Alice’s world is a philosophical puzzle. Even though she is just a child, Alice thinks and reflects deeply and comes up with some very existential problems. While in Wonderland she comes to wonder if she has become a different child completely, and lists the children she knows, trying to work out how their attributes define them as being Mabel or Ada. She then puzzles over the meaning of ‘I’. Such a fundamental question of existence and identity is huge for a child to ponder, and it casts quite an uneasy shadow over Alice’s movements through Wonderland. Her identity changes with each new scene and collection of characters, each questioning her and her authority, just as she herself does. The first thing the Caterpillar says to Alice is “Who are YOU?” and she is trying to find a consistent answer to this question the whole way through the story. Just as in life, the prospect of growing up and becoming someone different is threatening her sense of self and her vision of everything around her.
Questioning the nature of being also inevitably brings up the question of not being. In Wonderland, though absurdity and confusion abound, death still looms in a real way. Just as in Alice’s life as a well-off rather sheltered child, the idea of death is both ever present, but shadowy and distant at the same time – a constant terrifying threat that never quite materializes… yet.
The Nature of Being and Not Being ThemeTracker
The Nature of Being and Not Being Quotes in Alice's Adventures in Wonderland
'But if I'm not the same, the next question is, Who in the world am I? Ah, THAT'S the great puzzle!' And she began thinking over all the children she knew that were of the same age as herself, to see if she could have been changed for any of them.
'Who are YOU?' said the Caterpillar.
This was not an encouraging opening for a conversation. Alice replied, rather shyly, 'I--I hardly know, sir, just at present-- at least I know who I WAS when I got up this morning, but I think I must have been changed several times since then.'
'I HAVE tasted eggs, certainly,' said Alice, who was a very truthful child; 'but little girls eat eggs quite as much as serpents do, you know.'
'I don't believe it,' said the Pigeon; 'but if they do, why then they're a kind of serpent, that's all I can say.'
'Oh, you can't help that,' said the Cat: 'we're all mad here. I'm mad. You're mad.'
'How do you know I'm mad?' said Alice.
'You must be,' said the Cat, 'or you wouldn't have come here.'
The players all played at once without waiting for turns, quarrelling all the while, and fighting for the hedgehogs; and in a very short time the Queen was in a furious passion, and went stamping about, and shouting 'Off with his head!' or 'Off with her head!' about once in a minute.
'Who cares for you?' said Alice, (she had grown to her full size by this time.) 'You're nothing but a pack of cards!'
'Oh, I've had such a curious dream!' said Alice, and she told her sister, as well as she could remember them, all these strange Adventures of hers that you have just been reading about; and when she had finished, her sister kissed her, and said, 'It WAS a curious dream, dear, certainly: but now run in to your tea; it's getting late.'