The Absurdity of the Adult´s World.
Alice's imaginary world, with all its madness, represents the bewildring, unfriendly and materialistic adult world into which young children were (and still are) prematurely thrown. The passage of Alice in the train station (Through the Looking Glass, p.129-130) is one of the two excerpts in the Alice books that frankly addresses capitalism and the monetary value of certain objects. This passage reminds an adult reader how foreign the concept of money, buying and selling, must be to a child, and therefore not only how physically and emotionally taxing but also how mentally baffling it must have been for young children of the Victorian era suffering in poverty and working under extreme labor conditions. No young child should have to think or worry about finaces. No child is born with an inclination for business, with an appreciation for money; these things must be taught and learned (often too soon and under unfortunate circumstances).
The idea that one must accumulte wealth and power to be happy is one that a child can only receive from its elders, from society. To a child's uncorrupted mind, cold hard cash is no more than exactly that. The concept that it must be possessed and then redistributed in order to access food, clothing and other neccessities is bizarre, if not absurd. Why, wonders a child, can't I just have it? And where, Alice wonders, was I supposed to get a ticket?
Children often realize that "money makes the world go round" at an unnaturally early age. This realization, Carroll seems to suggest, can be quite frightening considering the child probably has no direct access to, or direct control over, a reliable source of income.
Alice, merely seven and a half, initially encounters the problem of money in Wonderland when she boards the train. She is scolded and ridiculed for having no ticket. Yet where she came from, no ticket was made available. The conductor should not hold her responsible. She is inherently disadvantaged like those born into poverty. Alice sits in the vestibule with her head bent in shame and confusion, listening to insensitive passengers whose life-sized train tickets seem to represent the enormous role wealth and what can be bought with it plays in their respective lives. She knows not what to make of their telling her how much everything is worth, only that she will surely dream "about a thousand pounds tonight." She is severely distressed by the unkindness of the passengers, while suffering the unfortunate and irreversible loss of childlike purity and innocence that occurs with each bit of knowledge and awareness gained about money.
In Lewis Carroll, adults are irresponsible, impulsive, and self-indulgent -the exact five adjectives Wohl asserts that Victorians attributed to the Blacks and to the lower classes. Carroll manipulates these prejudices and shows, through Alice's eyes, how these characteristics also apply to adults, authority figures, and even royalty.
As the brutally violent cook hurls saucepans, and the utterly irrational (and ignorant) Duchess mistakes the word "axis" for "axes" and orders Alice's head chopped off, the absurdities of adult and royal authoritative extremes are shown. Wohl tells us that the Victorians felt that the childlike qualities of the "lower races" paralleled the frequent references to the "immature working class". Carroll turns this perception of an "immature class" around by presenting his readers with two irresponsible, childlike figures in the forms of an adult "authority figure" and member of the upper class. With these images, Alice in Wonderland, at once views the adult world on a child's level, questions the authority of adults and of royalty and mocks commonly held prejudices of its day.
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© a.r.e.a./Dr.Vicente Forés López
Universitat de València Press
Creada: 22/02/2000 Última Actualización: 11/03/2000