Childhood is Crayola crayons, gooey hands, muddy shoes and swing-sets. It is ABC’s, singing into oscillating fans, and bruised knees. Childhood is often a time defined by experimentation and investigation. It is safe to say that child’s existence is driven by Saturday morning cartoons and the idea that as soon as they stumble out of the doors of that Twinkie-shaped bus, they will be free to explore and play. Adults, on the otherhand, often fill time wrinkling foreheads, checking bank accounts, and making beds in the morning. There is an extreme pressure for adults to maintain an extreme sense of professionalism and realism in their everyday life. Adults are often not encouraged to ask questions, and just do. This polarized, rigid expectation is unhealthy and detrimental. In many cases, this imposed expectation causes adults to obtain a form of escapism, whether it be drugs, or even simply a favorite television show. This idea is most likely is engraved in us because maturity is improperly linked to adulthood. In reality, a youthful mindset has nothing to do with one’s level of maturity.
Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, otherwise known by Lewis Carroll, was born on January 27, 1832 in Daresbury England. After attending Rugby School, and Christ Church (Oxford), Carroll started taking an interest in photography. Many of his photos focused on children because he liked the way that they approached life. He also grew especially fond of the dean of Christ Church’s daughter, Alice Liddell. Alice was the inspiration of both Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass.
Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking Glass, tackles the idea of identity. This is portrayed in a passage discussing an interaction of Alice and her sister. It states; “She had had quite a long argument with her sister only the day before – all because Alice had begun with “Let’s pretend we’re kings and queens;” and her sister, who liked being very exact, had argued that they couldn’t, because there were only two of them, and Alice had been reduced at last to say “Well, you can be one of them, then, and I’ll be all the rest.”
Whereas Alice is able to take on a variety of roles, her sister is incapable of doing so. This passage raises a plethora of questions regarding identity, and how youth can impact your perception of life, and overall mindset. For example, why is Alice able to take on so many roles/identities while her sister is only capable of taking on one? Does age impact the way that one is able to perceive things?
This text allows the reader to go up a level of abstraction. In general, there aren’t many parts in this text that refer to reality. In other words, because it is such a simplistic moment, this interaction stands out, and could potentially be relatable to the reader. While reading this section, I began to think about how this situation could easily happen between my older sister and me. In fact, I distinctly remember moments when I would ask her to play with me, and she refused. At the time, I thought this was to spite me. Looking back, I understand that her disliking of ‘playing,’ was purely caused by disinterest, or even incapability.
This passage asks this question, to ground the reader in a sense, and bring the reader back to reality. Since Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland is such a whimsical story, in many cases it is difficult for an older reader to take the story seriously. Because of this, Carroll wanted the reader to continue to have the message he was attempting to convey. Rather than simply view the story as complete nonsense, Carroll wanted the reader to apply this idea to their life.
In order to survive, we need food, water, shelter, etc. As people grow up, it is inevitable that they will take on some form of responsibility in order to function. On the other-hand, it is common for people to spend too much time worrying about money, work, etc. In many cases, people tend to forget the importance of pure fun, or playing. Fun doesn’t have to be something extravagant. It could be simply choosing to walk in piles of crunchy leaves, rather than conforming to the the stark, bare pavement. As children become adults, the youthful mindset is lost. Although age can impact our level of responsibility, it doesn’t have to completely impact the way we perceive the world.
Alice’s sister is an incredibly minor character in the story, despite this, she stands out like a sore thumb. This is because she is the only character that seems ‘normal.’ In fact, she is the only character within the story that views Alice’s adventure in wonderland as fantasy. In other words she is relatable and realistic. Despite not being an adult yet, Carroll’s portrays her to show how innocence and imagination is gradually lost with growing up. In both stories, Alice is a symbol of youth. She encaptures the idealistic aspects of the stereotypical child (She is imaginative, naive, innocent, curious, open minded, etc). In other words, she represents everything that her sister does not represent.
In one of my past blog posts, I debunked the idea of not being able to have seemingly contradictory identities (as an introverted people-lover). Although it is important to be responsible, and that a certain innocence can be lost with aging, it is possible to keep a youthful mindset. As a young-adult, I believe that I have been able to maintain aspects of childhood. Personally, being able to enjoy simple things, and continuing to be open-minded has allowed me to be content. Carroll’s intent was not to glamorize youth, rather to appreciate and encourage the positive impacts that this kind of mindset could have on the reader. Maintaining a youthful mindset doesn’t necessarily mean playing with toys and making rash decisions. This kind of mindset is obtainable by maintaining a general curiosity for life.