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A Malapropos Ending

November 16, 2009

It really was a dream, after all. Wonderland was simply a figment of Alice’s unconscious imagination.

This not only is a reassurance (we can breath easier knowing the child is not mad) but also a very cruel (or even lazy) conclusion. It is quite curious that Carroll would layer his store so intricately with time-appropriate jokes and characters and end it so simply, so blandly, so unoriginal. It leaves something to be desired. It leaves one with an unsatisfied expectation of a much madder, nonsensical explanation as to how Wonderland could exist. It is a far too cliched ending for a story so unconventional.

Of course, it would be rather difficult to explain the existence of Wonderland in a way that could be plausible. The obvious options would be dream, drugs, or alternate reality. Why would Carroll choose the obvious, though?

It is possible that he chose the ending because it would satisfy a young child’s mind. As children were his seemingly intended audience, it makes sense that he would chose the dream explanation because that is something a child can understand, and even relate to.

But what of his unintended audience? What of the audience of adults that read the story to their kids, the same adults Carroll left hidden jokes and messages for earlier in the story? As an adult, a dream ending seems overdone and unfitting for Alice. Perhaps the dream ending is meant to put the story in perspective for young wondering minds and save an adult some explaining after the book is closed.

While the dream conclusion has its merits, when coupled with Carroll’s style it seems malapropos, or unsuitable.

5 Comments leave one →
  1. Alex F. permalink
    December 2, 2009 9:40 pm

    Oh I love this blog! 🙂 I’ve had a couple arguments with people because the ending irritated me so much. How many authors who have written brilliant fantasies ended it with the oh-so-cliche “and then she woke up”? I despise that cop-out. It’s almost as though they’re not proud of what they’ve written, so they have to disprove it by saying that it was all a make-believe little dream of no real significance.


    I wish that an author would just be brave enough to leave their work as it is. No cop-outs, no safety-nets. Just a big convoluted story with a fantabulous ending. That would certainly get my attention.

    • Kristen K permalink
      December 3, 2009 9:11 am

      Interesting point, “I wish that an author would just be brave enough to leave their work as it is. No cop-outs, no safety-nets.”

      I wonder, do you as a writer follow your own rule? Or do you carefully edit something so you don’t appear insane, biased, or foolish? I know I go through somewhat of an editing process to prevent the misconceptions a certain reader may come to. Do you do the same, or do you find yourself putting your thoughts out there totally un-edited?

  2. Rachel M. permalink
    November 18, 2009 12:32 pm

    Yes yes yes. I love the way you conveyed the feelings of the ending. I could say I only felt very un-satiated when Carroll reveals the boring reality of things: that she was only dreaming. I am inclined to attribute this to Carroll’s attitude toward his own situation; he was left unsatisfied by his existence. How perhaps he is suggesting that real life is uninteresting and unfulfilled. I could understand Carroll wanting to convey his own disappointment felt when he realized his love for Alice would only ever be a dream, and that when he leaves story-time he would be bound by bland propriety. What a bitter pill it was for him to have to give up the vibrancy of his own dream world.

    • Kristen K permalink
      November 18, 2009 11:07 pm

      Curious, indeed!

      That seems to make perfect sense, the way you put it about Carroll conveying “his own disappointment felt when he realized his love for Alice would only ever be a dream.”

      While still leaving a more grandiose ending to be desired, Carroll’s finale seems much more apropos now, and for that I thank you.

  3. Darcy S. permalink
    November 16, 2009 12:29 pm

    What a limb you’ve put yourself upon! Many critics would not be so bold to deem the ending “lazy”. But fear not, because I too have been unsatisfyed by this ending and I will join you on that limb. Rest assured, there is a sequel for those of us desiring more loopy logic and craving weird 19th century poem parodies.

    For a child though, the ending might be exciting. It hands the child a wonderful dream which feeds their imagination and encourages creativity to take off.

    On the last pages though, Carroll gets in his desciptions of Alice Liddell and his expressions of love for her. I find it quite charming, despite the uneasy feeling I get from it.

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