Adolescence is definitely a scary and confusing time for most people. New feelings, experiences, and perspectives can be very unexpected and intimidating. Carroll is very successful throughout Alice in Wonderland in portraying the uncertainties and chaos that come with growing up. Many critics and professors believe that the story completely pertains to adolescence and the experiences gained from it through the usage of symbolism, motifs, and themes. Alice in Wonderland is filled several times over with examples and uses of symbolism.
Nearly every object or character functions as a symbol, although most of them are ambiguous and left to the imagination. One of the most obvious aspects of puberty is the physical changes, mainly noticeable by the growth spurts that teenagers often undergo. Alice was no exception to the uncomfortable amount of growing. “In fact, she was now rather more than nine feet high” (Carroll 27). Another prominent symbol that Carroll used was the garden and Alice’s perpetual quest to arrive there.
Every teenager, especially during their younger years, latch their minds onto something they want, a car or new gaming system perhaps, and cannot think of anything else until they get it. The garden represents adolescents’ strong desires for any number of objects. The example is augmented by the fact that she does not particularly enjoy the incident once she finally finds a way into the garden, an ironically accurate facet of teenage life and their volatile behavior and moods.
Lewis Carroll also saw fit to use motifs generously throughout the story. The most evident case would be the motif of a dream. The whole story is written to simply be part of Alice’s dream and it all vanishes as soon as she wakes up. This could be attributed to the strange, almost freakish, dreams that teenagers often have due to unhealthy amounts of caffeine consumed, over stimulation from explicit movies and video games, and of course the classic lack of adequate sleep.
Another central motif is that Alice is continually unsure of her identity and tries to find out who she is. “I wonder if I’ve been changed in the night? Let me think: was I the same when I got up this morning? I almost think I can remember feeling a little different. But if I’m not the same, the next question is ‘who in the world am I? ” (Carroll 28). The last element mentioned that scholars could attribute to Carroll’s literary exploration of adolescence is the themes use in Alice in Wonderland. Although not dominant in the plot, it is usually the norm for oung people to lose their childhood innocence during their teenage years and adolescence.
It is the time period when they start to come into contact with negative influences and bad habits such as cursing, violence, drugs, sexual topics, etc. In the story, Alice also comes into contact with several of these innocence robbing influences. The caterpillar she speaks to is smoking and she also watches the red queen condemn many people to death. These are new to her and change how she thinks and feels about the world around her.
It is widely accepted that Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland is a representation of adolescence and what teenagers go through while they mature and start the process of growing up. Although some skepticism of this belief from critics is understandable, it is clear that the evidence strewn throughout the novel makes the idea more than plausible. Much of what Carroll wrote and how he wrote it, the symbolism, themes, and motifs, point to an underlying message of growing up and the difficulties associated with that process.