Notes on Alice in Wonderland Themes

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Alice in Wonderland Topic Tracking: Identity

Identity 1: Alice decides that one possible explanation for why everything is going so strangely for her is that she has been changed into a different person overnight and that she is now experiencing someone else's reality. She puzzles over who she could possibly be if she has changed. She tries to figure out whom she is by determining what she knows and how well she remembers things she has learned.

Identity 2: Alice's identity is not clear to the White Rabbit either, because he mistakes Alice for his maid, Mary Ann. Alice is so surprised that she doesn't get a chance to tell the Rabbit who she actually is and decides she should pretend to be Mary Ann.

Identity 3: When Alice meets the Caterpillar, he wants to know who she is, and he demands that she explain herself. Alice replies that the thing she really can't explain is herself because she isn't herself. She has changed so much recently, she says, that she simply cannot answer who she is. She is pretty sure that she is someone else because she can't stay the same size for long and she can't remember the things that she used to know.

Identity 4: In one of her many changes in size, Alice finds that her neck has grown enormously long. A frightened Pigeon assumes Alice is a serpent because that's what she looks like. Alice insists that she is a little girl (though she herself starts to doubt that that is what she really is after changing so much). The Pigeon, however, continues to believe that Alice is a serpent, both because of her appearance and because Alice admits to eating eggs.

Identity 5: When asked by Alice where she should go next, the Cheshire Cat suggests that she visit either the March Hare or the Mad Hatter. Alice expresses her reluctance to be around insane people, but the Cat replies that everyone in Wonderland is mad. He tells Alice that she too must be mad, or else she would never have come to Wonderland. According to the Cat, to be in Wonderland is to be crazy, and the identifying mark of an insane person is his or her presence in Wonderland.

Identity 6: The Dormouse tells a story about three little sisters named Elsie, Lacie, and Tillie. These names are meant to refer to the Liddell sisters, to whom Carroll told the original story. Lacie is an anagram for Alice, the name of the middle Liddell girl. Three of the characters in Alice are based on Alice Liddell: the title-character, Lacie, and Secunda, who appears in the introductory poem. These three characters might be considered three fictional versions of the same little girl.

Identity 7: The three gardeners who try to hide their mistake of planting the wrong kind of rose trees also try to hide who they are when the Queen of Hearts appears. The Queen demands to know who Alice is, so Alice introduces herself. Then she demands to know who the cards are; Alice tells the Queen that it is not her business to know who they are.

Identity 8: Upon discovering that Alice doesn't know what a Mock Turtle is, the Queen of Hearts insists that Alice meet the Mock Turtle and hear his story. Even though she has told Alice that Mock Turtles are what Mock Turtle Soup is made from, the Queen seems to believe that Alice will only understand who the Mock Turtle is by hearing him tell his life story.

Identity 9: The Gryphon asks to hear some of Alice's adventures. She agrees to tell him the events of the day, but says that she can't really tell him what happened the day before because she was a different person then. The Mock Turtle wants to hear about this change of identity, but the Gryphon overrules him and says that he's more interested in the adventures than in understanding who Alice is or has been.

Identity 10: At the trial of the Knave of Hearts, Alice understands quite a lot because she has read about courts in the newspaper. She is able to identify the King as the judge because he is wearing a wig.

Identity 11: The jurors at the trial have such a tenuous hold on who they are that each one of them has to write down his name before the trial begins for fear that he'll forget it by the time the trial is over. Alice is appalled by such stupidity.

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