My TA and I have to assign Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland because it’s in the name of our course, but this time around, we have both found ourselves kinda hating it. “Just… a bunch of things happen,” I whined. “Alice meets creatures, they’re incorrigible, repeat. And it’s all so twee.”
“So random,” he sighed. He has TA’d for this class five times, and gave up reading Alice years ago.
Certainly I too have been to Wonderland many a time. In fact, maybe too often. I loved it as a child – I spent hours paging through a foot-tall book with gorgeous illustrations by a guy named Greg Hildebrandt. (It took me a good ten minutes of Googling to find his name. Turns out that just searching “Alice in Wonderland illustrations color” will lead you down a rabbit hole of art. Even as I type this I am developing a theory that Alice has remained so consistently popular because it was discovered first by illustrators, then by druggies, then by T-shirt designers – not because of the subject material itself.) Out of nostalgia, I even brought the book to college with me, and then to grad school. (And somehow not to TIP, i.e. the one place it would be useful.) Still, I think what I loved about it were always the paintings, never the logic.
Let’s be honest. The book, for me, has lost its charming novelty. I find the writing stiff, the jokes grown stale, the Rabbit pretentious and tiresome, the Duchess wearying, the Dodo indignant, and Alice herself… not a girl, not yet a woman. Magic of childhood, my foot. I am ruined.
Perhaps it’s just that familiarity breeds contempt. My students, as shown by the following exercise, are nominally acquainted with Alice – they’ve existed in the English-speaking world their entire lives, most of them. They’ve seen the movies, they’ve looked at the many illustrations, they’ve seen the T-shirts at Hot Topic. (I dislike Alice because it’s so popular it DOESN’T EVEN NEED ME TO LIKE IT.)
But the majority of them hadn’t actually read it before today. And why would they need to? It’s a story they know osmotically, right? Like me and Star Wars?
… Not quite.
After the jump, presented without comment: Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, as retold en masse by my precocious gaggle of middle-schoolers. Like Lewis Carroll, they may in fact be too imaginative.
THE PLOT OF ALICE’S ADVENTURES IN WONDERLAND, AS BEST WE KNOW
- Alice is bored at a party. She’s under a tree, being read to by her sister. Or is she in a history lesson? Either way, they’re talking about how boring books are without pictures.
- She wanders out into the woods, finds some mushrooms, and eats them not knowing they’re hallucinogenic. She sings her song (which song? Her song), then sees a rabbit in a waistcoat. He has a stopwatch and repeatedly says he is late for a very important date.
- She falls down the rabbit’s hole and enters a room with a really big door and a really small door. Somehow they’re locked. The doorknob talks.
- There are 2 bottles on a glass table, or maybe one of them is a cake. Either way, one of them, when she drinks or eats it, makes her big, and one makes her small enough to open the door. She needs a key, she realizes, but she’s left it on the table, and everything is very confusing. She starts crying.
- Possibly the doorknob swallows her through its keyhole. OR she just opens the door, then she’s in an umbrella floating on her tears and dancing with the Dodo bird. Or potentially a mouse. We’re not sure. There are a lot of animals, but she keeps talking about her cat, and all the animals are pretty freaked out by this.
- Then she heads into the forest, has a run-in with some mean flowers who think she’s a weed, then meets Tweedle-Dee and Tweedle-Dum. They tell her a story about oysters, in which a walrus leads seals from the water. (?)
- She meets the Rabbit and chases after him. In his house, she is given a pair of gloves because they think she’s like the maid or something. Then, with the help of the Dodo bird, she burns his house down.
- The Caterpillar gives her 2 sides of a mushroom. One makes her big and one makes her tall, Her neck elongates and she meets a bird in its nest. The bird thinks she’s not a snake but something that’s like a snake and begins with s.
- The Caterpillar turns into a butterfly.
- It tells her that one way is where the mad people are. Alice says, “Well, which way do I go?”
- An un-Birthday party occurs, with the Mad Hatter and the March Hare in attendance. It is a frustrating party – they are utter nonsense. When she runs away, the cat appears and leads her to this maze, where the queen is having a maze-thingy going on. She’s ordering everyone to kill everyone who makes her mad. The croquet match has caterpillars and some other animal.
- Isn’t there… like… the Jabberwocky?
- There’s a Bandersnatch, too. Or they might be in the Tim Burton movie but not in the animated one. Nobody is too sure.
- She winds up in the Queen’s palace. There are a lot of card-servants painting the roses red, because they planted these white roses but the Queen of Hearts is like totally into red. Then they play croquet. This occurs in the future.
- The Red Queen gets really offended. She might turn into a dragon, even. Alice insults the Queen. She shrinks down to her original size because she ate so much of the mushroom, and then she runs away, and everyone chases her, and there are colors flashing and stuff, and then she opens a door…
- Alternatively, Alice gets, like, armor. And kills the dragon.
- She somehow falls asleep again and wakes up. She’s awake at the end.
- Of this we are certain.