Adulthood in Wonderland A journey begins with a single step. It may be an African safari, a rocket to the moon, or even a voyage around the world. Whatever the adventure, it must start somewhere. It could begin with a leap of faith, a glint of hope, or just a flicker of curiosity. In Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, by Lewis Carroll, curiosity is what brings Alice, a young British girl, to the start of her incredible, yet puzzling expedition. Her journey through Wonderland is strange, but through her experiences, Alice grows up along the way.
Through his use of symbolism, Lewis Carroll displays that it is a struggle for a child to make the transition into adult life. The character of the White Rabbit is the first symbol used to present the difficulty of becoming an adult. The rabbit is very official and is a symbol of an adult itself. For example, he is exceptionally busy and always running late, just like an average adult. He gives the King of Hearts, the ruler of Wonderland, advice although he is beneath him, which demonstrates that he is also wise like an adult.
When Alice first sees the rabbit she is filled with curiosity as she “had never before seen a rabbit with a waistcoat- pocket, or a watch to take out of it” (2). Without thinking, Alice follows the rabbit into the rabbit- hole and falls “down, down, down” into Wonderland (4). Since the White Rabbit symbolizes an adult, it is as if Alice is following him into adulthood. The rabbit travels throughout Wonderland, and wherever he goes, so does Alice. For example, the White Rabbit travels to the Queen of Hearts’s garden, and eventually Alice arrives also.
The White Rabbit acts as a guide for Alice as she goes on her journey. As the White Rabbit symbolizes adulthood, he leads Alice through the process of maturing. Even though Alice does not confront any struggle with the White Rabbit, her following of him brings her to the challenges she endures later on. The White Rabbit’s symbolism carries Alice through the puzzling task of growing up. Another use of symbolism that represents maturing occurs when Alice encounters the Caterpillar. Alice discovers the Caterpillar when she stumbles upon his mushroom.
The Caterpillar addresses her and asks, “Who are you? ” (45). Alice cannot answer the Caterpillar as she is unable to explain herself and does not know who she is at the moment. She tells the Caterpillar, “I know who I was when I got up this morning, but I think I must have been changed several times since then” (45). Alice’s words display that her identity has been altered and that she is having a difficult time trying to keep up with these changes. A child going through puberty encounters similar changes also. Children lose a sense of their innocence and discover themselves as they mature.
As demonstrated by the scene with the Caterpillar, Alice’s loss of identity is a symbol of a child’s loss of oneself when growing up. Alice’s episode with the Caterpillar also symbolizes another point of becoming older. The Caterpillar demands Alice to recite the poem “You are old, Father William. ” Alice does as she’s told, but as she is reciting the poem, she becomes confused and mixes up the words. Because Alice struggles with this, it symbolizes a child having a hard time adjusting to the demands of adulthood.
The Caterpillar’s request represents a demand that adults must face; while Alice’s mixing up of the poem’s words signify a child failing at meeting the requirements of that demand. The symbolism found in Alice’s encounter with the Caterpillar demonstrates the effort of transitioning into adulthood. Finally, Alice’s changes in size illustrate the difficulty of maturing. Throughout the book, Alice becomes a variety of different heights. One minute, she is three inches tall and the next, she is “opening out like the largest telescope there ever was! (11). Alice’s size changes are sudden and random. For example, Alice drinks a liquid from a small bottle and rapidly shrinks to ten inches high. Alice does not expect this and finds it “a curious feeling! ” (8). Since Alice’s changes are unexpected and uncontrollable, they symbolize what a child experiences through puberty. Children are unaccustomed to the changes in their bodies and struggle to adjust to their new selves. Alice’s growing and shrinking proves to be a challenge when her identity is mistaken for another.
In one episode where Alice grows to enormous heights, she comes in contact with a pigeon. The pigeon mistakes her for a serpent, because of her long neck. Alice tries to convince the bird that she is just a young girl, but the pigeon does not believe her. Alice is frustrated by this and does not understand why the bird won’t take her word, even though she is telling the truth. This encounter, caused by Alice’s ridiculous size, again represents a child adjusting to their changed body while going through puberty.
However, this example also illustrates that as children mature, adults immediately believe they have new identities. Adults view children differently, even when those children haven’t adjusted to their selves yet. The height changes that Alice endures create an image of the struggles of puberty. Through his work, Lewis Carroll demonstrates the difficulty of growing up by the use of symbolism. Maturity is a challenging journey, but one that must be taken. No matter when this adventure occurs, it begins with an individual step and remains the rest of a lifetime.