and guides to life.

Poll: What Was Your Project Focus?

December 3, 2009

As we near the end of the project, I was reflecting on what my posts were focused on. I found that I hardly focused on simply the story, but rather the backstory of Carroll. I’m curious to see whether other students found the same to be true.

Be Careful What You Wish For

December 3, 2009

In my very first blog, Alice: The Stereotypical Child, I talked about chapter one in The Annotated Alice. Remember in the beginning Alice has followed the White Rabbit down the rabbit hole and gotten stuck down there. I said that her falling down the rabbit hole was a mistake she could learn from. Now that I have read the chapters after this and finished the book, I have come to this conclusion:

Alice is sitting on that hot bank with her sister, bored out of her mind. As we know, young kids do not sit still and Alice is definitely that kind of child. She is wishing for a world to be magical and that will entertain her. Alice then drifts off to sleep (as we find out in the end). It is obvious that in a dream anything can happen. Just as she wished, all kinds of things are happening. There are talking rabbits. There is falling down a rabbit hole that takes hours to get to the bottom, drinking from a bottle that says “drink me” that can make you tiny, and eating a piece of cake that can make you grow as tall as a house. Then, at the end of chapter one Alice is stuck and crying and crying because she does not know what to do. But, isn’t this what Alice asked for? It seems that Alice should be happy at the end of this chapter, but she is not.

When I wrote my first blog (Alice: The Stereotypical Child) I had only read through chapter one. All I was thinking was now she is stuck with nowhere to go and obviously she had made a mistake. Little did I know that she would eventually get out the door and continue on her adventure. Sure, Wonderland was frustrating at times, but also it was an experience or dream I don’t think Alice will forget. She learned a lot throughout her journey. By making the decision to go down the rabbit hole it led her to a whole new world that she could gain from. However, even though good can come from it, I still feel that people should think it through before taking risks.

The New Alice in Wonderland

December 3, 2009

If you grew up in this generation you have most likely heard of or are familiar with the story of Alice in Wonderland. I know I watched it a lot when I was young and it was one of my favorite movies. Disney’s production of Alice in Wonderland was released in 1951. The movie is a cartoon and obviously not as good as the graphics would be today. Although, it is still a really good movie. When I was a little older, my mom found a different version of Alice in Wonderland. I believe this version was released in 1999.* It has a familiar cast and is not a cartoon, real people are acting it out. It was a little bit different from Disney’s version, but I liked it more because it was not as baby-ish because it was not a cartoon and it attracted an older audience.

Now as I am seeing the commercials for the new production of Alice in Wonderland by Tim Burton I am really excited. One, because we have just finished it and did this whole project on it. So now when I go see this new movie in the spring I will be looking out for more things that have been added. Maybe I will be able to analyze a little more, or notice something I have missed. Two, because I first saw the cartoon when I was little, which fit because it is for little kids. Then I watched the other version which was good because it fit my age. And now this movie because if you have ever seen a Tim Burton film, then you know he has a different way than anyone else. This is really cool if you think about it because Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland is a really unique children’s story, and Tim Burton is really unique. I think it is a perfect fit.

* There was a 3-hour television special made in 1999 of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass. For more information, you can visit the Internet Movie Database entry, located here.

Over Analyzing Alice?

December 3, 2009

Since I have picked up the book The Annotated Alice, it is quite clear we were about to do a lot of analyzing. And just like Lord of the Flies, we quickly did. As I have said, the story Alice in Wonderland is not exactly simple, but not something I would have thought to analyze.

Let me say this: once you start analyzing there is no turning back. You start to see how things connect and then every sentence you keep reading you think, “what does that mean?” or “who does he represent?”. I have learned so much about this story through analyzing it. Although it is cool to learn all this, can it be bad? What I am trying to say is, once you have seen something, it is pretty hard to unsee it. So, is this taking away from the story Alice in Wonderland? When we go back to watch the movie will it come over different? Yes, I know it will. From the beginning we will be thinking about what all we have analyzed.

Also, what about when you go to see the new version by Tim Burton? This project will be fresh on our mind.

Now the most obvious question: Did Carroll really want us to analyze this? He had to be a little crazy, he did love a little girl. Maybe he was just venting out his life in a story. Or maybe he did want people to recognize what he was doing and to start talking about it. He is the only person to ever know.

Providing Cute Escapism in Troubled Times?

December 3, 2009

Long after finishing reading Alice’s Adventure’s in Wonderland, I read an article in the December 2009 issue of Vanity Fair by Jim Windolf titled “Addicted to Cute,” which can be found here. Initially, I was just a traveller in the airport on my way to my Thanksgiving destination, looking for something to keep my attention for more than thirty seconds. When I got to this article, it definitely kept–and held–my attention.

My first thoughts were how could anyone criticize cuteness? But as Windolf fleshed the topic out in superb detail, noting how prevalent cute images have become in advertising, entertainment, and even our cars (SmartCar, anyone?), I began to agree with his arguments. “To some degree, we can’t help ourselves,” he allows, adding that “we instinctively want to nurture any creature that has a cute appearance.” (p. 1) Do you not find yourself crying ‘awww!’ with glee at the sight of a puppy or at the sound of a baby’s laugh? Chances are, most people react in a loving manner at the appearance of something ‘cute’.

These initial points forced me to speculate if Lewis Carroll (though a figure of the past, uninfluenced by today’s society) had in fact felt the effects of cuteness while consorting with Alice Liddell. I imagine Alice Liddell was not ugly in the least; her own childish charm could have caused Carroll to quickly become wrapped up in her adorable sweetness. Is it possible that he was not in love with Alice Liddell? Is it possible he simply loved her like we love puppies? Was he merely a victim of the debatable harmful effects of cuteness?

As Windolf progresses, he reports scientific findings that “more or less prove that cuteness is physically addicting.” (p. 2) He then concludes that it is logical that, due to cuteness’ addicting nature, YouTube videos like an infant giggling have millions and millions of viewings. “This is not just a case of kids watching kid stuff, either: more than 80 percent of the people who go to YouTube are at least 18 years old, according to the site’s own demographics study.” (p. 2)

This could lead one to believe that Lewis Carroll was not some sick, pedophile-like man who preyed on youthful beauties. On the contrary, it is possible that Carroll was simply another adult “Addicted to Cute.” The only difference between him and modern adult society is that he publicized his infatuation with cute; we as analysts have, perhaps, blown a simple, human reaction way out of proportion.

As for why Carroll would send such a girl he adored down a rabbit hole full of trouble, Daniel Harris (an essayist cited in the article and author of Cute, Quaint, Hungry, and Romantic) writes that “adorable things are often most adorable in the middle of a pratfall or a blunder.” (p. 2) If this is true, could Carroll have created Wonderland to make Alice Liddell all the more intriguing? After all, Alice certainly faces ‘pratfalls’ and ‘blunders’ in the midst of her adventures.

A particularly humorous paragraph on page 3 also caught my attention:
For generations, kids couldn’t wait until they reached adulthood so they could smoke, drink, eat four-course meals, make money, drive cars, have sex, and, if they were the type to join the military, legally kill other human beings. Now we would rather log on and tune out, preferably in the womb-like comfort of a Snuggie, which is the perfect thing to wear as we gaze at photos of kittens while gnawing on delicious cupcakes.

Could Carroll have been well ahead of the times and realized that, every now and then, adults need a dose of cute escapism to survive?

As for the cause of a surplus of cuteness, Windolf blames difficult times. He notes how Shirley Temple, a cute curly-headed singer and dancer, gained popularity in the 1930’s in the Depression Era. He believes that cuteness has returned in excess due to the tragedies of 9/11 and the stress of the recession. Additionally, around the same time as Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland was published, the Crimean War was coming to an end. Carroll’s Britain was faced with the hardships of war. Did he realize then that his country could benefit from a little nonsensical cuteness? Did he realize that “social misery and cuteness seem to be linked,” and his nation’s misery may be rectified with Alice’s cuteness? (p.4)

Overall, the article was an interesting perspective on how cute escapism may be inherent to human needs. It allowed me to view Carroll’s work in a more positive, gentle light–whether it makes sense or not, is purely your own opinion.

The Risks We Take

December 3, 2009

We have now finished the book The Annotated Alice. We have spent weeks analyzing and thinking about this book. It is all coming to an end as of tomorrow. As I was sitting here thinking about the story, I still keep thinking about the beginning of the book.

It started with a young girl. Like I have mentioned many times, young children do not sit still. They really do not. They are always full of energy and always wanting to play. Many children believe in magic and magical creatures. And children especially love make-believe people like Santa Claus or the Tooth Fairy.

In the beginning there is a talking rabbit that leads her down the rabbit hole. Remember, in a child’s mind really anything is possible. Alice follows the rabbit down the rabbit hole. Some of us would be saying that is a mistake. Alice has to make many choices like eating the cake and drinking from the bottle. Haven’t your parents taught you better? Everyone knows the rule “don’t talk to strangers”. Isn’t this sort of in the “stranger” category? I mean, she ended up in this rabbit hole with a drink that says “drink me”. She hasn’t ever been there before, she doesn’t know who made it or how it got there. I know I wouldn’t drink it. Why did Alice take this risk? My guess is because she is a child. Many teenagers and children believe they are immortal, really. They literally will do anything, thinking they won’t be harmed by it. Alice is definitely like this. Already in Wonderland, she has taken so many risks. Later we find out that Alice has been dreaming.

Yes, I know that taking risks can lead to an unexpected success, however the part could be sending a wrong message to young kids.