I'm Dyyyyiiiinnnnngggggg: Or, Why I Love Alice in Wonderland

Below is my second short paper for the Coursera class on Fantasy and Sci-fi taught-ish by Eric Rabkin. But a quick intro. This class operates entirely online, testing a virtual classroom template in which peers evaluate student work. At first I thought this was brilliant.

Awesome! The professor can record lectures in, like, 2009 and teach-ish a course forever! He never has to enter the classroom or grade a single stinky paper! But then I realized something. My peers aren't, uh, so good at this.

Sadly, with this second paper a got a few comments of agreement/disagreement and the rest, "You structure sentence not good done." Ah, well. At least the lectures aren't Peer Recorded.

As Martin Gardner writes in The Annotated Alice, "Life viewed rationally and without illusion appears to be a nonsense tale told by an idiot mathematician." But what seems nonsense is the very sense of Alice’s Wonderland journeys, and it is what lends them power to inaugurate the genre of children’s fiction.

Alice’s Adventures are unique in part because they are told from a child’s point of view, yet Carroll also tosses adult expectations down a rabbit hole. He juxtaposes the adult and child worlds and infuses Alice’s plain understanding with a deep subtext of rationality. Everyone Alice meets, in very adult-like fashion, takes themselves and their goings on with utmost seriousness. Rabbit must have his gloves, "Off with her head!" the Queen demands of everyone she meets. The Hatter talks of watches that tell the year. And the Duchess quips, "flamingoes and mustard both bite,” which means, of course, “Birds of a feather flock together.” “Only mustard isn't a bird,” Alice replies.

Throughout Alice observes all this with a curious detachment, at one point thinking, “The Hatter's remark seemed to her to have no sort of meaning in it, and yet it was certainly English.” At last she loses a bit of patience. As she begins to grow during the tart-theft trial, the Dormouse exclaims, "You've no right to grow here.” When Alice replies boldly, “Don't talk nonsense, you know you're growing too,” she proves that she, the child, is the only one in this mixed up world with even one whit of sense. As the Duchess says so blithely, “what a clear way you have of putting things!” Clear, indeed.

In this way Carroll establishes a tradition that future generations will emulate: Rational, commonsensical Alice takes the role of adult, while all around her are mad as Hatters or foolish as Idiot Mathematicians.