The story Alice in Wonderland was written by Lewis Carroll and was published in 1865 by Charles Lutwidge Dodgson. Alice is evidently the protagonist character throughout the story, a young girl who seeks out various answers and experiences on her journey. Thus it can be argued that, ‘Alice’s final goal is maturity, as Alice plays between being a child and striving to act like an adult in her various encounters within wonderland. The time that Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland was published was within the Victorian Era of English history, thus gained much criticism of people such as Jean Piaget and John Dewey. Piaget states that Alice in Wonderland is just a ‘nonsense children’s story with a bit of commentary thrown into it at parts.’ However, Carroll is able to juxtapose the different stages of a child’s development and thus be able to hold a strong sense of symbolism throughout the story, ‘believing a somewhat allegorical and useful bildungsroman as we join Alice on her surreal journey and watch her make her way from childhood into adulthood.
In literature, bildungsroman is a German word meaning a literary genre that focuses on the psychological and moral growth of the protagonist from youth to adulthood. During the adventures that Alice has within wonderland it can be said that ‘she is taught the problems of the real world, thus reveals her own personal and ethical ideas, reflecting on a child/adult conflict and her certain quest for her own identity.’ The change that Alice encounters from childhood into adulthood can be seen by the reader in certain stages within the book implying a bildungsroman genre of story.
At the beginning of the book Alice can be seen to act without any thought at all into what she is doing and says whatever she feels like, no matter who it could offend. Moreover, here we see Alice at her most immature and also at her most naïve. This can be seen in the opening chapter after she has uncounted on the start of her bazaar journey down the rabbit hole. She comes across a bottle that is labelled ‘drink me.’ Here she never considers that is poison as it isn’t marked as being, thus showing her naivety and immaturity at the beginning of the book she evidently does what the bottle tells her to do. Thus, due to this Alice’s first steps into adulthood include ‘not only psychological growth but also physical growth; grow as in grow up.’ This change in size that Alice encounters is not the only occurrence of size change within the story, ‘her dramatic changes in size in wonderland can be seen to cause turmoil as she senses obligations to adopt her behaviour.’ This change in size can be argues to imply the metamorphosis of birth, growth and death, which we see as the exact order within the story. This can be seen through certain varieties of shapes and sizes that Alice assumes; enormous long necks, chins pressed against shoes, getting stuck in houses, some point almost vanishing all together then again other times huge. The problems with size, growth and evolving forms are seen as the centre of discussion within literary critics of the factor that makes this story that of a bildungsroman genre.
From the moment mentioned above, as readers we then see Alice move swiftly into her next stage of maturity within the story. We soon see her to be able to identify past mistakes that she has previously made and learn from them, and also to be able to make important decisions accordingly. The first we see this bildungsroman within the story is when Alice gets mistaken for the White Rabbits housemaid, Mary Ann and is sent to fetch her gloves. After making her way toward the rabbit’s house, Alice drinks a foreign liquid again. Massey states that this is another mark of her immaturity as she hasn’t learnt from her previous encounter from drinking poison. However, Levine says that this crucial part within the book is Alice learning from her past experiences, as she is aware that ‘whenever she eats or drinks something within wonderland a change in size is also bound to follow.’ Thus, she applies this logic here, as she rinks the poison for the second time she evidently becomes too large to leave the rabbit’s house and then eventually gets stuck. Then as she thinks and struggles, she decides to eat a cake that is provided. If we examine her logic here closely it can be said to reveal a somewhat mature concept when viewed in the contest of the wonderland setting, thus proving a description of a bildungsroman genre.
The sense of a bildungsroman genre within the story can be seen further in the story around chapter four. Here, Alice applies the logic of wonderland and adopts this to certain new situations in which she encounters. Before this stage in the story, we see Alice try to adapt the logic that had previously drilled into her head through the Victorian education in which she had.
As we go further and further into the story it is evident that Alice begins to consider certain ramifications of her actions, be able to think ahead and be able to adjust her behaviour according to the situation that she may be in at that time, thus we see her imply a much more mature nature. This shift in maturity can be seen within chapters five and six when Alice stumbles upon the Duchesses’ home. Here, the duchess presents her with a poorly baby and gives into Alice to hold. The first thing that Alice thinks here is ‘if I don’t take this child away with me, thought Alice, they’re sure to kill it in a day or two; wouldn’t it be murder if I left it behind?’ Here, we see Alice think into the future and what the future may hold for this child, then thinking about what would happen if she didn’t act on behalf of the baby. In the end the baby goes through a somewhat metamorphosis and turns into a pig anyway so there is no need so save it. However, the point here is that we still see Alice act in a mature manner and think ahead and of other people too, this is proof of a bildungsroman genre as she would have never done anything like this at the beginning of the story.
Alice then goes on to talk to the Cheshire cat; he makes various suggestions to her and places to visit in her trip throughout wonderland. After this encounter she then opts to visit the March Hare. We see Alice feel slightly intimidated here at the house and the size of it. Due to this we see her show a very symbolic sense of maturity as she has the foresight to eat food that she knows will make her enlarge in size. At this point within the story we see more evidence of a bildungsroman genre running through the story as we see Alice becoming more observant and being able to notice things around wonderland that makes her feel uncomfortable and then take control of the situation. We see her being able to act on her instincts within certain situations; this is clearly something that Alice, at the beginning of the story would have never done.
As we evidently see Alice become more and more mature throughout the story and take control of certain situations, it is argued by Piaget that it helps her gain success throughout her ventures in wonderland. This can be seen to then lead to the final stage that we see in Alice’s development within the story. This final stage for Alice is the emergence of determination and confidence, and the fact that she eventually turns into the mature, self-assertive person that she wanted to be. Within chapter eight she comes across the garden and makes her way to it that she saw at the beginning of the book. As she walks through the garden, having conversations with certain bizarre characters, she then comes across the character of The Queen of Hearts, this character can be seen as highly imposing and has an odd habit of sentencing everyone she doesn’t like and beheading them, ‘like a wild beast screamed off with their head!’ however, to the readers surprise when Alice is addressed by the Queen, the naïve and timid Alice that we met at the beginning of the book seems to have completely gone at this point. We see her speak her mind and not let anyone walk all over her, not even the white rabbit. ‘Nonsense said Alice clearly and loudly. The queen turned quieted.’ Alice’s interaction with the rabbit And the queen here is far cry from what we witnessed back in the fourth chapter when Alice was mistaken for the maid and was made to run errands in which she attempted to do. A strong sense of bildungsroman can be seen as she is now taken seriously and speaks up not only for herself but the creature within wonderland also and treats them like the equals that they should be treated like. She also isn’t willing to let anyone or in fact anything gets in the way of this new maturity and self-appreciation that she has known found after much experiences and encounters within her journey.
In conclusion, at the beginning of the story, in the view of the reader and the audience Alice comes across as a naïve, silly and somewhat helpless little girl that has no idea of the happenings in her society, and in addition, is seen to have been crucially mist aught by society which gives the impression that there are people in the world that don’t care about her. There are many different views on the bildungsroman aspect within the story. Massey argues that, ‘whether Alice undergoes any genuine maturation during the course of wonderland may be questions. She shows a good deal of coarseness and violence in herself swell as the struggle she has through both of her wonderlands, thus it is the aggressive impulses throughout the play that makes her nothing more than a mere child at the end of the story.’ On the other hand, on a note of bildungsroman, I believe that wonderland sends her on a journey that changes her to her core. At the end of the story we see Alice that has become a confident girl that has gained skills that she can adapt to virtually any situation that gets thrown in her way. Throughout the story a useful bildungsroman is arguably used and Alice physiologically grows up and goes through the developmental process of becoming an adult in such a compelling way that becomes painfully obvious how Lewis Carroll’s story is a timeless bildungsroman for all ages within society.
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