3 Reasons to Emulate Alice in Wonderland, Our Literary Beacon of Light
Alice in Wonderland is the literary heroine we’ve always aspired to be. Here’s why.
Impossible questions Exhibit A: “What’s your favourite book?”
Ugh. When confronted with such a monstrous (yet revealing) question I feel uneasy, as every book lover does. How in the world am I to choose just one?
In the end, I always end up answering with Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. It’s not the book that ‘made me a reader’. It’s not even the first novel I’ve ever read… yet Alice is that chef d’oeuvre that I come back to every time I feel like crap, or lose faith in mankind (which has lately happened all too often).
The Alice books have been analysed by scholars for over a century yet it still puzzles me how relatable and meaningful Alice’s character is to the children and adults of today. There is just something about her. Here is my attempt to explain the Amazingness of Alice, one reason at a time.
Alice can take care of herself, thank you very much.
Strong. Brave. Vulnerable at times, yet filled with a sense of her worth and power. Unlike many other female characters we find in children’s books, Alice does not require the help of Prince Charming or a good fairy to explore Wonderland. She takes charge and follows the White Rabbit all by herself. Nor is she frightened when she falls down the rabbit-hole. She’s merely curious about her surroundings:
“Either the well was very deep, or she fell very slowly, for she had plenty of time as she went down to look about her and to wonder what was going to happen next.”
Once Alice reaches Wonderland she has to deal with a very eclectic set of characters. They’re rarely in the mood to help her, yet she returns from her experience under her own steam.
Importantly, Alice also reminds us that even the bravest of girls can sometimes feel sad. It’s okay if now and then you accidentally create a pool out of your own tears.
Alice’s moral compass points north
Alice challenges misuse of authority, and supports those who are vulnerable in times of need.
She evidently finds the Red Queen’s rules to be unfair, and who wouldn’t? After all, cutting heads off seems to be the Queen’s only amusement:
“The Queen had only one way of settling all difficulties, great or small. ‘Off with his head!’ she said, without even looking around.”
Even though the Queen is terrifying, Alice proves that she is not afraid of opposing her authority. One of the best examples of Alice’s kind heart is when she saves Two, Five and Seven – the cards who painted the roses red – from a certain death:
“’You shan’t be beheaded!’ said Alice, and she put them into a large flowerpot that stood near.”
This girl is always ready to defy gender roles – and in the 19th century, no less!
Jumping down muddy holes to follow panicked rabbits isn’t something clean and tidy girls were ever meant to do. Or talk back to their elders and ‘betters’. Or have opinions of their own. One reason why Alice is such a righteous heroine is that she always speaks her mind, even if it means being threatened or mocked by those around her.
“’Hold your tongue!’ said the Queen, turning purple.
‘I won’t!’ said Alice.”
A closer look at Alice’s dialogue and acts of rebellion rebellious reveals that she regularly rejects gender stereotypes of the 19th century and beyond. In Victorian England, motherhood was seen to be the the main function of women. It was their innate purpose, but Alice understand that being a woman doesn’t automatically make you a good mother.
When Alice encounters the Duchess and witnesses the terrible conditions in which the Duchess’s baby is being fed she remarks, “If I don’t have this child away with me… they’re sure to kill it in a day or two.”
We find Alice and the Duchess together again a little later in the novel. This time the Duchess wants Alice to behave as the stereotypically passive woman, a pretty face with no brain. She reproaches our heroine by saying: “’You’re thinking about something, my dear, and that makes you forget to talk’.”
Alice doesn’t fall into this trap. When the Duchess addresses her again, her firm response is: “’I’ve a right to think’”.
Yes you do. You go girl!
You may also be interested in:
- The social philosophy of Alice in Wonderland
- Why Red Riding Hood was feminist before the brothers Grimm changed it
- Try the Mookychick feminist book quiz!