Today in class we had a discussion about Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland. Much of the discussion was dominated by various themes and ideas from the children’s book, such as Alice’s confusion of her own identity or her intelligence. The one theme in particular that I thought was under-discussed was the theme of imperialism. Alice is sweet and well-mannered, but is also tremendously close-minded about the bizarre culture of Wonderland. The one event in particular that struck me as significant was when Alice stumbled upon the home of the Duchess. The Footman stood beside the door when she arrived hoping to gain entry. Alice looked towards the Footman and asked what she should do. To her dismay, the Footman responded “[a]nything you like” (p. 44). Alice becomes increasingly frustrated because where she comes from, the footman is supposed to open the door for guests and instruct them on where to find the authority figure of the house. When that doesn’t happen, Alice calls him “perfectly idiotic” (p. 44) and opens the door herself.
Alice feels superior over the residing creatures of Wonderland. Not only in this scene, but also in a good portion of the novel such as when she is mistaken for a serpent by a pigeon or when she loses interest in the baby she saves because it turned into a pig. In all of these cases, Alice does not try to adapt to the culture and its people, but ignores or insults them for not acting like her. The Alice we meet at the beginning of the novel is very different than the Alice we have at the end. As her adventure comes to a close she finally comes to the conclusion that just because a culture is dissimilar from your own does not mean it is wrong.