*Minor Spoilers Below*
I really did not know what to expect of “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” before I read it. Sure, I read it when I was about 13 years old on my iPhone, but I could hardly remember the book aside from random scenes from the 1951 movie that make my childhood memory seem almost surreal in a way. Whenever I decided to actually buy Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and give it a second read, I was not too thrilled to read it right away and honestly only bought it because Barnes and Nobles was selling it for $5. I began reading and the moment I read the chilling lines “In another moment down went Alice after it, never once considering how in the world she was to get out again.”, I was captivated for the rest of the day, embraced in the surreal world of Wonderland, watching scenes from the movie while reading, and telling my friend about how great the book was.
This book is so brilliantly worded for being published in 1865. The novel’s language is timeless, intensely visual, and simple to read. Usually the case with books from that time period is that they read a bit awkwardly. However, much like the 1951 movie, Alice in Wonderland, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland seems as contemporary as ever, as if it could have been written during any period of time. Every character in this book is so vibrant and captivating, most notably “The Mouse”, “Bill The Lizard”, “The Mock Turtle”, “Cheshire Cat”, “The Duchess”, and of course, Alice. Much like Aesop’s Fables, many of this book’s characters are talking creatures who seem to mimic personality molds, making them seem that much more real and relateable. That being said, three of those characters do not actually make an appearance in the 1951 movie, which is actually Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland combined with elements of Through the Looking Glass, the book’s sequel.
“The Mouse” in the book is the second character Alice meets in Wonderland (The first being of course the white rabbit), and this character does not actually appear in the movie. The Mouse is swimming in Alice’s tears after she cries and floods the entrance to Wonderland. At first he ignores Alice’s cries for attention until she mentions her cat, Dinah, in French to the mouse. The Mouse then reveals it’s pretentious personality and scolds Alice for daring to mention cats in his presence. Then we see the Mouse give a lecture on William The Conqueror to the other animals and Alice. Something about this character just made me laugh, it was probably just because it was a talking mouse, but regardless this is one of the most vivid characters in the book. “Bill the Lizard” is probably my favorite character in the book. He is in the movie but plays more of a less significant role in it. Bill The Lizard is the White Rabbit’s gardener who goes to crawl up the fireplace chimney whenever Alice grows large inside the White Rabbit’s bedroom. Alice kicks him and Bill just sort of like dead weights and gives up. Bill is somewhat of the bad luck pushover character who is accident prone. My favorite scene of his was whenever he is sitting in the Queen of Heart’s court room as a juror and Alice puts him back in the jury box upside down and leaves him flailing about head first after knocking the box over.
“The Duchess” is not in the movie either. She is actually who owns the Cheshire Cat (another favorite of mine), and also represents those people who have those catchphrases and totally untrue stories they tell just in an attempt to impress others. Her catchphrase was “and the moral of the story is”, which I feel like is another slight reference to the influence I think Aesop’s Fables had on Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. There is also “The Mock Turtle” character who plays a part in the book’s tenth chapter. I thought that chapter was probably the strangest and most out of place, it deals with “The Gryphon” and “The Mock Turtle” talking about the dance of the Lobster Quadrille (???) while also scolding Alice for not reciting the voice of the lobster poem properly. The Mock Turtle and The Gryphon were not in the 1951 movie, instead Tweedledee and Tweedledum (Who are from Through the Looking Glass), take their place in the movie as a strange duo messing around with Alice as she explores Wonderland.
I have heard that some elements of this book are somewhat of a euphemism for puberty and how surreal and wonderful it can be to the body and mind. This theory is exhibited through Alice’s ability to grow large at random and at inappropriate situations, such as inside a house, or during a court session. These changes happen as Alice is discovering Wonderland, which cause her to have somewhat of an identity crisis multiple times during the novel. Alice in believed to be a preteen in this book, and is somewhat disgusted at her sister in the novel’s opening scene in the real world because, “Her sister is reading a book with no pictures or conversations”, which proves Alice is still a kid with an active imagination right before her transition to Wonderland, which she enters through a dream as a result of boredom.
I highly recommend this book. Especially if you like the original 1951 movie. You may be wondering why I only refer to the 1951 movie, it is because I think the other ones are not as widely watched as the 1951 version (Also the visuals in the Tim Burton one make me wanna vomit). The 1951 Alice in Wonderland is the best in my opinion and always will be unmatched, because much like the book it is based upon, it was ahead of it’s time, it is still impressive today and nothing else like it has been made to rival it’s influence. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland is one of those books that was just a fun and imagination provoking read. The way it plays with logic almost makes it seem like the original surrealist work of art. Lewis Carroll is underrated and underappreciated as the phenomenal writer he really was. I will be writing a part two to this review, which will be my analysis and feelings on this book’s sequel, Through the Looking Glass.
Publication Date: 1865
Word Count: 33,000 words.
Alternate Titles: “Alice in Wonderland”
Genres: Fantasy, Literary Nonsense, Children’s Fiction.
i. e. 9.7/10