Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass

Throughout the Alice books Louis Carroll conveys a feeling of amusement mixed with disdain for Victorian educations that emphasize such subjects as Greek and Latin, refinement of character, and that concentrated on morals about obedience and safety. The illogical description of Victorian norms in Wonderland inspires curiosity and refuses to patronize young audiences with practices of constrictive morals and repressive decorum lessons that were taught in schoolrooms during the Victorian era. Although Alice has memorized lessons she has trouble utilizing them in “real-world” applications.

While falling down the rabbit hole Alice attempts to demonstrate her intelligence by using big words such as Latitude and Longitude, while the narrator readily admits that she “had not the slightest idea what Latitude was, or Longitude either, but she thought they were nice grand words to say”. [76] Once Alice lands from falling down the rabbit hole, she illustrates her book knowledge by recounting tales of misfortunate children who did not check that bottles labeled “drink me” were not also marked “poison”.

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The author’s written confession of Alice’s absence of understanding, along with the simple-minded thought to check for a poison label, underscores the lack of importance placed upon academics, while highlighting the pretense of knowledge, through memorization, that was emphasized during the Victorian era. Again and again Alice attempts to recite the lessons she studied in school, in order to test herself, for practice, or in reply to a request submitted by one of the many characters she encounters throughout her adventures.

Even the conversation Alice has with the Mock Turtle parodies what a Victorian child would have learned in the nineteenth-century. Carroll excluded traditional academics and instead altered the Mock Turtle’s lessons to those about life, placing emphasis on the importance of washing, wholly unsurprising as a woman’s education at that time would have involved lessons on such trivial things as laundry.

Many of the characters contradict her or tell her she does not know what she is talking about, while other characters Alice meets expect her to know certain things that she has no way of knowing. After several failed attempts to reference her knowledge while conversing with the local residents, Alice becomes dispirited as she realizes that while in Wonderland, everything she has previously learned is either wrong or completely useless.

While much of the humor is highbrow and dependent on a elevated level of educational achievement, Carroll certainly made a deliberate effort to make morals and tales of obedience, a large part of Victorian upbringing, nonsensical. This rejection of typical Victorian etiquettes and schooling supports the idea that what young girls were learning during the Victorian age in classrooms was impractical and frequently inapplicable to real life.

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