Lewis Carroll 188th birth anniversary: Why reading Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland is a treat for children and adults
… ’Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe:
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.
“Beware the Jabberwock, my son!
The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!
Beware the Jubjub bird, and shun
The frumious Bandersnatch!”
Lewis Carroll’s Jabberwocky is a nonsense poem written to describe the killing of a creature named ‘the Jabberwock’ and has been found in Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There, the sequel to Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. This poem has also since been turned into a novella.
Lewis Carroll, Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, born 188 years ago today, is best known for his books on Alice, the girl who finds herself lost in Wonderland and meets several people and animals who define her journey thereon. However, it wasn’t just the Alice in Wonderland books that Carroll wrote, he taught Mathematics at Oxford and has even written 10 books on the subject.
A theory and subsequent article by Melanie Bayley of the University of Oxford on Lewis Carroll’s works point to the fact that the layers in Alice in Wonderland book series were like a mathematical equation. It was published in the popular science magazine New Scientist titled Alice’s Adventures in Algebra: Wonderland Solved.
While it is a well-known fact that Carroll’s audience was strictly created for children and young adults, the stories continue to resonate with evolved readers even today. Many have even figured out how his writing is a clever technique to poke fun at mathematics as a subject, his time as a professor of the subject and other followers and practitioners. Despite this, Lewis Carroll is not remembered for his mathematics but puzzles, logic games, dry humour and biting satire.
Philosophy and psychoanalysis:
An interesting aspect of Lewis Carroll’s work is that the characters etched by him have various shades to them. One might even find the emphasis he lays on the psychoanalytic aspects of his characters.
In a conversation from Alice in Wonderland, he writes, “You’re not the same as you were before. You were much more... muchier... you’ve lost your muchness.” While it can be explored in different ways, it’s easy to see why this can also serve as a part philosophical, part inspirational quote for followers of Carroll’s works and avid book readers across the world and age groups. One interpretation can also highlight how one might lose their mojo in the mundaneness of life and how the spark or the fire in the belly is much-needed even during the severe need for JOMO (Joy of Missing Out).
For Kids or Adults
Aside from the Alice books, Carroll’s most memorable work is a collection of comic and serious poetry titled Phantasmagoria and Other Poems (1869), which features a long and amusing poem of the same title. Two other books titled Sylvie and Bruno (1889) and its sequel, Sylvie and Bruno Concluded (1893) deal in the genres of fact and fantasy and are popular reads for children.
Alice in Wonderland syndrome
Found to be a common disorder among children, a psychiatrist called John Todd found that patients reported the feeling of “opening out like a telescope”. This syndrome has been further studied by Grant Liu at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia where it was found that this disorder causes its patients to see things upside down or even a strange case of hallucination.
On nonsense, Dr Seuss has famously said, “I like nonsense, it wakes up the brain cells. Fantasy is a necessary ingredient in living; it’s a way of looking at life through the wrong end of a telescope. Which is what I do, and that enables you to laugh at life’s realities.”
Continuing that thought and paying homage to the beginning of creative ‘nonsense’, Lewis Carroll’s Jabberwocky has also given way to Neuroscientists who now regularly use ‘Jabberwocky sentences’ during brain scans. Nirvana’s Kurt Cobain also used certain ‘grammatical nonsense’ for the popular song Smells Like Teen Spirit.
On the legendary writer’s 188th birth anniversary, here are quotes to feed your soul that borders on humour, depth, sprinkled with a dose of philosophy.
As Lewis Carroll writes: “So many out-of-the-way things had happened lately, that Alice had begun to think that very few things indeed were really impossible.”
* Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.
* Curiouser and curiouser!” cried Alice (she was so much surprised, that for the moment she quite forgot how to speak good English).
* I can’t go back to yesterday - because I was a different person then.
* Who in the world am I? Ah, that’s the great puzzle.
* “But I don’t want to go among mad people,” said Alice. “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.
* Everything’s got a moral, if only you can find it.
* She generally gave herself very good advice, (though she very seldom followed it).
* Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?”
“That depends a good deal on where you want to get to.”
“I don’t much care where –”
“Then it doesn’t matter which way you go.”
* I wonder if the snow loves the trees and fields, that it kisses them so gently? And then it covers them up snug, you know, with a white quilt; and perhaps it says, “Go to sleep, darlings, till the summer comes again.”
* If everybody minded their own business, the world would go around a great deal faster than it does.
* Why it’s simply impassible!
Alice: Why, don’t you mean impossible?
Door: No, I do mean impassible. (chuckles) Nothing’s impossible!
* “Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?”
“That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,” said the Cat.
“I don’t much care where -” said Alice.
“Then it doesn’t matter which way you go,” said the Cat.
“- so long as I get SOMEWHERE,” Alice added as an explanation.
“Oh, you’re sure to do that, said the Cat, ‘if you only walk long enough.”
* I’m not strange, weird, off, nor crazy, my reality is just different from yours.