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Thursday, February 17, 2011

Alice in Wonderland XIII -- AGAINST ANALYSIS

Gilbert K. Chesterton, on the day of Carroll's 100th birthday:

"Poor, poor, little Alice!  She has not only been caught and made to do lessons; she has been forced to inflict lessons on others.  Alice is now not only a schoolgirl but a schoolmistress.  The holiday is over and Dodgson is again a don.  There will be lots and lots of examination papers, with questions like: (1) What do you know of the following; mimsy, gimble, haddocks' eyes, treacle-wells, beautiful soup?  (2) Record all the moves in the chess game in Through the Looking-Glass, and give diagram.  (3) Outline the practical policy of the White Knight for dealing with the social problem of green whiskers.  (4) Distinguish between Tweedledum and Tweedledee."

On the other hand one Phyllis Greenacre (whom I reference periodically) has done a thorough, and generally considered the best, psychoanalysis of Carroll and his books via the collection of his works and going as far as to express, for example, a conviction of an otherwise common "reversal of the unresolved Oedipal attachment" in the author, rendering Alice the mother figure, rather than the kings or queens or Duchess as parents.  Martin Gardner expresses gratitude for her work, yet also the wish that "she were less sure of herself."

My point here is that these two extremes bring about a couple of questions (yes, there is some not insignificant self-consciousness here on my part, and yes, I have answers to the following questions that satisfy any potential personal guilt; do you, or is this an adequately impersonal endeavor such that it holds no weight?):
  1. Is it wrong (and therefor, am I wrong) to analyze and explicate a basically-absurd fantasy?
  2. If not, then how far is too far?
  3. Why might it not be advisable to be so sure of oneself?
A final question I find I have to ask myself (and myself alone): Why is it so deeply important that I so thoroughly understand my personal motives for attempting--digging--to as thoroughly understand Alice and her Maker?  This whole thing bears a near-spiritual resonance within me, and I don't know why.


  1. 1. No.
    2. Only when the interpretation is either grossly implausible or directly violates the textual/contextual evidence.
    3. Because you miss all the things that don't conform to your theory.

    You'll have to answer the last one for yourself.

  2. I agree. But the line gets blurrier and blurrier. Funny, when I first read this with SASA kids, I looked deeper than I ever had, because I knew what SASA kids wanted/needed. Now I'm reading more thoughtfully and thoroughly--and hopefully responsibly--than I did then, because I want it. And this is a very selfish read.

    And I just don't have an answer to the last one. I don't know. Really, how important can/should it be anyway?

    More than that, there's a big part of me that agrees with Chesterton, and I think there might be a caveat on the whole "how far is too far" question: that is too far may be the point where the magic is lost.


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