“Alice was beginning to get very tired of sitting by her sister on the bank, and of having nothing to do…” (Chapter 1: Down the Rabbit Hole)
There is so much to say about Alice that it seems almost pointless to try and summarize her in one small paragraph, but I’ll try. The character is loosely based on one of Lewis Carroll’s “child friends,” Alice Liddell, the daughter of one of Carroll’s colleagues. The seeds of the tale, in fact, were composed when Carroll was on a picnic with Alice and her two sisters, who had begged him to “tell them a story,” on sunny afternoon in Oxford. Many critics have analyzed Alice from as many different angles. Some, like Megan Lloyd, praise her Alice for “self-assurance and unquestioning spirit” (8), while others like Daniel Bivona see Alice as a mini-Victorian colonizer, ruthlessly imposing her own values on Wonderland (150). And the interpretations don’t stop there. Alice has been everything from the model of child reasoning and development, to a sex symbol, an adult trapped in a child’s body, and all the way to street the name for LSD. She is now considered a cultural icon, and often written about as the archetype of the “ideal” child, wandering through the absurd world of adults.
In adaptations for other media she has been just as versatile. She has been portrayed as increasingly older and older in age (in the most recent she is in her early twenties), with personalities ranging from the sweet and angelic to the rude and disinterested. Every illustrator’s Alice is different, and every new adaptation has added another nuance to her personality or identity. And her pert curiosity, enduring love of sense, and adventurous spirit ensure that her importance in literature and culture will remain for the next 150 years.
Alice's Adventures in Wonderland: Chapter 7
Below you can see some of my favorite renderings of Alice from the illustrators I’ve collected. Since most of them are from chapters 5, 6, and 7, which focus more on the other characters of the novel than on Alice herself, they are often not the “typical” image. Particularly noteworthy are Mervyn Peake’s, Helen Oxenbury’s and Arthur Rackham’s Alices. Click on the name of an illustrator in the right hand column to see how Alice has changed over time.
Again there are just so many different clips of films or songs I could show you, but here are a few that I find interesting. Harry Harris’ Alice is one of my favorites as the ultimate “sweet and cute” Alice. Jonathan Miller’s disinterested teenage Alice is also pretty interesting. Also fascinatng is the Alice in the music video of Aerosmith’s “Sunshine,” who seems to be fighting off a Cheshire Cat that very much looks the part of sexual predator.
A Mad Tea Party
Harry Harris' Alice in Wonderland (1985)
Alice and the Frog Footman
Jonathan Miller's Alice in Wonderland (1966)
Disney (1951): This Alice is so well known I chose not to use up space here, but you can see her by clicking this link.
Jan Svankmayer (1988): His Alice acts as the narrator of the story, as well as the protagonist.
"White Rabbit"- Jefferson Airplane
"Alice" (Underground) - Avril Lavigne, a more modern "punk" take on Alice
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