“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.



  1. @Katherine, Meighan: Excellent, thought provoking posts. In fact, you encouraged me to think so much that I was inspired to write a post of my own, simply because I couldn’t possibly fit all of my thoughts into a single comment.

    Check out what I wrote in “A New Take On A Multi-Dimensional Alice” by going to this link:


  2. Meighan, I can see where you are coming from that by reading more of Alice’s story that it may in fact be natural for a child of her age to have an imaginary friend.

    Personally when I was a child I never acted as if I was two people. Alice expresses her childhood view on life constant, some realistic and some just preposterous. She explains how “sometimes she scolded herself so severely as to bring some tears to her eyes” and “having cheated herself in a game of croquet she played against herself.

    I could see how a child might be bored enough to play a game with herself, but scold themselves as much as to make themselves cry? This instance seems a bit over-dramatic from my stand point.

  3. Katherine is absolutely right in explaining what he thought of the story. I was honestly thinking the same thing that she was. When I first read the first chapter of Alice’s Adventure in Wonderland, I was sort of surprised. This story was sort of the same as Disney’s Alice in Wonderland, but it was just in a more detailed format. The Alice in this story seems to be more troublesome than the one in Disney’s Alice in Wonderland. She is acing like a spoiled little girl and, honestly, like a 7-year-old. When she’s in this situation where she is in a place that she is not familiar with, she is sort of tempted to act like a child. The deal with the “DRINK ME” and the cake makes it sort of clear to the reader that she is childish.

  4. I really liked how you presented this information, but there is one thing I have a question on.

    You said, “Pretending to be two people seems quite unnatural for a child to do habitually as Alice seems to do”, but by reading about her and how she thinks and seems to react to different circumstances I believe it is possible to see this as regular childish behavior.

    In a sense it is like an imaginary friend, which is normal for most children to have at some point. When something strange,very good, or very bad happens, a child will if not having any other logic create an imaginary friend or twin to blame things on. However, like you said, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland was written for two different audiences.

    Perhaps it is for the child-reader to relate with, and the adult-reader to base assumptions off of. Because I am trying to analyze Alice and try to read it just as a children’s story at the same time, I am seeing both ways of looking at it as the story progresses.

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