I chose Alice In Wonderland for 3 reasons: It is brief, I’ve never read it, and I’ve been curious ever since the summer why it keeps appearing on ITP reading lists.
The themes as I see them:
- curiosity without caution “In another moment down went Alice after it, never once considering how in the world she was to get out again.”
- free association/dreaming
- labyrinths and traps – ending up in a place lost and without escape
- Unretractable horizons: “For, you see, so many out-of-the-way things had happened lately, that Alice had begun to think that very few things indeed were really impossible. There seemed to be no use in waiting” page 5 ….. “Alice had got so much into the way of expecting nothing but out-of-the-way things to happen, that it seemed quite dull and stupid for life to go on in the common way.”
- loneliness/solitude: “this curious child was very fond of pretending to be two people.” (page 7) OR having enough “person” inside for two people (“‘But it’s no use now,’ thought poor Alice, ‘to pretend to be two people! Why, there’s hardly enough of me left to make ONE respectable person!'”
- unexpected escape routes (such as the sea of tears)
- homophones/homonyms used as stand-ins, causing unexpected turns in conversation and thought
- uncertainty in solid/permanent identity – ‘I can’t explain myself, I’m afraid, sir’ said Alice, ‘because I’m not myself, you see.’ ‘I don’t see,’ said the Caterpillar. ‘I’m afraid I can’t put it more clearly,’ Alice replied very politely, ‘for I can’t understand it myself to begin with; and being so many different sizes in a day is very confusing.’ ‘It isn’t,’ said the Caterpillar. ‘Well, perhaps you haven’t found it so yet,’ said Alice; ‘but when you have to turn into a chrysalis–you will some day, you know–and then after that into a butterfly, I should think you’ll feel it a little queer, won’t you?’
- the conflict between reason and absurdity – (Alice, in response to the Hatter’s question, “Why is a raven like a writing-desk?”) “I think you might do something better with the time,” she said, “than wasting it in asking riddles that have no answers.” (Alice as a voice of reason and limitation against the unlimited and sometimes bizarre reaches of the imagination.)
- Unclear limits between waking and dreaming
I haven’t read critical analyses of Alice In Wonderland, but I knew it is considered to be of the absurdist lit genre, which isn’t always considered to have deep or profound meaning. Why is this book recommended for ITP? I think because as a whole, the themes address a lot of aspects of the creative process – both the tools and hindrances artists or other creators come across both when conceptualizing and making.