Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, written by Lewis Carroll, takes place in Victorian England. In the Victorian Era, women were expected to engage in specific set gender stereotypes and were controlled by the norms of a conservative and traditional society. These rules were expected to be followed as a tactic to limit a feminist uprising. This story follows Alice, a seven-year-old girl who repeatedly breaks out of these gender norms by creating the fictional world of Wonderland. This world allows her to journey on a life of freedom and creativity as the burden of being a female has been lifted. This allows her to be independent and make her own decisions without the influence of another man’s opinions. The author, Lewis Carroll, produced a novel that lends a view into a woman’s life without societal restrictions. By analyzing this novel through a feminist lens, Carroll frequently mocks and degrades the capabilities of a woman.
As the novel begins, Alice travels down a rabbit hole into Wonderland, this becomes her first look into the new reality that she has created. She is unaware of what awaits her on the other side but is willing to take an adventure in order to gain independence. Falling down the rabbit hole represents her farewell to the norms that society has placed on the shoulders of women. Alice begins a journey that not many women would be confident to embark on. This sets aside an example that women can take charge and while rejecting to be objectified by the gender norms set in place. Attending this journey alone demonstrates the reality that every woman has the ability to be independent without the presence of a man. This enables Alice to make necessary decisions by herself, all while maintaining her newfound self-support.
During Alice’s adventure, she encounters the Mad Hatter at an “unbirthday” party. The Mad Hatter is portrayed to be impolite and enjoys making Alice frustrated. the Mad Hatter frequently ignores Alice’s remarks and gives the main spotlight to himself. With a feminists lens, an easy argument to cultivate is that the Mad Hatter is mocking the stereotypical female traits displayed by society. The Mad Hatter is shown constantly attempting to fix the rabbit’s using different condiments such as butter and jelly. This can be seen as a woman’s constant need to fix objects around them. For generations, women have been viewed as damsels in distress, constantly needing the help and strength of a man to support/save them. However, Alice is able to take care of herself and gain independence throughout her journey in Wonderland. This goes against the misogynistic societal portrayal of women and instead, offers proof that women are able to support and depend on themselves for safety. The Mad Hatter is also seen to be extremely impulsive and disorganized. He often jumps from topic to topic in a conversation and is unable to concentrate on things at hand. This can be used as a depiction of society’s view on a woman’s inability to stay focused and their impulsiveness to do things in a split second, rather than thoroughly planning ahead.
As the novel progresses, Alice encounters a caterpillar who is shown to be smoking hookah. The pair exchange a brief conversation before he asks her what side of the mushroom she wishes to eat. “What size do you want to be…One side will make you grow taller, and the other side will make you grow shorter.” (Alice in Wonderland, 1951). This could into the expansive argument that women are eternally battling body dysmorphia by the expectations weighed on women. Women have been conformed to despise their appearance, and are constantly searching for new ways, usually with damaging products, to alter themselves in an effort to change their perspective of themselves in society. This harmful aspect of society where appearance matters most creates a double standard between men and women; women are expected to be thin and rid of flaws, while men are able to dominate without expectations of their appearance. Lewis Carroll demonstrates this societal standard throughout the novel by continuously altering Alice’s appearance in order to fit her into the expectations that are set by each encounter.
As the novel progresses towards the end, Alice encounters the Queen of Hearts. The Queen of Hearts is the antagonist of the novel and is depicted as having too much power. This results in violent and frightening behaviours. By narrating the Queen in this way, Lewis Carroll brings her belief that men should be in power due to their ability to stay calm in the face of rough experiences. This degrades a woman’s innate ability to maintain peace and control in positions of power. Carroll humiliates the way women control power by narrating the Queen to be wild and out of control, creating nothing but chaos. This is hypocritical as historical male leaders have led both World War I and World War II. When put into motion, women are capable of handling power in a peaceful manner; women are capable of creating an uprising to demand equality and peace, all while taking a male-dominated role in society.
In the end, Alice returns back to Victorian society after being chased out of Wonderland by the Queen and her minions. This ultimately proves that women are afraid to break the conception of gender norms as they are afraid of the consequences of an uprising. However, Alice is in fact able to break through the restrictions of society. She was able to make it through Wonderland on her own and managed to make decisions without the influence of others. Alice flourishes into a young, independent woman, and takes these newfound traits back to England. Wonderland is only a figment of Alice’s imagination, created to visualize the breakthrough of the wall between the ever prominent gender rules in society.