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Queen Victoria's reign in United Kingdom between 1837 and 1901 is referred to as the Victorian age. During this era, the British prospered socially, economically and politically. Lewis Carroll was born during this period and lived through it. This greatly influenced his lifestyle, thereby influencing his writing. The Victorian age influenced the adventures of Alice in wonderland by influencing Lewis Carroll's lifestyle, influencing the literature at that time and the British culture. When developing characters, setting, activities, and events, the writer used his real life experiences in the Victorian era. The era was a low period for the British literature and theatre work. Artists' works were influenced by the Victorian theatre convention. The Victorian age which lasted sixty-three years, was a period of wealth, prosperity and affluence for the British people. Despite this, the era is also described as an era of prudishness, old-fashioned ruling and repression. There was a great change in politics, which led to a change in democracy and included several other periods such as Darwinism and socialism.
The Connection Between the Victorian Age and the Adventures of Alice in Wonderland
Charles Lutwidge (Lewis Carroll) was a writer during this era. He compiled poems and nonsense books, including Alice in wonderland and through the looking glass. Having lived through the Victorian era, the period influenced Lewis Carroll's writing in a number of ways. The literature of the time was influenced by politics and the way of life. The societal social change also influenced Carroll's books and stories. One of the ways was the status of children. Carroll's own life influenced his writing .This paper discusses the influence and the connection between the Victorian age and the adventures of Alice in wonderland. This essay also looks at the presentation of girlhood in pictures by analyzing the events and actions of Alice during her adventure.
Victorian literature combined several features that make it unique from other literature. These include high morality, imagination and emotion. Lewis Carroll employed much creativity in his Alice in Wonderland. The characters in this writing are imagined from the writers' fantasies. During the Victorian era, most writing had the fantastic element, popularizing children fantasy and imaginative writing. The setting of Alice in wonderland also highlights a transition synonymous to that of Britain. During the Victorian era, things changed in the United Kingdom. Population increased, birth and death rates arose, fertility was high, and the economy improved. Similarly, Alice moved from a realistic world to a fantasy world when she followed the rabbit to the hole. Everything she knew changed.
There, she met talking animals and other things that only happen in fantasies. The setting and characterization in this writing is also fantastic. The writer uses anthropomorphic animals, which can converse, think and imitate human actions. Alice was first baffled when she followed the rabbit to the whole and hears it say it was late for an important date, later, the rabbit removed a watch from its waist to check the time. In the real world, no rabbit can do that, but because the Victorian era was an era synonymous to a fantasy world when society, economy and politics changed, the writer used this to create the setting and characters in his work. Alice is depicted as an exploitive and courageous girl when she bravely followed the rabbit and entered the hole.
At the beginning of the story, Carroll uses his imagination of Children's world and interest. The setting is that of Alice sitting beside her sister, who was reading a book with no pictures. Alice wondered what a book was, without pictures. Lewis depicts the feelings of children during the Victorian era. Children's literature had some form of entertainment to prevent them from getting bored. Because of this, most writers used images, pictures and creative words to maintain the interest of the children in stories. During the Victorian era, Gothic features become popular, as people believed Gothicism was more realistic than classicism. This gothic environment in the Victorian age is displayed Alice in wonderland through graphic adventures of a fantasy world, where things are not real. Carroll uses this environment in his story in Alice in wonderland. The environment in this story is unreal.
The repetition of the words "down, down, down" illustrates the distance Alice was moving, into unreal world. In graphic games, the success of one stage determines the success of the next, and this is how Carroll sets his story in Alice in Wonderland. The story has no linear structure. We see different actions building up to the same story, yet they are all independent. At the beginning, Alice goes through a rabbit hole. When we expect the next setting to be definite, where the story is built on, we are taken to different settings; Kitchen, garden, cricket ground and a house. The actions change depending on the setting, for instance, when Alice finds herself in a hall with many doors, the hall is later filled with a pool of tears. In this mess, she meets animals and guides them to a cricket ground.
Lewis Carroll's personal life, which was a Victorian lifestyle, influenced his stories and writing. He was passionate with mathematical calculations and as such, illustrated in his writing. The use of numbers and approximations were common in Alice in wonderland. The rabbit is conscious of time. This is a mathematical concept. He also had personal disorders such as dual personality, eating and sleep disorders. The sleep and eating disorder is referred to as the Victorian lifestyle because people rarely slept as they worked most of the time and there was a lot of food, with the improvement in the economy. By having two names, the author reveals his dual personality. In addition, Alice has two personalities. In one life she is a real girl while in other, she is in dreamland. While in dreamland, Alice is constantly faced with personality issues, when she fails to recognize whom she is, and gets confused when different animals give her a different personality from what she knows.
In Alice in wonderland, there was constant mention of food and scenarios when someone ate too much or willing to eat too much. Carroll's eating disorder influenced his writing in Alice in wonderland through different scenarios; examples of these include an illustration of a man eating a whole plum pudding. Other manifestations of his eating disorders in his writings are scenes when Alice desires to eat tarts belonging to the Queen despite her knowing that it was wrong. Prey and predatory themes are also common in the story's songs and poems. A number of actions in the writing, starting with his name, evidence his dual personality. The animals in Alice in wonderland have different identities.
Influence of Female Rule Era on the Book
Carroll lived through the Victorian era, which was a female rule era and there was female dominance in the United Kingdom. This dominance is exhibited in his "Alice in wonderland" Carroll writes that the queen of hearts supersedes the king by becoming bigger and more powerful. Another illustration is when the Duchess gains control of her house by over powering her husband.
The Victorian era was characterized by punctuality, especially towards the aging of Carroll. He reflects this aspect of the Victorian era by the paranoid reaction of the rabbit when he is late. The rabbit kept saying he was late for a special date. During the Victorian era, there was a rigid class structure where the rich dominated the poor, and the two classes never met or agreed on anything. This is shown in the story when Alice constantly insults the smaller wonderland creatures to show that they were smaller than she was, or that she was more powerful.
During the Victorian era, literature had a didactic purpose. This is evidenced through Molly Hites' writing, Otherness. ( Spark notes: 23) points out that during the Victorian age, when Alice was written, the didactic nature of literature were meant to teach children moral lessons. In didactic stories, good children and animals were rewarded while the disobedient ones were gruesomely punished, sometimes through death. However, Carroll avoided this form of writing, and instead using direct parodies. This purpose was a tool of helping children grow and was not used as escapism. When Alice comes across a bottle written "Drink Me", she remembers stories about children who died after taking poison, but she decides to drink it because the bottle was not marked as poison. This way, Carroll uses logic to teach children, rather than scaring them, as was the norm in Victorian literature. Critics of the Victorian period used this to illustrate the status of children during this period. Children were seen as economic materials, they were sent to work to help their families earn a living.
As a young girl, Alice goes through all these adventures without the help of her parents or any other adult. Children during this era went through a lot without the help of adults. Carroll Lewis wanted to show a child as an innocent person who learns from mistakes and not punishment. In a scene, Alice curses herself for crying too much, and says that she could probably be punished by drowning in he own tears. During the Victorian era, families and societies neglected children, punished them for minor mistakes and forced them to act like adults. Lewis Carroll illustrates this phenomenon in an attempt to remind people that children are innocent and let them seek other ways of correcting them, other than punishment. Alice in wonderland seems to depict a child as someone who makes mistakes, is willing to learn, someone that should be taught, and someone who uses imagination in every thought and action.
With every action takes, there are consequences but she seems to learn and move from one consequence to another, meeting exciting and better opportunities to explore. Her imagination seems to solve all her problems. Alice wondered what she would do with the creature once she got home. Instantly, the creature grunted so violently, forcing her to look into its face and she realized it was a pig. Then she thought how absurd it would be for her to carry the pig any further so lets it down and the pig goes to the woods, leaving her relived. Carroll uses such examples to let people know how children reason and learn. If the pig had not grunted, Alice could not have known what she was carrying. In her innocence, she carried a creature she did not know, but later, came to find a solution to her problem.
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The Effect of Opium in Carroll's Book
During the Victorian era, there was a widespread use of opium, which influenced Carroll Lewis' Alice in wonderland. Most families used opium habitually, leading to infant mortality. Opium has the effect of altering the mind's experiences. Lewis Carroll must have used such experiences in his book to illustrate the effects of this narcotic. In the story, Alice and other images shrink and grow to fit into the story. When Alice saw the rabbit hole, she wondered how she would fit into the hole. Suddenly, she shrank and became small enough to fit into the hole. Either Carroll used this as a reflection of the Victorian age or to illustrate the harm it had on children.
Carroll also represents the Victorian girl child in pictures through Alice in wonderland by highlighting her experiences in a dreamland. Alice is represented as rebellious girl. She descends to a fantasy world, leaving her sister, without warning her. Wonderland is given an idyllic image as a world full of flowers, gentleness, peace and dreams. Though Alice runs into a few problems, she is able to find solutions in the same environment. This is the conceptualization of girlhood in the real world. However, during the Victorian age, this is not so. Girls worked hard and provided for their families at young ages. Her experience in wonderland depicts the growth of her consciousness and her capacities to build intelligence. Carroll uses imaginative words and pictures to represent Alice in her dream world, as a reflection of the real world. Alice goes through growth spurts in her adventures, and with each, she becomes confused of what to do. This is what happened in the Victorian era, where girls moved from one stage to the next without much guidance from the family or the society, and as such, had to find their own way out of one stage to the next. Carroll shows the confusion Alice has when she goes through a growth spurt, when she starts arguing with a pigeon, about who she really is. The pigeon insists that Alice is a kind of a serpent, while Alice insists she is a girl.
Throughout the argument, Alice does not agree or disagree with the pigeon. She becomes confused of who she is, thinking that she could both be a serpent and Alice at the same time. Another identity confusion in the story is when she cannot decide whether or not she is Mary Ann, the rabbit's servant. Even though she knows she is not Mary Ann, Alice continues to carry out the servant's duties, assuming that maybe she could be Alice and Marr Ann at the same time. In this sense, girlhood is represented as a state of constant confusion especially about roles and identities. In the Victorian age, girls became mothers and careers at young ages, making them confused about their position in their families. In addition, with every growth spurt, the girl became more confused and failed to form an identity, relying on what other people told her. To find the true Alice, she had to go through numerous tasks (Hollingsworth 78).
During the Victorian age, most people suffered a crisis of faith, not knowing what to believe in. They also believed in life through a set of rules to be followed in everyday life. This was a big part of Alice's adventures. In Wonderland, there were no rules and no one to tell her what to do. Alice becomes frustrated and disappointed when she finds this out. She spends most of her time wondering what the rules in wonderland were. In the trial case, Alice is told to leave and she declines and says that was not a rule. The lack of rules in wonderland makes her question what she believes in, and if she would still follow the rules when she gets back home. The period of Queen Victoria's reign was also popular for misleading notions, when British wondered between worlds. Carroll uses this confusion of his society in Alice in wonderland. Alice is between two worlds, the real world and wonderland. She is confused and lost in the new world, yet wonderland has numerous advantages compared to her real wonder. She constantly wondered why things in wonderland were different from those at home (Bloom 56).
The Victorian age influenced Lewis Carroll's life and perception of the society. Having lived through this period, his stories were shaped by the experience he had of life, as well as what he saw in society. Lewis had a dual personality disorder, sleep and eats disorder, and had a neglected childhood after the birth of his siblings. All these aspects of his life are manifested in Alice in wonderland story as described in the essay. Other influential factors include the gothic environment that gained popularity in Britain, the widespread use of opium in families, and the status of children during this period. Much of the Victorian era is reflected in the story, especially the culture, the Victorian literature, lifestyle, families, relationships and condition of children. The essay also talks about the presentation of girlhood through pictures and words. Carroll Lewis describes girlhood in terms of experiences, feelings and confusion in the Victorian world. A girl lost in wonderland, with no one to direct and help her meets strange animals and situations, where she is forced to form an identity and find her real self. Wonderland is painted as a world with peace, adventures, solutions and no rules. Alice tries to make sense of her new world by running through various tasks and adventures that come her way.