Alice in Wonderland and the Theory of Post-Structuralism

Numerous literary works capture readers’ attention due to the unusual structure, captivating plot and its unfolding, development of interesting philosophical issues, which have unbelievable impact in our modern life, and the discussion of problems, which considered to be burning for the vast majority of people.

The peculiar feature of Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland is that all above-mentioned themes were present there, and the author made a wonderful attempt to create such a masterpiece that helps people find out the necessary way out of the rabbit’s hole, clear up the intentions of the grins, which bothers them during the adventures, and learn the necessary lessons of the tea party that may take place suddenly.

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Unbelievable writing and philosophical skills of Lewis Carroll allowed him to unite numerous philosophical theories in this work and, in far 1865, create a story, the themes of which would be actual and significant even at the beginning of the 21st century.

Post-structuralism theory is one of those that is perfectly applied to the Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland by means of pure relation between language and social organization, between different kinds of feminism and power, and the desire to destroy any labels in our every day life and to live not according to the traditional standards but according to own principles and self-perception.

In 1862, Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, who better known under his pseudonym Lewis Carroll, told the story about Alice to three sisters during the boat trip for the first time. That story was actually based on the events, which happened to Carroll and the sisters in Oxford; of course, the characters and the descriptions were imaginary, but still, the main ideas were inherent to real people, their troubles, and desires.

With the help of Carroll and his huge imagination, it is possible to realize that the life of each person in this world is a kind of rabbit’s hole with its own surprises and challenges. In order to live properly, it is necessary to find powers and pass it through, taking into consideration own ideas, interests, and desires.

Our life is full of numerous philosophical theories, which have certain impact on making decisions, comprehension of this world, and self-evaluation. In this paper, we are going to analyze the ideas of post-structuralism, their application to Alice in Wonderland, and the achieved impact on the reader. Post-structuralism is the theory, the representatives of which “reject the idea of an underlying structure upon which meaning can rest secure and guaranteed” (Storey, 2006, 98).

The peculiarity of this theory was that meaning is in process any time, this is why it is impossible to present clear and constant interpretation of the text under consideration. When tracing the ideas of post-structuralism in the literary work, it is obligatory to pay attention to such issues like language and its relation to social organizations of the community under consideration, the power that is inherent to the chosen community, and the biases, which are developed in the organization.

In Alice in Wonderland, the ideas of post-structuralism can be observed in many things like the main character’s behavior in different situations and her attention to personal standpoints but not herd instinct that is inherent to the other characters, Alice’s abilities to prove her own position in spite of numerous challenges, she faces with, and her skills to find out the contradictions in the things, which remain to be crucial for the rest of the social organization.

The language, chosen by the author of Alice in Wonderland, plays a very important place for those, who want to comprehend his intentions and his hints to improve readers’ lives. This unbelievable removal from our reality to the world, full of fantasy, adventures, and challenges makes each reader feel worry about a young girl Alice.

In spite of the fact that all the story seems to be a kind of fantasy from the very beginning, the rules, which are inherent to the temporal world, the difficulties and puzzles, Alice faces with, and the solutions, she makes, – all this keep the reader in a certain tension and makes each chapter more interesting than the previous one. A little girl finds herself in the Wonderland, the rules of which are still unknown to her. She has not much time to grasp all those rules, to pass the troubles and become a crucial part of that world.

Alice does not want to break the rules, but, at the same time, she has a perfect skill to use the already established rules and deceive the citizens of the Wonderland. She makes successful attempts to play with the words and achieve good results at the end. To my mind, one of the strongest examples of how language is used in the paper is Alice conversation with the members of the Mad Tea Party:

“Take some more tea,” the March Hare said to Alice, very earnestly.

“I’ve had nothing yet,” Alice replied in an offended tone, “so I can’t take more.”

“You mean you can’t take less,” said the Hatter: “it’s very easy to take more than nothing.”

“Nobody asked your opinion,” said Alice (Carroll, 2007, 106).

The point is that each member of the party tried to teach Alice to give quick responses and be witty; at the same time, they prove that be educated and have respect for the others is not the major point, this is why Alice took that lesson quickly and was able to respond to anything. This example of post-structuralism demonstrate that proper language and abilities to evaluate the situation quickly is a good means to control the atmosphere within the social organization, play with words, and not to stop on one possible meaning.

One more peculiar feature of post-structuralism is relations between men and women. According to generally accepted rules for that period of time, male positions were stronger than female’s ones. Male power should be considered as great, and female role was still dependent on male’s desires.

However, Carroll changed everything even in this sphere: the Queen and the King are the best representatives of how female power exceeded the male possibilities. “Off with their heads!” (Carroll, 2007) – that was the most frequent phrase of the Queen. The author made the Queen powerful and provided her with a chance to control everyone’s lives and deaths. Even her husband, the King did not have the same power, and asked her to decide who should be removed.

The situation, when the King did not like the Cheshire Cat, may serve as a good example of post-structuralism in the story: “Well, it must be removed,” said the King very decidedly, and he called to the Queen, who was passing at the moment. “My dear! I wish you would have this cat removed!” (Carroll, 2007, 125). In spite of the fact that men had to take the final decisions in any situation, the desire of the King in Alice in Wonderland should be approved or disproved by the woman, the Queen.

Of course, nowadays, lots of men follow their women and try to consult them in order to make any decision, however, for the end of the 19th century, such female privilege was not inherent to the society at all. Such desire not to follow the established rules that Lewis Carroll demonstrated in his novel should be regarded as one of the most successful attempts to break the labels and provide females with more power.

Finally, the idea of labels and self-perception of the reality and fantasy should be touched in this analysis. As a rule, people get used to the ideas that when it is winter, people should wear warmer clothes; an ordinary person cannot get into mouse hole; a short person cannot reach a table that is higher without some extra help.

All these labels cannot be broken, and people follow them all the time. However, even here, Lewis Carroll used his imagination to break all these labels and represent his own ideas. Everything begins with the event, when Alice gets into the small rabbit’s hole. In spite of the fact that Alice is a human and her height considerably exceeds the rabbit’s size, she successfully gets to that hole and finds herself in the world, previously not familiar to her.

One of the major questions of this book is to clear up what is real here and what is not real. However, before any person should start searching the answer to this question, it is necessary to comprehend what reality can mean. So, we should find out the meaning of the word “reality”.

As it was mentioned above, post-structuralism believed that meaning was in process, so, some concrete meaning was hard to find. As a result, meaning of reality is unclear, and the ideas of reality and fantasy are mixed as well. Carroll’s intentions to break all the labels, to unite reality and fantasy, to confuse the reader and even the characters – this is what makes the story one of the brightest examples of post-structuralism works.

In general, Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland is one of those books, which provide the reader with a chance to enjoy the amazing plot and evaluate own place in this world. Frequent use of metaphors, variety of rules for a concrete social organization, and deconstructions make the comprehension of the story very hard but still captivating.

Children get a chance to read one more story about the adventures of a little girl to the world of own dreams; and adults get an opportunity to analyze the world, they live in, and the duties, they have to complete day by day. By means of such great use of post-structuralism ideas, Carroll makes his story interesting to both grown ups and children.

In any case, the reader should learn from Alice how to unlock and solve illogical challenges and present proper reasoning, taking into consideration all weird customs and rules, inherent to the social organization, and, at the end of the story, find the right way and reach the home, where everything is safe and sound.

Reference List

Carroll, L. (2007). Alice in Wonderland. MA: Digital Scanning, Inc.

Storey, J. (2006). Cultural Theory and Popular Culture: An Introduction. London: Pearson Education.

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