How does Alice return to Wonderland

Summary of Alice in Wonderland

The rigid standards of value of the Victorian era

Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland appeared in 1865 in the middle of the almost 70-year reign (1837–1901) of the strictly moral and religious Queen Victoria. In sharp contrast to the officially proclaimed moral and religious standards, however, was the reality of life. B. already work in factories and mines at the age of ten. Charles Dickens, Lewis Carroll's famous contemporary, wrote that the English care more about their horses than their children. The English bourgeoisie raised their offspring with a hard hand. In the 19th century, for example, corporal punishment in schools was tightened several times. It was not uncommon for families to abandon their children when their careers did not meet their expectations and to send them to the British colonies. The social pedagogy of the philosopher Jeremy Bentham left its mark on the times. Bentham's utilitarian, d. H. Benefit-oriented educational principles met with great approval both in families and in schools. The child was considered a small adult. There was no more room for the promotion of imagination, creativity or the instinct to play. In the eyes of Lewis Carroll, there was no moral improvement in English society in the Victorian era; on the contrary: Carroll feared that upbringing would do more harm than good to the children.


Lewis Carroll told the Wonderland story of ten year old Alice Liddell, daughter of his superior at college, during a summer boat trip in 1862. A few days later he decided to write the story down and give it to Alice as a present. This is how a first version was created, but it was not intended for publication. It was only published three years later after some acquaintances persuaded the author to do so. The rest of the Victorian children's literature often seemed leisurely, tended to be kitsch and had a very didactic effect due to the many instructive sayings. In Alice in Wonderland, Carroll ridiculed this didactic tendency by inventing situations for which there is no equivalent in the real world. Carroll thus positioned the text in the movement of nonsense literature. It includes texts that derive their comical effect not so much from wit, humor and irony, but from pure absurdity, often also from linguistic sound effects. The language of the fool characters from Shakespeare's dramas was considered a historical model for nonsense literature. Since the middle of the 19th century, nonsense appeared as an independent literary form. This was justified inter alia. by the poet Edward Lear, of whom many limericks (joke, five-line poems) are known.

Impact history

Alice in Wonderland was an incredible success. It is estimated that by 1870, in the first five years after publication alone, 15,000 books had been sold worldwide. A unique success in European literature, which not least illustrates the cultural dominance of the British Empire at the time. Shortly after the original edition was published, translations into almost all European languages ​​were available. For decades, under the influence of contemporary illustrations by the English painter John Tenniel, the idyllic facets of the story were emphasized. In the 20th century, its monstrous and absurd sides began to occupy the - mostly psychoanalytic - interpreters. The Surrealists were fascinated by Alice because they believed they recognized a freely articulating subconscious in Carroll's spelling. James Joyce also referred to Lewis Carroll in Finnegans Wake. When the use of light drugs became socially acceptable in the 1960s, proponents of the liberalization of drug use referred to Alice in Wonderland: Alice's adventures were interpreted as a hallucinated drug vision. After all, the girl is always nibbling on a mysterious mushroom, was one of the most common arguments.

In 1871 Carroll published a sequel to the story, which was available in German as Hinter dem Spiegel a year later. The narrative principle remains the same. However, the wonder world is now even more mysterious than in Alice in Wonderland. Many see the sequel as a book that is aimed primarily at adults. In 1886 Carroll granted his fellow writer Savile Clarke the right to produce a stage version of the story of Alice in Wonderland, which has been translated into around 20 languages ​​to date and can still be found on the Christmas repertoire of many theaters. The animated film adaptation by the Disney studios from 1951 attempted to build on the great success of Disney's Snow White immediately before the outbreak of World War II and showed a fairytale harmony between Alice and the characters of Wonderland that is rarely found in the book. Nonetheless, this film is one of the ten most successful Disney adaptations of the 20th century. Alice in Wonderland is still one of the most cited literary texts in the Anglo-Saxon public. Even in the science fiction film Matrix (1999) there is an allusion to the white rabbit from Alice.