I finished Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll a few days ago. I must say that I was looking forward to reading it, but somehow it seems to have missed the mark for me. I’ve heard so many good things about it and hardly any bad, so it was frustrating to have it be a book I almost loathed reading once and a while.
One possible reason for this is that many of the jokes, puns, and fractured nursery rhymes were based on old English ones that I’m not familiar with. But if that was my only problem, I wouldn’t consider it a bad thing. While I’ve read a little bit about how Alice represents the epitome of youth, with it’s lack of societal inhibitions, I couldn’t help but getting frustrated with Alice throughout the entire book. There were numerous times I found myself literally yelling “Shut up already!” at the book. It wasn’t just at her incessant babbling to herself and her cats (for example, which takes up the first 5 pages of Through the Looking Glass), but it was more about her tendency to interrupt people’s stories over and over and over again. Even when characters got mad at her for interrupting and she’d promise to let them finish without a peep, she’d chime in a few sentences later. Her interruptions were almost never for a respectable reason, but almost always just simply because she thought it was a good idea to share her thought about everything. It felt real, though, because I could just hear a little kid doing this. I guess this is showing the youth’s lack of society’s inhibitions, but it made the entire story difficult for me to get into.
Don’t get me wrong, though. The book’s not all bad, and I still feel like it should be read by anyone looking to read a classic piece of literature. I will say that I enjoyed Through the Looking Glass a bit more than Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Both books definitely have some notable quoteables, but I really enjoyed some of the poetry and puns in Through the Looking Glass. The Walrus and the Carpenter is a classic Carroll poem, and I can definitely see the religious overtones suggested in it (as I recall being discussed in the movie Dogma). Jabberwocky is another interesting poem in the book, and while I can’t understand it, the Jabberwock seems frightening.
I did enjoy both the stories though, despite my issues with Alice being annoying. While I can’t give it a great review, I did think it was a decent story with plenty of room for interpretation. Of course you could always feed your head with White Rabbit if you’re trying to make sense of some things. Those lyrics should make it all as clear as mud. 🙂
On a side note, both of these books are public domain works and thus are available for free online: Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through The Looking Glass. Some of my favorite quotes are copied below.
‘Then you should say what you mean,’ the March Hare went on.
‘I do,’ Alice hastily replied; ‘at least — at least I mean what I say — that’s the same thing, you know.’
‘Not the same thing a bit!’ said the Hatter. ‘You might just as well say that “I see what I eat” is the same thing as “I eat what I see”!’
‘You might just as well say,’ added the March Hare, ‘that “I like what I get” is the same thing as “I get what I like”!’
‘Where shall I begin, please your Majesty?’
‘Begin at the beginning,’ the King said gravely, ‘and go on till you come to the end: then stop.’
“When I use a word,’ Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, ‘it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.”
“The question is,” said Alice, “whether you can make words mean so many different things.”
“The question is,” said Humpty Dumpty, “which is to be master— that’s all.”
Alice laughed. “There’s not use trying,” she said: “one can’t believe impossible things.”
“I daresay you haven’t had much practice,” said the Queen. “When I was your age, I always did it for half-an-hour a day. Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.”
“I see nobody on the road,” said Alice.
“I only wish I had such eyes,” the King remarked in a fretful tone. “To be able to see Nobody! And at that distance, too! Why, it’s as much as I can do to see real people, by this light!”