growing up in Wonderland

Posted: November 8th, 2008 under Uncategorized.

When Alice falls down the rabbit hole, she tumbles into a topsy-turvy world that only children can create — one filled with imagination and pieces of fairy tales. Despite her unfamiliar surroundings, Alice attempts to interpret everything around her from a logical point of view. However, her natural childishness consistently offsets the sensibility and maturity that she tries so hard to show. At the beginning of the story, Alice tries to read her older sister’s book, only to become bored because it lacks pictures. She notices the unusualness the bottle labeled “Drink Me” but then drinks its contents without a thought for the consequences. Throughout Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Lewis Carroll constantly emphasizes the conflict between Alice’s desire to be sensible and grow up and her natural childish impulses. This conflict is apparent in Alice’s conversation with herself while trapped in the white rabbit’s house.

I do wonder what can have happened to me! When I used to read fairy tales, I fancied that kind of thing never happened, and now here I am in the middle of one! There ought to be a book written about me, that there ought! And when I grow up, I’ll write one — but I’m grown up now,” she added in a sorrowful tone: “at least there’s no room to grow up any more here.” [42]

Alice thinks that she has grown up, but only physically — the concept of maturity never seems to cross her mind. Yet she tries to act like an adult, claiming that she knew that “this kind of thing never happened” in the fairy tales that she “used to read.” However, immediately after this sentence that denounces fairy tales as childish inventions, Alice claims that there “ought to be a book about me.” In this way, she belittles and yet admires fairy tales. The last sentence of this passage, “And when I grow up, I’ll write one,” sums up Alice’s conflicts between her childish imagination and her desire to grow up.


1. What is Carroll trying to say about fairy tales and the way that “sensible” people view them?

2. Alice speaks of writing a book about her adventures. Why does Carroll insert this kind of irony into the story?

3. When Alice describes “growing up,” she uses terms based on size and not maturity. Why?

4. Does the phrase “at least there’s no more room to grow up any more here” have a larger meaning for the book or Alice’s hope of growing up?

Victorian Web Overview Lewis Carroll Leading Questions

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