August 02, 2021

#08-116: Alice in Wonderland

in an engraving, a little blond girl in a frilly dress stands at a table and holds a bottle with a label reading "DRINK ME." A key also rests on the table.
Alice takes a sip

Note: Alice's adventure begins when she goes "down the rabbit hole"--and ends up in Wonderland! Join her on her absurd journey.

Get Ready: What's the strangest thing you ever did  in a dream: fly? get larger or smaller? meet talking animals?

Let's take a look at a perennial children's favorite, Alice in Wonderland (more properly called Alice's Adventures in Wonderland). This, and its sequel, Through the Looking-Glass, are the two best-known works by the Oxford professor of mathematics (as well as photographer) Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, whose pen name was Lewis Carroll.

The bachelor Dodgson had made friends with the family of one of his colleagues, and especially with his daughter, Alice Liddell. The stories on which his books are based were made up to entertain those children.

The book begins when bored seven-year-old Alice is drowsing by the riverside when a white rabbit runs by wearing human clothing and carrying a pocket watch. She follows him down the rabbit hole, where her adventure begins.

She drinks potions or eats cakes several times that make her grow larger or smaller; meets a number of odd creatures along the way; and participates in silly events, like a "caucus race," which involves just running around in a circle, with no winner.

She also has many encounters that show the absurdity of this world. A hookah-smoking caterpillar asks her the philosophical question, "Who are you?" to which poor befuddled Alice replies, "I--I hardly know, Sir, just at present--at least I know who I was when I got up this morning, but I think I must have been changed several times since then."

She enters the kitchen of a woman called "The Duchess," where she holds a baby--who turns into a pig! After a ridiculous discussion with the Duchess, she starts out again. Along the way, she meets the Duchess's Cheshire Cat, who sends her to the March Hare's house. The cat disappears, but his smile remains behind, prompting Alice to remark, "Well! I've often seen a cat without a grin, but a grin without a cat! It's the most curious thing I ever saw in my life!"

At the March Hare's, she joins one of the most famous scenes in the book: a "mad" tea party with the March Hare and the Hatter (both figures which are notoriously "mad"). The tea party is, of course, a disorganized and frustrating mess.

Alice meets the King and Queen of Hearts, and plays croquet with the Queen--using live flamingos as mallets, and live hedgehogs as balls! The ill-tempered Queen is a poor sport, and repeatedly shouts "Off with his head!" and "Off with her head!" when anyone--including Alice--displeases her.

More adventures follow. A Mock Turtle tells its sad story, then dances "the Lobster Quadrille" with a Gryphon. When Alice attends the trial of a "Knave of Hearts," who is accused of stealing tarts belonging to the Queen, she finds herself suddenly growing bigger. When called as a witness, she clumsily knocks things over until the King and Queen try to evict her. As their army of cards attacks her and flutters in her face, she wakes up from a dream, still under a tree on the riverbank, with leaves--not cards--falling on her face.


Read more:

Practice: Match the term to its definition below:

  1. absurdity
  2. befuddled
  3. clumsily
  4. croquet
  5. drowsing
  6. hookah
  7. ill-tempered
  8. Knave
  9. potions
  10. tarts

  1. confused
  2. magic liquids
  3. ridiculousness
  4. a kind of pastry
  5. a game played by hitting wooden balls around on a lawn
  6. awkwardly; not gracefully
  7. getting angry easily
  8. a kind of playing card, just below the Queen; also called a "Jack"
  9. falling asleep
  10. a device for smoking; the smoke is drawn through water with a tube

Answers are in the first comment below.

Submitted to the Shenzhen Daily for August 2, 2021

1 comment:

  1. Answers to the Practice: 1. c; 2. a; 3. f; 4. e; 5. i; 6. j; 7. g; 8. h; 9. b; 10. d