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The Legacy of Alice in Wonderland

The plot of Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland is both confusing and simple: a child, in what is said to be a dream, encounters and creates havoc in an alternate world. However, the meaning of the story has changed drastically over time. While some works (ex. Tim Burton’s Through the Looking Glass or The Matrix) use the original story as a metaphor for fighting social and governmental oppression, many others, from the recurrent use of the name Alice for mentally unstable/institutionalized characters (ex. Twilight) to the discussion of drug/alcohol issues (Even in music, ex. Shinedown’s Her Name is Alice) see in the tale a darker message. In both cases, these interpretations at first glance seem far removed from the story of a sleeping child. How have the connotations of the story changed over time, and are these changes reflective of the work’s audience, the cynicism of the era the audience lives in, both, neither, etc.? Alternatively, since we know that fighting social norms was once considered a sign of insanity, are the various connotations actually conflicting, or are they in any way interconnected? In short, it would be interesting to take a closer look at the various legacies of Alice in Wonderland, dark and positive, and determine which have persisted over time and why. What do they say about the work, and what do they say about us?

  • I wonder if the book and movie Still Alice would fit here? It's probably a coincidence that the protagonist's name is Alice, but from what I understand, Alzheimer's can make you feel like you're falling down a rabbit hole. Whoever writes the topic might also want to look into Finding Alice, author Melody Carlson. It's a Christian-based novel but not overtly so. The protagonist, raised in a fundamentalist home, develops schizophrenia in college. She uses allusions to Alice in Wonderland, as well as appropriate descriptions, metaphors, and so on while going through the journey of mental illness. – Stephanie M. 4 years ago
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  • I actually had "finding Alice" in mind while writing this topic but couldn't remember the title and author, so indeed it would definitely be something to think about. Also, another work that the writer could look into is Resident Evil, though I'm not very familiar with it, since many of the elements (character called Alice, security system called Red Queen) reference the work [Note: This is about the movie, I'm not sure how different it is from the games]. I don't know if this falls into the first category of fighting oppression (I thing the games are about fighting a corporation), the second, or if it opens up new avenues of interpretation/legacies, but it could add to the writer's analysis to look into it. – Rina Arsen 4 years ago
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  • The video games "American McGee's Alice" and "Alice: Madness Returns" are excellent samples to study when exploring the mentally unstable Alice route. – KennethC 4 years ago
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  • There's also a short TV series called Alice very ''dark'' that maybe can help you or TV series ''Once Upon A Time in Wonderland''. The connotations have change with the contexts and the different theories that come up everyday thanks to the historical criticism. Regarding to fighting social norms as a sign of insanity, I'm not very sure if I have understood your question, but personally believe that either before nor now is interconnected to insanity as social norms are created to destroy our freedom as we can read in Foucault and his bio-politics or Betham's panopticon. Could you reformulate you question? – barbarapetidier 4 years ago
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  • @barbarapetidier I would, but I'm not sure which part you are confused about. When I speak of fighting social norms as being a sign of insanity, I'm talking about the 18th, 19th and 20th century (depending on the country we are talking about) when people who defied social norms were often ostracized, arrested or locked up in psychiatric hospitals (take for instance prostitutes, homosexual people, radicals, sexually active women, etc.). Standing outside social boundaries or pushing against them used to be treated as a medical/mental condition. I'm pretty sure Foucault does talk about it, so I think you might understand what I'm referring to? He's the one who points out that even today, social deviance is medicalized. In any case, just let me know how you feel I should change my question and I will – Rina Arsen 4 years ago
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