Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland – Lewis Carroll
This is the sequel to the book “Sylvia and Bruno”, a sentimental novel about two fairy children, first published in 1889, and forms the last novel Lewis Carroll published during his lifetime. This volume is beautifully illustrated by Harry Furniss.
Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland.
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Symbolism in Alice’ Adventures in Wonderland (from Wikipedia):
Some of the book’s adventures may have been based on or influenced by people, situations, and buildings in Oxford and at Christ Church. For example, the “Rabbit Hole” might have been inspired by the actual stairs in the back of the main hall in Christ Church. A carving of a griffon and rabbit may have provided inspiration for the tale, as seen in Ripon Cathedral, where Carroll’s father was a canon.
Carroll was a mathematician at Christ Church, and it has been suggested that there are many references and mathematical concepts in both this story and Through the Looking-Glass; examples include:
In chapter 1, “Down the Rabbit-Hole”, in the midst of shrinking, Alice waxes philosophical concerning what final size she will end up as, perhaps “going out altogether, like a candle”; this pondering reflects the concept of a limit.
In chapter 7, “A Mad Tea-Party”, the March Hare, the Hatter, and the Dormouse give several examples in which the semantic value of a sentence A is not the same value of the converse of A (for example, “Why, you might just as well say that ‘I see what I eat’ is the same thing as ‘I eat what I see’!”); in logic and mathematics, this is discussing an inverse relationship.
Also in chapter 7, Alice ponders what it means when changing seats around the circular table places them back at the beginning. This echoes a classic circular combinatorics problem, possibly dating from antiquity.
Again in chapter 7, Alice is asked whether she wants “more tea”, and objects that she can’t have more because she hasn’t had any. The Hatter corrects her: “You mean you can’t take less: it’s very easy to take more than nothing.” This is a play on the allowability of inference in comparatives without “than”.
The Cheshire cat fades until it disappears entirely, leaving only its wide grin suspended in the air, leading Alice to marvel and note that she has seen a cat without a grin, but never a grin without a cat. This echoes ancient questions in logic about substances and predicates.
There have been attempts to reinterpret Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland as having a coded submersive layer of meaning, as is common in other examples of children’s literature (such as the gold standard reading of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (1900)). For example, literary scholar Melanie Bayley asserted in the magazine New Scientist that Dodgson wrote Alice in Wonderland in its final form as a scathing satire on new modern mathematics that were emerging in the mid-19th century. However, such views are not widely held.
Several people (e.g., Martin Gardner and Selwyn Goodacre,) have suggested that Dodgson had an interest in the French language, choosing to make references and puns about it in the story. It is most likely that these are references to French lessons—a common feature of a Victorian middle-class girl’s upbringing. For example, in the second chapter, Alice posits that the mouse may be French. She therefore chooses to speak the first sentence of her French lesson-book to it: “Où est ma chatte?” (“Where is my cat?”). In Henri Bué’s French translation, Alice posits that the mouse may be Italian and speaks Italian to it.
Pat’s “Digging for apples” could be a cross-language pun, as pomme de terre (literally; “apple of the earth”) means potato and pomme means apple, which little English girls studying French would easily guess.
In the second chapter, Alice initially addresses the mouse as “O Mouse”, based on her memory of the noun declensions “in her brother’s Latin Grammar, ‘A mouse – of a mouse – to a mouse – a mouse – O mouse!'” These words correspond to the first five of Latin’s six cases, in a traditional order established by medieval grammarians: mus (nominative), muris (genitive), muri (dative), murem (accusative), (O) mus (vocative). The sixth case mure (ablative) is absent from Alice’s recitation.
In the eighth chapter, three cards are painting the roses red on a rose tree, because they had accidentally planted a white-rose tree that The Queen of Hearts hates. Red roses symbolised the English House of Lancaster, while white roses were the symbol for their rival House of York. This scene is an allusion to the Wars of the Roses.
(The text of the last section was taken from a Wikipedia entry and is available under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License.)
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