Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass Theme of Freedom and Confinement
Confinement in the Alice books is almost always literal and physical (for instance, when Alice gets stuck in the White Rabbit's house). Freedom is gained by ingenuity and imagination, which create sensations of lightness and make escape possible. However, confinement also has a protective aspect; sometimes our heroine confines others in order to shelter them from danger. This in turn makes us wonder whether there are reasonable limits on freedom that are necessary for safety. While imagination and fantasy offer escape routes, they can also introduce new and unknown dangers.
Questions About Freedom and Confinement
- How are freedom and confinement related to Alice's changes in size? Does growing larger make her feel more or less free? What does your answer suggest about the process of growing up?
- Can Alice make herself less confined, either in reality or metaphorically speaking, by using her imagination? What is the relationship between imagination and freedom?
- Why is there so much confinement in Wonderland? Why does Alice have to be stuck in the hall, trying to get into the garden, before she finally finds a way to reach it? Why can't her fantasy world simply begin in the beautiful garden?
- How do other characters' confinements – such as the dormouse getting stuffed into the teapot, the White Knight falling into his own helmet, or Tweedledee trying to shut himself in his umbrella – relate to Alice's feelings of being trapped? What do these comical examples teach us as readers?
Chew on This
Alice's Adventures in Wonderland depicts growing older, represented by growing larger, as an unpleasant process that creates a feeling of confinement.
Although Alice often feels trapped when she grows larger, she also feels vulnerable when she grows smaller, suggesting that childhood is an imperfect balance of youthful freedom and adult strictures.