Alice’s Vacillation between Childhood and Adolescence in Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.
In the novel Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll, Alice, the protagonist, is supposed to be seven years of age. However, the reader can perceive her as older than that and get the impression that she has entered adolescence. Alice vacillates between being a child and striving to act like an adult in her various encounters in Wonderland. In this essay, I will examine Alice’s emotional and intellectual phases in her search for identity, and show the different levels according to developmental theory. Erik Erikson’s, Jean Piaget’s and John Dewey’s research together with other studies form the theoretical framework of this paper. I will demonstrate that while the book does not trace her development as such (i.e. it is not a typical Bildungsroman), it nevertheless highlights a child’s development by juxtaposing different developmental stages. The scientific and realistic functions of developmental theory may at first seem haphazard in the analysis of a literary character in a fantasy world. But, this essay illustrates Carroll’s professional familiarity with his child protagonist through the logic and consistency of his depiction of Alice.
Alice’s adventures in Wonderland reflect the child-adult conflict of Alice on her inner quest for identity. To her the first steps into adulthood, ie. adolescence, include not only psychological growth as in maturity but also physical growth; to grow is to grow up. Her dramatic alterations in size in Wonderland cause great turmoil and confusion as she senses an obligation to adapt her behavior.
Lewis Carroll knew his child protagonist well.
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