I have just finished listening to ‘Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland’ by Lewis Carroll and I just could not stop myself from writing its review.
In a way, there is hardly anything new I can write about the present book, as it was written in 1865 by a famous English author, and ever since it has been one of the most widely read fantasy, enjoyed both by children and adults. And, since it has been around for one and a half century, almost each and every word of it has been discussed in detail by critics and fans.
However, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, is special for me, as this is my first audio-book. Yes, as I said in the opening line, I have just finished listening to an entertaining Librivox recording, with fantastic voice modulation and perfect intonation, that transported me into a dream world.
The story is quite simple. Young Alice is sitting idle in a garden, getting bored, as is inevitable for a small kid, who has no companions to play with. All of a sudden, she notices a white rabbit, rushing through bushes, mumbling to itself. Alice has never seen a talking rabbit before, and is flabbergasted by its strange behaviour. The rabbit enters a hole, and Alice follows it in great hurry and ends up falling in a rabbit hole that is several miles deep. At the end of the fall, she finds herself in a fantasy land, where creatures talk like human beings, have animated discussions, hold court and even execute prisoners. As Alice wanders through this fantasy land, Carroll creates a wonderful fantastical story spanning twelve chapters and 73.1 MB of sheer fun, I had for some hours.
Well, Alice in Wonderland is, of course, a delicate dream, that most of us imagined as kids, but as soon as we grew up, we got ashamed of our immaturity and quickly brushed off as unreal and fanciful, an idle pastime. If I had read the present book as a child, I would have probably approached the story with unlimited imagination and unsolicited trust of an impressionable mind, considering every character to be as real as my family and certainly be happy to listen to a great bed time story.
But, sadly, I am a few decades too late in getting to know Lewis Carroll’s Wonderland. And, despite my best efforts, I commenced with a rigid mindset and limited understanding of an evolved, battered intellect! So, the moment, I began listening to the story, I felt that this fictional non-sense is much deeper and complex than a simple fairy tale. There is a hidden moral at every stage of the story, which hits hard at our superiority complexes, our biased feeling towards fellow beings and unintended cruelty, we all indulge in. I found the story a shining mirror, presenting our true reflections.
In the very first chapter, I could visualize a young English girl, who struggles to retain her stiff upper lip, as she wanders through the unknown land. As Alice coolly falls down the rabbit hole, she shows off her knowledge of Maths and her good sense of resisting temptations of food and drink. However, soon, her notions of superiority takes a nose dive as she finds herself to be surrounded by self created miseries, drowning in the pool of her own tears! And, immediately afterwards, she hurts a rat unintentionally, by indulging in careless talk.
In the next chapter, Alice meets a Duchess, who is mistreating her baby, calling it a pig. The girl berates the evil woman, and carefully holds the baby in her own arms. But, soon she realizes to her utmost surprise that the baby is indeed a pig, and abandons it without bothering for its life for even a second. Well, she does not react very differently from us adults, who sympathize with poor and downtrodden, but the moment their responsibility fall on our own shoulders, we abandon all charity and show our true colors!
The story is full of such hard hitting though well concealed sarcasm, but it is also rich in logic and reasoning, particularly, the story of Hatter, March Hare and Doormouse. The time has stopped for these creatures and they are always philosophizing on small wonders of life, all the time enjoying tea and bread. They pose some nonsensical questions to Alice, which though appear senseless, but are indeed a great example of ‘Tarka, Vitarka and Kutarka’
The story also focused on unreasonable, irresponsible behaviour of authorities, brilliantly portrayed through King and Queen of Hearts ( of a pack of cards) who are over eager to execute commoners, without bothering to conduct a thorough inquiry. It was hilarious to know that some gardeners were trying to paint white roses a bright red color, just to please the queen and are ordered to be executed, at a whimsical thought. The incident smacked of bureaucratic blunders, which are often brushed under the carpet. Lewis Carroll also dwelled on the incompetence of Jury members and exposed the weak Judiciary and selfish Executives, who are more concerned about scoring a personal point, than working for the betterment of public or arriving at right decisions.
So, in a way, I found Alice in Wonderland, a pseudo fantasy. As Charles Lutwidge Dodgson wrote under a pseudonym of Lewis Carroll, I feel he also crafted this hard hitting political and social satire under the sweet disguise of a fantasy tale. I believe Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, is scathingly real, touching many burning issues, that are as relevant today as they were in 1865. It is a great story by a mastermind, which is enjoyable for kids and thought prvoking for adults! A good read, indeed.