“What is the Use of a Book Without Pictures or Conversations?”October 29, 2009
Before this year started I had never looked at Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland as more than a children’s story. It actually shocked me when I saw The Annotated Alice on our list of books for the school year.
Our teacher, Mr. Long, explained to us that this story was also written for an older audience than the children it was advertised greatly to.
After reading the first chapter, Alice seems childish with her boredom, extemporaneous attitude, and naivete. Through the chapter the story is full of innumerable strange occurences, most seeming normal to Alice until she rethinks a second time, sometimes which she does not. She seems to have some caution as she comes to the “DRINK ME” bottle and the cake; as a child, you would assume she would just drink the bottle especially after she chased the rabbit down the rabbit hole without a second thought as to what she was doing and how it could affect her. By the end of the chapter, the reader is in sync with Alice’s outlook, “Alice had got so much into the way of expecting nothing but out-of-the-way things to happen, that it seemed quite dull and stupid for life to go on in the common way”.
Alice’s ever famous quote, “What is the use of a book without pictures or conversations?” drew my attention immediately.
Most children would completely agree with this statement, and nevertheless many adults may too. To have a book without pictures or conversations would be absurd to Alice, who most definitely by this time in the story seems naive. Alice sets a trend of not thinking until it is or almost too late. She believes briefly that a rabbit with a pocket watch wearing a coat is normal. She only realizes that he is late, then only after that did she realize he was a clothed rabbit. Alice pops into the rabbit hole after the rabbit, never once contemplating how she’ll ever get out until she is already falling.
The story is extremely peculiar, switching from realistic to fairytale-like or rather nightmare-like within a few sentences.
“The well was either very deep or she was falling very slowly” seems reasonable, while “either the locks were too large, or the key was too small” is a statement that requires a doubletake. The fact that Alice has scolded herself so severely as to bring tears to her eyes felt very strange to me, and that she had played croquet with herself. Pretending to be two people seems quite unnatural for a child to do habitually as Alice seems to do.
As the reader, the first chapter seems to be heavy in hinting the peculiar things yet to happen.