‘Down the Rabbit-Hole’: Alice’s and Lucy’s Imaginative Journeys in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe

Part One: Setting Off

The first chapter of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland is entitled ‘Down the Rabbit-Hole’[1] and it is this premise of an impossible journey made by a young child that recurs consistently within children’s fiction into the present day. I will consider the process of the child’s fantastical journey in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, by C. S. Lewis, and Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass, by Lewis Carroll (although they are distinctly different stories, Alice remains at their centre). There is ‘ambivalence about the relationship between adult and childish selves’[2] and it is this dichotomy between the childish and the mature self that accentuates the journey where ‘belief in the reality of a fantasy place is a crucial issue in the developmental process of a child’.[3] Specifically I will consider, in brief, Lucy’s and Alice’s entrance into an imaginatively rich world; progressing from ‘dream’, to  ‘nightmare’ whereby their overcoming of this nightmare results in the maturation of the self where they, quite literally, become Queen.

Peter Hunt asks ‘[a]re the texts [children’s literature] we are talking about of childhood, for childhood, or by children?’[4] Children’s literature is a complex topic, as both the construct of ‘child’ and ‘literature’ are ‘infinitely varied concept[s]’.[5] However, the imaginative journey that both girls make signifies their agency within the stories that are, metaphorically at least, written by the children. In the poem that preludes the text of Wonderland Carroll writes that:

Alice! a childish story take,

And with a gentle hand

Lay it where Childhood’s dreams are twined (10)

The inference of childhood’s dreams is key to the entire construction of both Alice’s and Lucy’s journeys as children, unlike adults, ‘can enter their own dreams and make these dreams come true’.[6] The story, or journey, that Alice is about to participate in, according to this poem, is a construct made within childhood’s dreams; an imagined reality that allows for the Alice’s, and Lucy’s, escape from boredom.

Boredom leads to exploration and curiosity (‘[c]uriouser and curiouser!’ (21) Alice proclaims), resulting in the discovery of Alice’s and Lucy’s fantastical lands of Wonderland and Narnia. But there is more to it than simply curiosity; it is the fact that they are ‘gifted in imagination and, therefore, readily accept a fantasy realm as a valid reality’.[7] In Lion, though ‘a little frightened… [Lucy is]… inquisitive and excited as well’.[8] This inquisitive nature of both Lucy and Alice; their ready acceptance to follow the faun with a red scarf, or the white rabbit with a waistcoat and pocket watch, is what shapes the story constructed within and by their ‘Childhood’s dream’ (10). Lucy’s initial excitement and fear anticipates the potential of her dream; the desired fantastical world, and the nightmare (of chaos, of evil, and of betrayal) which she, and Alice, must negotiate in order to mature; and so Lucy and Alice set forth on their journeys.

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[1] Lewis Carroll, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass and What Alice Found There (London: Vintage, 2007), p.11

[2] Kimberly Reynolds, Children’s Literature in the 1890s and the 1990s (UK: Northcote House, 1994)

[3] Sally Adair Rigsbee, ‘Fantasy Places and Imaginative Belief: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe and The Princess and the Goblin’, in Children’s Literature Association Quarterly, 8:1 (Spring 1983), 10-11(10)

[4] Peter Hunt, ‘Iinstruction and Delight’, in Children’s Literature: Approaches and Territories, ed. by Janet Maybin and Nicola J. Watson (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2009), pp.12-26 (p.13)

[5] Peter Hunt, Children’s Literature (Oxford and Massachusetts: Blackwell Publishers, 2001), p.6

[6] Amy Christine Billone, ‘The  Boy Who Lived: From  Carroll’s Alice and Barrie’s Peter Pan to Rowling’s Harry Potter’, in Children’s Literature, 32 (2004) 178-202 (p.191)

[7] Rigsbee, 8:1, 10-11(10)

[8] C. S. Lewis, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (USA: Harper Collins, 1978), p.8

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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