Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. Lewis Carroll. Illustrated by John Tenniel. 1865/1871. 247 pages. [Source: Bought]

First sentence: Alice was beginning to get very tired of sitting by her sister on the bank, and of having nothing to do: once or twice she had peeped into the book her sister was reading, but it had no pictures or conversations in it, ‘and what is the use of a book,’ thought Alice, ‘without pictures or conversations?’

Premise/plot: Alice follows a white rabbit down a rabbit hole and has several fantastical seemingly impossible adventures before waking.  
 
First sentence: One thing was certain, that the white kitten had nothing to do with it – it was the black kitten’s fault entirely. For the white kitten had been having its face washed by the old cat for the last quarter of an hour (and bearing it pretty well, considering): so you see that it couldn’t have had any hand in the mischief.

Premise/plot: Alice doesn't follow a rabbit on her second adventure; no, she crawls through the looking glass into the looking glass house. Just as she always imagined, life is very different on the other side of the mirror. (For one thing, the chess pieces are alive.) Readers follow Alice's adventures as a pawn as she journeys towards being queened. Like the first book, this one is full of fantastical impossibilities.

My thoughts: I love, love, LOVE Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. I couldn't begin to tell you how many times I've read it in my life. It's a magical read filled with silly characters--quite a few I'd deem unforgettable. What stands out to me--even more than the characters--is the writing. There is just something quotable and ever-relevant about the narrative.

Favorite quotes from Alice in Wonderland:
‘Do cats eat bats? Do cats eat bats?’ and sometimes ‘Do bats eat cats?’, for, you see, as she couldn’t answer either question, it didn’t much matter which way she put it. She felt that she was dozing off, and had just begun to dream that she was walking hand in hand with Dinah, and was saying to her, very earnestly, ‘Now, Dinah, tell me the truth: did you ever eat a bat?’, when suddenly, thump! thump! down she came upon a heap of sticks and dry leaves, and the fall was over.
Oh, how I wish I could shut up like a telescope! I think I could, if I only knew how to begin.’ For, you see, so many out-of-the-way things had happened lately, that Alice had begun to think that very few things indeed were really impossible.
She generally gave herself very good advice (though she very seldom followed it), and sometimes she scolded herself so severely as to bring tears into her eyes; and once she remembered trying to box her own ears for having cheated herself in a game of croquet she was playing against herself, for this curious child was very fond of pretending to be two people. ‘But it’s no use now,’ thought poor Alice, ‘to pretend to be two people! Why, there’s hardly enough of me left to make one respectable person!’
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?” Ah, that’s the great puzzle!’
‘Perhaps it doesn’t understand English,’ thought Alice. ‘I daresay it’s a French mouse, come over with William the Conqueror.’ (For, with all her knowledge of history, Alice had no very clear notion how long ago anything had happened.) So she began again: ‘Où est ma chatte?’, which was the first sentence in her French lesson-book. The Mouse gave a sudden leap out of the water, and seemed to quiver all over with fright. ‘Oh, I beg your pardon!’ cried Alice hastily, afraid that she had hurt the poor animal’s feelings. ‘I quite forgot you didn’t like cats.’
‘It was much pleasanter at home,’ thought poor Alice, ‘when one wasn’t always growing larger and smaller, and being ordered about by mice and rabbits. I almost wish I hadn’t gone down that rabbit-hole – and yet – and yet – it’s rather curious, you know, this sort of life! I do wonder what can have happened to me! When I used to read fairy tales, I fancied that kind of thing never happened, and now here I am in the middle of one! There ought to be a book written about me, that there ought! And when I grow up, I’ll write one – but I’m grown up now,’ she added in a sorrowful tone: ‘at least there’s no room to grow up any more here.’
‘It’s really dreadful,’ she muttered to herself, ’the way all the creatures argue. It’s enough to drive one crazy!’
‘I didn’t know that Cheshire-Cats always grinned; in fact, I didn’t know that cats could grin.’
‘They all can,’ said the Duchess; ‘and most of ’em do.’ ‘I don’t know of any that do,’ Alice said very politely, feeling quite pleased to have got into a conversation. ‘You don’t know much,’ said the Duchess; ‘and that’s a fact.’
‘If it had grown up,’ she said to herself, ‘it would have made a dreadfully ugly child: but it makes rather a handsome pig, I think.’ And she began thinking over other children she knew, who might do very well as pigs, and was just saying to herself ‘if one only knew the right way to change them –’ when she was a little startled by seeing the Cheshire-Cat sitting on a bough of a tree a few yards off.
 ‘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 only you walk long enough.’
‘In that direction,’ the Cat said, waving its right paw round, ‘lives a Hatter: and in that direction,’ waving the other paw, ‘lives a March Hare. Visit either you like: they’re both mad.’ ‘But I don’t want to go among mad people,’ Alice remarked. ‘Oh, you ca’n’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.’
‘Then you should say what you mean,’ the March Hare went on. ‘I do,’ Alice hastily replied; ‘at least – at least I mean what I say – that’s the same thing, you know.’ ‘Not the same thing a bit!’ said the Hatter. ‘Why, you might just as well say that “I see what I eat” is the same thing as “I eat what I see”!’
‘You might just as well say,’ added the Dormouse, which seemed to be talking in its sleep, ‘that “I breathe when I sleep” is the same thing as “I sleep when I breathe”!’
Alice thought she had never seen such a curious croquet-ground in her life: it was all ridges and furrows: the croquet balls were live hedgehogs, and the mallets live flamingoes, and the soldiers had to double themselves up and stand on their hands and feet, to make the arches.
The players all played at once, without waiting for turns, quarreling all the while, and fighting for the hedgehogs; and in a very short time the Queen was in a furious passion, and went stamping about, and shouting ‘Off with his head!’ or ‘Off with her head!’ about once in a minute.
“Never imagine yourself not to be otherwise than what it might appear to others that what you were or might have been was not otherwise than what you had been would have appeared to them to be otherwise.” ’ ‘I think I should understand that better,’ Alice said very politely, ‘if I had it written down: but I ca’n’t quite follow it as you say it.’ ‘That’s nothing to what I could say if I chose,’ the Duchess replied, in a pleased tone.
‘I make you a present of everything I’ve said as yet.’
‘A cheap sort of present!’ thought Alice. ‘I’m glad people don’t give birthday-presents like that!’
‘He taught Laughing and Grief, they used to say.’ ‘So he did, so he did,’ said the Gryphon, sighing in his turn; and both creatures hid their faces in their paws. ‘And how many hours a day did you do lessons?’ said Alice, in a hurry to change the subject. ‘Ten hours the first day,’ said the Mock Turtle: ‘nine the next, and so on.’ ‘What a curious plan!’ exclaimed Alice. ‘That’s the reason they’re called lessons,’ the Gryphon remarked: ‘because they lessen from day to day.’
Favorite quotes from Through the Looking Glass:
‘Kitty, can you play chess? Now, don’t smile, my dear, I’m asking it seriously. Because, when we were playing just now, you watched just as if you understood it: and when I said “Check!” you purred! Well, it was a nice check, Kitty, and really I might have won, if it hadn’t been for that nasty Knight, that came wriggling down among my pieces. Kitty, dear, let’s pretend –’ And here I wish I could tell you half the things Alice used to say, beginning with her favourite phrase ‘Let’s pretend.’
Oh, Kitty, how nice it would be if we could only get through into Looking glass House! I’m sure it’s got, oh! such beautiful things in it! Let’s pretend there’s a way of getting through into it, somehow, Kitty. Let’s pretend the glass has got all soft like gauze, so that we can get through. Why, it’s turning into a sort of mist now, I declare! It’ll be easy enough to get through—’ She was up on the chimney-piece while she said this, though she hardly knew how she had got there. And certainly the glass was beginning to melt away, just like a bright silvery mist.
She was out of the room in a moment, and ran down stairs – or, at least, it wasn’t exactly running, but a new invention for getting down stairs quickly and easily, as Alice said to herself. She just kept the tips of her fingers on the hand-rail, and floated gently down without even touching the stairs with her feet: then she floated on through the hall, and would have gone straight out at the door in the same way, if she hadn’t caught hold of the door-post. She was getting a little giddy with so much floating in the air, and was rather glad to find herself walking again in the natural way.
‘It’s a great huge game of chess that’s being played – all over the world – if this is the world at all, you know. Oh, what fun it is! How I wish I was one of them! I wouldn’t mind being a Pawn, if only I might join – though of course I should like to be a Queen, best.’
‘Well, in our country,’ said Alice, still panting a little, ‘you’d generally get to somewhere else – if you ran very fast for a long time as we’ve been doing.’ ‘A slow sort of country!’ said the Queen. ‘Now, here, you see, it takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place. If you want to get somewhere else, you must run at least twice as fast as that!’ ‘I’d rather not try, please!’ said Alice.
‘He’s dreaming now,’ said Tweedledee: ‘and what do you think he’s dreaming about?’ Alice said ‘Nobody can guess that.’ ‘Why, about you!’ Tweedledee exclaimed, clapping his hands triumphantly. ‘And if he left off dreaming about you, where do you suppose you’d be?’ ‘Where I am now, of course,’ said Alice. ‘Not you!’ Tweedledee retorted contemptuously. ‘You’d be nowhere. Why, you’re only a sort of thing in his dream!’
‘Well, it’s no use your talking about waking him,’ said Tweedledum, ‘when you’re only one of the things in his dream. You know very well you’re not real.’ ‘I am real!’ said Alice, and began to cry. ‘You wo’n’t make yourself a bit realler by crying,’ Tweedledee remarked: ‘there’s nothing to cry about.’ ‘If I wasn’t real,’ Alice said – half-laughing through her tears, it all seemed so ridiculous – ‘I shouldn’t be able to cry.’ ‘I hope you don’t suppose those are real tears?’ Tweedledum interrupted in a tone of great contempt. ‘I know they’re talking nonsense,’ Alice thought to herself: ‘and it’s foolish to cry about it.’
‘The rule is, jam to-morrow and jam yesterday – but never jam to-day.’
‘It must come sometimes to “jam to-day”, ’ Alice objected. ‘No, it ca’n’t,’ said the Queen. ‘It’s jam every other day: to-day isn’t any other day, you know.’ ‘I don’t understand you,’ said Alice. ‘It’s dreadfully confusing!’ ‘That’s the effect of living backwards,’ the Queen said kindly: ‘it always makes one a little giddy at first –’ ‘Living backwards!’ Alice repeated in great astonishment. ‘I never heard of such a thing!’ ‘– but there’s one great advantage in it, that one’s memory works both ways.’
‘Consider what a great girl you are. Consider what a long way you’ve come to-day. Consider what o-clock it is. Consider anything, only don’t cry!’
‘Can you keep from crying by considering things?’ she asked. ‘That’s the way it’s done,’ the Queen said with great decision: ‘nobody can do two things at once, you know.
Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.
‘I never ask advice about growing,’ Alice said indignantly. ‘Too proud?’ the other enquired. Alice felt even more indignant at this suggestion. ‘I mean,’ she said, ‘that one ca’n’t help growing older.’ ‘One ca’n’t, perhaps,’ said Humpty Dumpty; ‘but two can. With proper assistance, you might have left off at seven.’
‘they gave it me – for an un-birthday present.’ ‘I beg your pardon?’ Alice said with a puzzled air. ‘I’m not offended,’ said Humpty Dumpty. ‘I mean, what is an un-birthday present?’ ‘A present given when it isn’t your birthday, of course.’ Alice considered a little. ‘I like birthday presents best,’ she said at last. ‘You don’t know what you’re talking about!’ cried Humpty Dumpty. ‘How many days are there in a year?’ ‘Three hundred and sixty-five,’ said Alice. ‘And how many birthdays have you?’ ‘One.’ ‘And if you take one from three hundred and sixty-five, what remains?’ ‘Three hundred and sixty-four, of course.’
‘When I use a word,’ Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, ‘it means just what I choose it to mean – neither more nor less.’
‘The question is,’ said Alice, ‘whether you can make words mean so many different things.’ ‘The question is,’ said Humpty Dumpty, ‘which is to be master – that’s all.’
‘I can repeat poetry as well as other folk, if it comes to that –’ ‘Oh, it needn’t come to that!’ Alice hastily said, hoping to keep him from beginning.
‘I see nobody on the road,’ said Alice. ‘I only wish I had such eyes,’ the King remarked in a fretful tone. ‘To be able to see Nobody! And at that distance too! Why, it’s as much as I can do to see real people, by this light!’
‘Who did you pass on the road?’ the King went on, holding out his hand to the Messenger for some more hay. ‘Nobody,’ said the Messenger. ‘Quite right,’ said the King: ‘this young lady saw him too. So of course Nobody walks slower than you.’ ‘I do my best,’ the Messenger said in a sullen tone. ‘I’m sure nobody walks much faster than I do!’ ‘He ca’n’t do that,’ said the King, ‘or else he’d have been here first. However, now you’ve got your breath, you may tell us what’s happened in the town.’
‘I was wondering what the mouse-trap was for,’ said Alice. ‘It isn’t very likely there would be any mice on the horse’s back.’ ‘Not very likely, perhaps,’ said the Knight; ‘but, if they do come, I don’t choose to have them running all about.’
‘Always speak the truth – think before you speak – and write it down afterwards.’
 What do you suppose is the use of a child without any meaning? Even a joke should have some meaning – and a child’s more important than a joke, I hope. You couldn’t deny that, even if you tried with both hands.’ ‘I don’t deny things with my hands,’ Alice objected. ‘Nobody said you did,’ said the Red Queen. ‘I said you couldn’t if you tried.’ ‘She’s in that state of mind,’ said the White Queen, ‘that she wants to deny something – only she doesn’t know what to deny!’ ‘A nasty, vicious temper,’ the Red Queen remarked;
‘It’s too late to correct it,’ said the Red Queen: ‘when you’ve once said a thing, that fixes it, and you must take the consequences.’
 It is a very inconvenient habit of kittens (Alice had once made the remark) that, whatever you say to them, they always purr. ‘If they would only purr for “yes”, and mew for “no”, or any rule of that sort,’ she had said, ‘so that one could keep up a conversation! But how can you talk with a person if they always say the same thing?’

© 2018 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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I am interested in reviewing books and audio books. This blog focuses on books written for middle grade on up (essentially 10 to a 110). I review middle grade fiction and young adult fiction (aka tween and teen).

I also review adult books.

I read in a variety of genres including realistic fiction, historical fiction, mystery, romance, science fiction, fantasy, literary fiction, and chick lit. (I've read one western to date.)

I read a few poetry books, a few short story collections, a few graphic novels, a few nonfiction books.

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I am more interested in strong characters, well-written, fleshed-out, human characters. Plot is secondary to me in a way. I have to care about the characters in order to care about the plot. That being said, compelling storytelling is something that I love. I love to become absorbed in what I'm reading.

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