Over the course of the semester, the question “What is this about?” has frequently popped up. In fact, that single question pretty much captures the whole theme of the class. With everything we read, we always asked the question “What is this story about?” Since this class is an English class, it only makes sense that we would ask such a question. However, we didn’t only address the most basic aspects of a story, which would be the easiest way to answer this question. Instead, we dared to look beyond the surface level of the text and dive into the meta aspects of each text we read.
Somehow, each text we read matched up with another text. In fact, two of the texts we read this semester were Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and The Importance of Being Earnest. While anyone outside our class would think these were complete opposites, I argue that they are actually very similar. Sure, the story lines are definitely not parallel to each other, but the themes each author discusses are fairly similar. Each story explores the idea of identity and society. In the Alice books, Lewis Carroll uses Alice to show the reader the struggles and the meaning of identity. In my critical essay, I discuss the fact that Alice equates changing sizes with her changing identity. Each time something happens to Alice’s physical appearance, she loses grasp of who she is and her role in society. In other words, this shows that as her surface and outward appearance change, Alice’s opinion of herself changes. The reader especially see’s Alice’s confusion with her identity when the caterpillar asks her “Who are you?” and Alice responds by saying that she “hardly know[s].” In Oscar Wilde’s play, one can see the fact that it is dealing with identities simply because the characters lie about it so much. Relating to the Alice books, the characters in the play are constantly changing their names, in order to change their identity. Each character from the play is extremely superficial. Their surfaces are in fact the only identity they care about. The women in the play only care about their husband’s name being Earnest, while the men only care about their physical beauty. The superficiality of their relationships shows that each character is extremely shallow and identifies themselves according to what society views as correct. This relates to Alice, not because she only cares about appearance, but because she, as the characters from the play, equate outward appearance with identity.
As I stated before, each work we analyzed is connected in some way, other wise we wouldn’t have read some of them. But what did this connection make us do? The fact that each text connects somehow, even in the tiniest way, makes the reader ask questions. In the case of Alice and the characters from Wilde’s play, they make the readers question what the true definition of identity is. The characters from both the novel and the play make the reader question whether their identity is just a surface thing they need or if it’s something rooted deep inside a person.
Even though each novel we read did discuss different things in society, they all have a common theme. This is shown in the two novels discussed previously. The fact that two different authors of two different novels makes me ask, is everything really about the same thing? Are we really only trying to identify ourselves and find our role in this world? This semester has made me ask questions like this over and over and has therefore made me a better reader. Thanks to Professor Schat and to the rest of the class for such an enjoyable, meta semester. 😊