The first of today’s guest entries from Rebekah Fitzsimmons’s “Golden Age of Children’s Literature” course comes from Shanequa Conage, who tells us about the trouble of identity in a nonsense world.
By Shanequa Conage
In Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Alice’s identity is constantly shifting, in the novel she always seems to be questioning her identity and admits that she is uncertain about who she really is. Several times she is ordered to identify herself by the creatures she meets, but she has doubts about her identity as well.
In the beginning of the novel, Alice believes that she must be someone else because her original sense of self is disturbed. Alice believes that she must be Mabel, this is someone that she finds dreadful and ignorant. Later on, the Rabbit mistakes her for his maid Mary Ann. Then the Caterpillar asks her who she is and she is unable to answer because she feels that she changed several times since that morning, “I-I hardly know, Sir, just at present-at least I know who I was when I got up this morning, but I think I must have changed several times since then” (83-84). Alice uses the phrase, “I must have been changed” instead of “I changed” which shows her loss of control over her identity. All of these occasions of false identity makes Alice feel doubt about her personality, so she decides to stay in the rabbit hole until someone is able to tell her who she is. Among other things, this doubt about her identity is further nourished by her physical appearance. Alice grows and shrinks several times and she finds this very confusing.
As the novel progresses Alice does not find herself in adventures, instead she starts to learn what her identity does not include. Alice argues with the characters in order to cope with her surroundings, she tells them that she is not mad and that she does not have to follow the rules of the king and queen. She eventually comes to understand the creatures that live in Wonderland and even learns some new things. From Cheshire Cat she learns that “everyone is mad here.” She also learns to cope with the crazy rules of Wonderland and this helps her to better manage the situations in the Wonderland, even the situations that have to do with her identity. At the end of the novel, Alice has adapted and lost most of the vivid imagination that comes with childhood. In this search for her identity, she becomes too mature to stay in Wonderland, the world of children, and wakes up into the world of adults. Alice represents the child’s struggle to survive in the confusing world of adults and in order to do this she had to overcome the open-mindedness of childhood.
Shanequa is an undergraduate at the University of Florida.