Alice’s struggle for identity in Wonderland

Alice big

Alice struggles to maintain her identity during her adventures in Wonderland, and it is only when she has fully established her identity that she is able to leave.

Soon after arriving in Wonderland, Alice speaks to herself (‘Come, there’s no use in crying like that!’). We learn that she is fond of ‘pretending to be two people’, demonstrating an already tenuous grip on her own identity.

Alice’s changes in size further challenge her self-image. She asks herself, ‘was I the same when I got up this morning?’ and goes on to question whether she might, in fact, be another child. Both the changing body-image and reliance on whether ‘I know all the things I used to know’ show that she values external indicators of self, rather than having a hold on her identity.

Other characters challenge Alice’s identity, and she struggles to establish herself. In response to the Caterpillar’s question she replies, ‘I—I hardly know, sir, just at present—at least I know who I WAS when I got up this morning’. As before, she considers changes to her personality and body to have been imposed upon her from external sources.

Similarly, when the White Rabbit mistakes her for his maid, Mary Ann, Alice nevertheless complies with his commands. The Pigeon insists that she is a serpent, using mistaken logical arguments to prove his case and Alice is forced to defend her identity.

The arc of the story follows Alice’s growing certainty of her identity. When she first meets the Queen of Hearts she is only tentatively sure of herself: ‘My name is Alice, so please your Majesty’. In the final courtroom scene Alice scoffs at the jurors who write down their names in case they forget them (‘Stupid things!’), identifies herself clearly (‘”Here!” cried Alice,’) and then leaves Wonderland with the realisation, ‘You’re nothing but a pack of cards!’.

Submitted to Coursera as essay 02 for Fantasy and Science Fiction: The Human Mind, Our Modern World.
Coursera peer grade: Form 2 / Content 2

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