Despite recently celebrating its 150 anniversary, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland still amuses, baffles and questions its readers. So let’s go down the rabbit hole and explore Carroll’s curious creation… By Nuala Clarke
It begins with a white rabbit with poor time management skills and ends with a question: “Life, what is it but a dream?” It’s whimsical, sure, but what better way to explore our own reality? This common literary technique of removing the reader from their own reality, in order to help them freely question it, is used so openly in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland that Alice herself is placed in Wonderland and subject to endless questioning and subverted norms. It’s no wonder that resurfacing into our own lives can be a relief.
Some of you may know that Thursday (3rd March) is World Book Day 2016, as well as University Mental Health and Wellbeing Day. For me, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland is a really interesting book to marry these days. While I must concede that in many ways it’s a problematic book to link to mental health and I’m definitely not an expert on the subject, on a more basic level I love how Carroll forces his reader to question themselves, throws up new perspectives and encourages you to spend some time reflecting. So let’s take a quick look over some well-loved Alice quotes and I’ll chat a bit about why I think they still resonate with readers.
“Who in the world am I? Ah, that’s the great puzzle.”
I think that this quote not only perfectly encapsulates Carroll’s questioning but also the idea that knowing-ourselves is not an easy task. We aren’t expected to fully understand ourselves and that in itself is quite a relief. We can, however, try to puzzle it out.
“It’s no use going back to yesterday, because I was a different person then.”
Following on from the previous quote, this statement throws the idea of knowing yourself out of the window. For if we, as people, continue to develop and are shaped by our own experiences, then how can we totally know ourselves? All we can do is learn, develop and try to keep up.
“Mad Hatter: “Why is a raven like a writing-desk?”
“Have you guessed the riddle yet?” the Hatter said, turning to Alice again.
“No, I give it up,” Alice replied: “What’s the answer?”
“I haven’t the slightest idea,” said the Hatter.”
One of the most famous quotes of the book is this unanswered riddle. It’s worth checking out the answers that some readers have made up themselves – they’re quite clever. But for me, the beauty of this riddle is that it doesn’t have an answer, much like a lot of questions in life. And hey, that’s okay too. Some things just don’t have a definitive answer, or an answer at all, and as a consequence, should not be dwelled too heavily upon.
“Alice: How long is forever?
White Rabbit: Sometimes, just one second.”
I think that we can all relate to this one. The concept of time and trying to manage it is a difficult task in itself, whether in regards to your studies or just making through that 2 hour lecture on a Thursday evening.
Being present in the moment is also a sound way to interpret this quote; that one second really can last forever if you dedicate your full attention to it, and become timeless in your memories. So appreciate those little moments spent laughing with friends or in the presence loved ones.
“Imagination is the only weapon in the war against reality.”
Finally, I’ll leave you with this quote and end my ramblings. Bringing us back to University Mental Health Day, getting creative and using our imaginations is one of the key steps to a better wellbeing so try to get involved in some creative pursuits! There are endless opportunities for creativity at Warwick, such as joining societies or creating your own project. This is the space and the time to express yourself and try new things.
If you haven’t read Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland yet, I strongly suggest that you do. It’s the perfect distraction from your studies. Kind of like a daydream…
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Do not hesitate to contact student support, whether for support, signposting or to discuss any issues that may be on your mind.
[This post reflects my own opinions.]
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