Alice's Adventures in Wonderland

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Alice's Adventures in Wonderland Study Guide

Welcome to the LitCharts study guide on Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. Created by the original team behind SparkNotes, LitCharts are the world's best literature guides.

Brief Biography of Lewis Carroll

Lewis Carroll, born Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, grew up in Cheshire, England, to a long line of clergymen. He followed in these footsteps and was a deacon in the Anglican Church. Excelling at school but with difficulty socializing, Carroll matriculated at Oxford University and was awarded a first class math's degree, and became a professor. His ingenuity with numbers led him to the wordplay and riddles that he became known for in his fiction. Often feeling more comfortable with children than adults, he used his faculties for teaching and entertaining to make friends with children such as Alice Liddell, who served as inspiration for the protagonist of Alice in Wonderland. He gave up teaching in 1881 to focus on writing. By this point, the Alice stories had begun to achieve a good deal of popularity. He wrote many more stories with the same exciting use of language and with other child protagonists before passing away at the age of sixty-six.
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Historical Context of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland

Carroll was inspired to write Alice in Wonderland after a particular boat trip in Oxford with his young friend Alice Liddell, the daughter of Henry Liddell, whom he taught and inspired with his storytelling. The buildings of Christ Church, Oxford, are said to have been incorporated into Wonderland in the long hall at the beginning and the elaborate garden of the Queen. It is also said that Alice in Wonderland was a response to new theories in mathematics at Oxford that Carroll disagreed with.

Other Books Related to Alice's Adventures in Wonderland

Other works that use nonsense and wordplay include Rudyard Kipling’s Just So Stories. Many later writers were inspired by Carroll’s sense of fun, including Dr. Seuss and Spike Milligan. Carroll also penned a sequel for Alice, called Through the Looking Glass, which sees the protagonist in a mirror-image of Wonderland.
Key Facts about Alice's Adventures in Wonderland
  • Full Title: Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (but often known by the shortened Alice in Wonderland)
  • When Written: 1862-63
  • Where Written: Oxford, England
  • When Published: 26th November 1865
  • Literary Period: Victorian England, soon to become the “Golden Age” of Children’s Literature
  • Genre: Children’s story, Fantasy, Literary Nonsense, Adventure
  • Setting: Wonderland, a dream world that Alice finds when she falls down a rabbit hole
  • Climax: The trial of the Knave of Hearts, where all the strange creatures Alice has encountered assemble at the court of the nonsensically angry Queen of Hearts. To Alice's surprise, she becomes the crucial final witness
  • Antagonist: The Queen of Hearts is the antagonist of Wonderland, with her ridiculous love of beheading, she reigns over her realm, representing the bossiness and silliness of the adult world.
  • Point of View: A third-person narrator follows Alice through Wonderland, but also occasionally dips into the first person, when describing her thoughts, and also follows her sister’s thoughts in the final chapter

Extra Credit for Alice's Adventures in Wonderland

Night-writing. Carroll put his mathematical mind to inventions when he wasn’t writing. He invented a tool for writing at night, using a system of symbols in the corner of cardboard squares, so that he didn’t have to get up and light a candle.

Alice without Words. Alice in Wonderland has inspired many adaptations. Some artists have even challenged themselves to recreate Alice without the use of language that defines the novella, like the recent ballet from the English Royal Ballet, which uses choreography to recreate the atmosphere of wordplay without using words at all.