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What’s the Use?

November 2, 2009

In the opening paragraph of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Alice looks over her sister’s shoulder at her book and wonders, “…and what is the use of a book without pictures or conversations?” Little children everywhere wonder this very thing.

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Lewis Carroll did not create this story with adults in mind, he did it for Alice and her sisters. Sure, it may have some references and inside jokes that only adults would understand, such as his manipulation of the laws of gravity, but he created it for children. He also created it on the spot while on an outing with the Liddell sisters, who begged him “Tell us a story!”. He didn’t sit down and plan out the plot, but created it on the go, adding whatever small jokes and absurdities he thought would keep the girls amused as well as the adults who accompanied them. He created Alice for the enjoyment of others and only wrote it down later because Alice Liddell liked the story so much that she asked Lewis to write it down for her. It makes sense then that the storybook he created for Alice Liddell would contain both pictures and many conversations, including ones between Alice and herself, because, after all, what’s the use of a book without pictures or conversations?

2 comments

  1. Intriguing point you make:

    “He didn’t sit down and plan out the plot, but created it on the go, adding whatever small jokes and absurdities he thought would keep the girls amused as well as the adults who accompanied them.”

    Can you point to research or annotated citations that explain how he wrote the story? Or is this a gut reaction?


    • It’s not a gut reaction, on page 7 of The Annotated Alice the first annotation quotes Carroll in his article “Alice on the Stage” in which he says, “many a fairy tale had been extemporised for their (the Liddell girls)benefit… yet none of these many tales got written down… until there came a day when, as it chanced, one of my little listeners petitioned that the tale might be written out for her.” He also says that he “sent [his]heroine straight down a rabbit-hole, to begin with, without the least idea what was to happen afterwards.” There are other pages that explain how he wrote the story. If you want me to list those as well please tell me.



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