Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Charles Dodgson, a.k.a. Lewis Carroll, and Satire of "Alice..."

As I was reading this novel, I could not help but note its similarities with Swift's "Gulliver's Travels." Wonderland is a topsy-turvy recreation of England complete with monarchy, and the sheer fantasticality of the stories leads to disbelief. I was convinced, that as I researched Carroll, I would discover a man with a staunch political opinion. Instead, it turns out that the author, Dodgson, is actually obsessed with children, particularly little girls. In fact, his only friends were children...obviously this is weird in more ways than one. But regardless of Dodgson's probable pedophilia, the point is that he felt alienated by adult society and attempted to escape into the world of children. According to the biography in Literature Online, he was fascinated by "child nature" -- freedom from social convention. After reassessing my interpretation of "Alice in Wonderland," I am not quite unclear about the satire or simply dadaistic view of society. Does Carroll simply hope to provide an escape within the novel? I am still convinced there is a critique of the monarchy, particularly the judicial system, but Carroll's personal history has left me doubting.

1 comment:

  1. A beautiful example of how biography can distract readers from issues in a text: this actually happens in the introduction to our edition, which spends many many pages on Carroll's biography and the composition of the work, to the exclusion of a discussion of its social and political investments. You are right to see a critique on monarchy and law (as Sam suggests too), and this may not fit neatly with the biographical data--but that doesn't mean it isn't there. The next question: if this is not merely an escapist book, but an intervention in social and political debates, what is it saying? How does its mode of parody work in contrast to Swift's indirect and direct satire?