An Essay on Nonsense

December 4, 2009

We recently did an in-class essay over the meaning of Alice. I chose to write an essay on nonsense. This post will include my introduction paragraph and the major points of the essay.

In Chapter 9 of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, the Duchess insists that “everything’s got a moral if only you can find it”, but the morals she tells Alice are nonsensical, especially her last one, “Never imagine yourself not to be otherwise than what it might appear to others that what you were or might have been was not otherwise than what you had been would have appeared to them to be otherwise.” (pg 93) This long, convoluted, nonsense moral fits the meaning of Alice’s entire journey through Wonderland quite well, for her journey is an amusing one, full of nonsense without an easily discernible moral.

In my first paragraph I discuss:

  • Alice’s frustration with the lack of logic in Wonderland
  • Her inability to remember her own lessons
  • Her silly discussions with herself.

In my second paragraph I discuss how Alice is nothing more than a children’s story and has no deeper meaning. I used the quote, “‘Nonsense!”…and the Queen was silent. The King laid his hand upon her arm, and timidly said, ‘Consider, my dear: she is only a child!” (pg 82), to suggest that Carroll is saying that children only hear or read this story as nonsense. I then use this conversation between Alice and the Footman, “‘How am I to get in?’ asked Alice… ‘Are you to get in at all?’ said the Footman. ‘That’s the first question,you know,” (pg 59) to suggest we stop asking ourselves ‘where is the moral?’, but rather ‘is there a moral?’ I agree with Alice when she says, “Perhaps it hasn’t one.” (pg 91)

In my conclusion paragraph I say that anyone searching for meaning in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland will find encounter as much confusion as Alice found when she attempted to understand the Duchess’s complicated morals, and therefore the Duchess’ long moral represents very well the lack of any deeper meaning in Alice’s adventures beyond the nonsense of a children’s story.

Looking back I realize that I should have put more analysis into my first paragraph. I also think that I should have clarified myself more in the conclusion paragraph. However, I feel that it is still a very good essay that is well supported by quotes and shows my view on the meaning of Alice.

Do you agree with my essay on nonsense?


  1. Hi Susan…I’m interested in your use of Alice’s conversation with the footman to posit that there is no moral at all in the story. This is a good observation…and, I can only imagine, one that Carroll would have wanted readers to make. But isn’t it possible that there is a moral even in nonsense? Couldn’t Carroll be saying that morals are not always easily seen and understood?

    • I agree with you that there could be a moral, however, we can’t just assume that because it is a children’s story, it must have a moral for children to learn.
      In my conclusion paragraph, I tried to pose the same question you asked me, “Couldn’t Carroll be saying that morals are not always easily seen and understood?” I absolutely agree that he could be saying this, but anyone looking for a clear-cut moral will find the same confusion Alice did.

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