Alice’s Adventures With Identity

For this blog post, I chose a passage from Alice Through The Looking Glass chapter 4, in which Alice discusses the possibility of being a figment of imagination in the mind of the Red King.

“He’s dreaming now,” said Tweedledee: “and what do you think he’s dreaming about?”
Alice said “Nobody can guess that.”
“Why, about you!” Tweedledee exclaimed, clapping his hands triumphantly. “And if he left off dreaming about you, where do you suppose you’d be?”
“Where I am now, of course,” said Alice.
“Not you!” Tweedledee retorted contemptuously. “You’d be nowhere. Why, you’re only a sort of thing in his dream!”
“If that there King was to wake,” added Tweedledum, “you’d go out – bang! – just like a candle!”

This passage clearly discusses the idea of identity in an interesting, meta/fourth wall breaking way. The passage raises an important, slightly paradoxical question about identity: how do I know I exist? This passage basically makes us as readers question whether we are actually “real”, and if we are who we think we are. The passage raises this question through it’s use of dialogue between Alice, Tweedledee and Tweedledum, where the three clearly discuss what would happen if the king were to awake–coming upon the conclusion that Alice herself would cease to exist as she may only be a figment of the king’s imagination. Alice believes that she is herself, and that she is real. However, Tweedledee and Tweedledum tell her otherwise, saying that she is merely a dream in the mind of the Red King. This expertly raises the question of “How do I  know I exist?” because it makes the reader think if maybe they themselves are a figment of imagination, without them even realizing. I believe the reason this is done is that Lewis Carroll wanted the reader to read this passage, stop, and really make them think. This was his way of messing with the readers’ heads in a clever, fun way. This might also have been done purely as a way for Carroll to make readers aware that their minds could be so much more open and ready to perceive things if they really try. I believe this might also be a reason because the idea of being a figment of someone’s imagination is so thought-provoking and crazy that it really makes the reader “expand their thoughts” as a way to truly wrap their heads around the idea.

Another thing involving the aforementioned question that the passage does is toy with it in a way that proves the question is nearly impossible to answer. The passage does this once again through the exchanges of Alice and her two companions. Basically, what can be alluded to through this chunk of text is that Alice really has no way of knowing if she is herself, unless the king wakes up, in which case she STILL wouldn’t know, as she would cease to exist and become literally nothing. This proves that the question is pretty much impossible to answer because: how would you truly find out you were real? There’s not much one can do in a situation like this and hypothetically, if the person who “created” you woke up, you’d vanish and never find your answer. The passage utilizes the witty remarks from Tweedledee and Tweedledum  and Alice’s confusion as a clever way to drive this point home; Alice doesn’t understand that she could be a dream, but Tweedledee/Tweedledum explain that it is very possible, but that the only way to know is for the King to wake up, in which case Alice goes POOF!

Overall, this passage does a very good job of raising an unanswerable, totally mind-bending question as well as providing clever dialogue to toy with the reader and with the idea that the question will inevitably, and perhaps agonizingly, remain unanswered.

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