‘Down the Rabbit-Hole’: Part Three

Part Three: Conquering the ‘Nightmare’/ Claiming the Crown

To grow up, the girls must overcome the ‘nightmare’ represented by the tyrannical, false Queen: the instigator of chaos and/or violence. Sally Adair Rigsbee writes that ‘[b]elieving in the reality of the fantasy realm represents a necessary openness to the deeper levels of the psyche that fosters the growth… of the self’.[1] Alice’s and Lucy’s openness to the world around them gives them an imaginative, fantastical space in which they are able to mature by engaging in a conflict that represents a negative part of their psyche. Jacques Lacan explores the significance of the ‘mirror stage as an identification’;[2] a process that establishes the relationship between ‘the organism and its reality’.[3] Narnia and Wonderland, as dreamscape, are this mirror; a place in which the child can openly explore her own identity and create out of it, not simply the ‘I’, but the emotionally mature ‘I’.

In Wonderland the Queen’s sentiment attitude for not getting what she wants (in a trivial matter) is that ‘she’d have everybody executed’ (105) while the White Witch of Narnia turns her subjects into stone if they are disobedient (where disobedience is actually moral and kind acts). Both Queens are powerful, with either the authority, or the magic, to essentially end the life of their subjects for either trivial or immoral reasons. The two heroines’ must develop an ‘I’ that is neither trivial, nor immoral; but composes a responsible, serious, and good-natured adult, removed from this ‘nightmare’ vision. This transition is signified by the crowning of Alice and Lucy; their growth given both emotional and political weight.

In Looking-Glass, upon wearing the crown, Alice decides that ‘it’ll never do for you to be lolling about on the grass like that! Queens have to be dignified, you know.’ (297). She separates herself entirely from the first image we have of Alice in Wonderland, where she ‘was beginning to get very tired of sitting by her sister on the bank’ (11). In conjunction with one another, these moments imply that Alice has become tired of her childhood and has decided to ‘grow up’. Lucy is similarly crowned ‘and her own people called her Queen Lucy the Valiant’ (184). At this stage, there is a significant difference in the ending of Alice’s and Lucy’s journey. Alice crowns herself and shakes the Red Queen with the threat that ‘I’ll shake you into a kitten’ (318) to which she then awakens to discover that ‘it really was a kitten, after all’ (322). In the final pages of Looking-Glass Alice continually refers to her adventure as a ‘dream’; Alice’s journey has been, for the most part an isolated and selfish one… she crowns herself. Her conviction that her experiences are a dream at the stories end suggests that she is perhaps not so imaginatively powerful after all; she certainly doesn’t mature to the same degree as Lucy, who is crowned and loved by ‘her own people’, serving as a ruler, and literally aging. Upon her return, the talk is not of dreams, but a conviction of truth, that they ‘know’ (189) of Narnia and will return. And herein lies the crux of the matter: they go to Narnia; Lucy shares her experiences with her siblings, inviting them into her fantastical world. Alice’s is a selfish dream/story, while Lucy’s is readily available to all children.

[1] Rigsbee, 8:1, 10-11 (10)

[2] Jacques Lacan, ‘The Mirror Stage as Formative of the Function of the I as Revealed in Psychoanalytic Experience’, in Literary Theory: An Anthology, ed. by Julie Rivkin and Michael Ryan, 2nd edn (Oxford: Blackwell Publishing, 2004), pp.441-446 (p.442)

[3] Ibid, p.443

About Rachel Fox

I am currently a PhD candidate at Lancaster University, having completed a BA in English Literature and an MA in Contemporary Literary Studies. My provisional thesis title is: Voicing and Visualising Identity: The Discursive Figure of ‘Woman’ in Contemporary Poetical and Polemical works of Literature arising from Western Asia
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