As with On The Road, I am going to be visiting the real meanings and understandings of an author. We are once more going to see just how far apart the intended meaning of a book is from the perceived meaning it has to the audience of readers.
Assuming you haven’t lived under a rock all your life, you are at least somewhat familiar with the story of Alice and her adventures in Wonderland. A classic story for children about a girl who goes down a rabbit hole and finds a strange and illogical world. Most people would make the reasonable jump in logic to say this ‘trip’ she takes is a drug allegory. Every step of the way she finds ever more strange situations and the references to drug-related items is pretty clear too. From eating mushrooms to smoking a hooka.
The 60s saw the story used as a parallel to the counterculture of the time. Among the many who drew from the story, the Beetles are known to have used it for inspiration between 62 and 71. To this day, you can find tabs of acid printed with a picture of the Cheshire Cat. It couldn’t be any more clear what the story must be about below the surface. And yet you are wrong.
Sorry to ruin your theories and smash the false commentary of half your English teachers, but it has nothing to do with drugs in the least. The pen name Lewis Carroll belongs to a man named Reverend Charles Lutwidge Dodgson who was well noted for being a super conservative Angelican deacon. This wasn’t the sort of man who you would be expecting to write about drug trips. While there has been some speculation about pedophilia linked with the real world girl who inspired Alice, I have never read anything to verify that. So then what was the good Reverend writing about in 1860?
Are you sitting down? Math. That’s right, the craziest story ever written was actually meant as an allegory for mathematics. You see, when he wrote the book, radical new thinking was going on with math. Specifically, complex math was being introduced on college campus’ involving strange ‘imaginary numbers’. Dodgeson favored text books that hadn’t really changed in 2000 years, but suddenly there was a flood of young fresh thinkers into colleges. No longer were the well seasoned old men the ones who went to college, but young men full of crazy ideas.
All of the real-world nature of math was being lost in concepts such as finding the square root of negative six pears. Six pears minus four pears sure. That was real world stuff, but this new math was as close to logic as pink hippos on the moon. This absurdity so irritated him that he decided to satirize it in book form. He wrote the book to show a world where everything followed the insane laws of this new mathematics. His intent was to point out the absolute insanity of such thinking. Everything kept shifting in size and nature not because of drugs, but because of post-modern mathematical principles. The character of Alice represented Euclidean math trying to make sense of a world of modern algebra. Wonderland is a stand in for the Christ Church College at Oxford where Dodgson worked. Every mad inhabitant of that world was really just some parody of his new coworkers.
Think about that the next time you watch anything based on the works or read any of the books. Puts everything in a new perspective! It becomes especially funny when you consider just how much drug induced insanity was inspired by this man’s writing and just how common the misunderstanding of meaning has to be when college professors are known to attribute the meaning to the effects of drugs.