Thursday, 26 April 2012


Alice in Wonderland: Beyond the Obsession

Possibly the most famous little girl of all time, Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll has inspired generations of writers, film-makers and artists whilst provoking intense analysis and literary criticism. Hundreds of illustrators have lent their talents to adding new, unique and personal aspects of Alice to the original story.
The obsession does not end with illustration. Film-makers have been as recently as 2010 felt the need to recreate Alice, and with great variety: from the colourful, cult 1951 Disney film to the shadier, more disturbing version by Czechoslovakian film-maker Jan Svankmajer.
But why the fascination? What is it about Alice in Wonderland that still captivates people so much, more so than other childrens' literature? In the beginning of my investigation, it seemed clear without a shadow of a doubt that it was fame that had brought about more fame, as was the case with the Mona Lisa for example, a typical case of attention fuelling greater attention fuelling blind obsession. Especially amongst non-creatives is there an atmosphere of veneration as concerns Alice in Wonderland, almost as if those books have become the stock images for 'creativity', 'free-thinking' and 'originality'. Ironically, that may once have been true, but after so many retellings and new versions, the story just sounds humdrum. Most people could probably recite from Alice without ever having read the book or seen the film, such is the magnitude of the books on our culture. So the veneration of her as some symbol of creativity, freedom and imagination seems all the more absurd.
Perhaps the fascination with Alice just comes from her being a happy memory from many childhoods, and the adult possessors of those memories never wish to forget the experience of childhood as a whole, rather than it being just about Alice. The non-creative lives of many people must surely leave a void they may or may not be aware of, aching to be filled by something creative, and since they have not been allowed to be creative properly since roughly the age of ten they fall back on what they know to be wholly so: Alice in Wonderland. As with many things that enter and stick to the public consciousness in the relatively modern age, it must be a deeper question of the hidden thirst for spirituality many have; in children the link between spirituality and imagination is greatest, as they grow, this natural, imaginative world of wonder is blocked out by authoritative, 'rational' thinking
There are many theories, and there have been enough attempts to explain Alice in Wonderland to fill a library. This essay will centre on audience response, rather than other themes such as the impact of illustration or a detailed profile of the author in explaining why Alice is still so popular. It is rather a dense subject, but it can definitely be said that the main attraction of Alice is not so much to do with childlike love of a good book than the intelligent, subconscious search for meaning in life as well as familiar nonsense.

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