Thursday, April 12, 2007

Alice In Wonderland

Alice In Wonderland, by Lewis Carroll
$3.99 at Amazon.com ISBN: 0439291496
This is a pretty familiar classic. Most people have heard of it, perhaps seen one of the movie versions, or are at least aware of what the story is about. Many of the characters and situations have become icons of world-wide culture. So impactful has this book been on our collective psyche, yet surprisingly few people have actually read it. Are you among them? If not, check this one out!
Alice is a proper young English girl with impeccable manners and a curious nature. One day while she's daydreaming in her yard she's astonished to see a white rabbit with a vest, gloves, and pocketwatch run by. She follows him down into his rabbit hole, and that's where the insanity begins.
The creatures she meets in this vast underground world are astonishing and imaginative, and they all have one thing in common: they're totally out of their minds. My favorite is the Cheshire Cat: it almost seems like Alice will be able to reason with him, as he's less crazy than the rest. He plays with her for a while, but then lapses into the nonsensical ravings that are so common in his world, then disappears entirely. The tyrannical Queen of Hearts is a symbol of all uncompromising despots, and the drug-addled ramblings of the self-righteous caterpillar foreshadow the morphine and heroin addicts of modern times.
Wonderland is a well known treat, but what I found even more enjoyable was the less familiar second half of the book, Alice's Adventures Through the Looking Glass, in which Alice travels through her family's living room mirror into an exotic world modeled on the chess board. In it she's a pawn, and the key to getting home involves her reaching the Eighth Square, thus becoming a queen and able to go wherever she wishes. Some of the characters from Wonderland return, but most of them are new. Carroll's famous poem Jabberwocky is in this section as well.
There's all kinds of deep symbolism in this book. You can look for that if you wish, but it's perfectly fine to read it as a sci-fi classic and just enjoy the story of the little girl in the madhouse. Don't go through life without reading it once.

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