Believing Impossible Things

Both Alice and Dorothy are young girls who go to strange lands very different from their own, but they react very differently. Although Alice entered Wonderland more intentionally than Dorothy entered Oz, Alice is much less willing to accept the strange things around her than Dorothy. For example when Alice talks about time and age with the Red Queen: ” ‘I ca’n’t believe that!’ said Alice.     ‘Ca’n’t you?’ the Queen said in a pitying tone. ‘Try again: draw a long breath, and shut your eyes.’         Alice laughed. ‘There’s no use trying,’ she said: ‘one ca’n’t believe impossible things’ ” (Carroll 174). She draws the line and won’t believe the Queen. Dorothy, on the other hand, tends to accept what people tell her (with the exception of being told that she herself is a sorceress). For instance, when Dorothy talks to the Scarecrow about food: ” ‘I am never hungry,’ he said; ‘and it is a lucky thing that I am not. For my mouth is only painted, and if I should cut a hole in it so I could eat, the straw I am stuffed with would come out, and that would spoil the shape of my head,’     Dorothy saw at once that this was true, so she only nodded and went on eating her bread” (Baum 44, early chapter 4). Dorothy seems more willing to believe the impossible. In a very dream-like manner she does not consider the world of Oz to be especially strange, just a little different from her own. Perhaps Dorothy’s sense of reality is more based in current experience while Alice’s is more based on past knowledge. Another idea that could account for this is who’s talking and what authority the protagonist (and/or author) considers them to have. The Scarecrow represents farmers and is working with Dorothy and is trustworthy. The Red Queen, who is literally on the other team, is more ambiguous. She’s an authority because she’s a queen, but she’s also a little chess piece and a bit of a troublemaker in her conversations with Alice (although I’m sure she would blame Alice). Alice is typically talking to royalty and people who have their own agendas while Dorothy befriends people about as quickly as she meets them. Perhaps Oz is an easier reality to accept than Wonderland?

3 thoughts on “Believing Impossible Things

  1. I agree with most of what you say here.  When you say that Dorothy and Alice react differently, that is partly true, but they have some similarities too.  Alice has more authority to act the way she does because of the world she is in and is right in not accepting her surroundings as much as Alice does.  Wonderland is far more bizarre and nonsensical than Oz is.  Dorothy is reasonably more accepting than Alice because characters in Oz do not try to deceive Dorothy and are honest and straight up with her, whereas in Wonderland, everybody twists Alice’s words and they are hardly honest and helpful.  Where Alice and Dorothy’s reactions are similar is in their longing to go back “home.”  Though they enter the other worlds differently, they spend their time in the worlds trying to get out of them; they do not really want to be there.  The entire moral of the fairy tale “The Wizard of Oz” is that there is “no place like home” and everything one could want is right in front of them.  Alice spends her whole time trying to become Queen so she can checkmate the Red King and wake up from her dream and go home.

  2. I agree that their reactions are partly results of both their different locations and the people they meet. After all, Wonderland is far more famous for being nonsensical than Oz, and the people Dorothy meets are generally more obviously on her side than Alice’s acquaintances.

    However, I also think the characters of Dorothy and Alice themselves also cause Alice to more often question what she is told. Alice seems to be an upper class girl who is fairly worldly and intelligent. She has lived a somewhat strict life with rules and teachers, and so she believes everywhere and everyone should also have the common sense that she has learned. Meanwhile, Dorothy has lived in isolation, far from anyone except her aunt and uncle. She is much more of a common person, having had far less education and probably a less strict upbringing. Because of her lack of knowledge of her own world, she is willing to accept the strange features of Oz and believe what people tell her. In this way, she is similar to regular, working class people who have not had the upper-class upbringing that Alice has had, who are less picky and more trusting by nature.

  3. I think the differences between Alice and Dorothy are also a product of the diverging forms of literature. As we discussed in class, Through the Looking Glass is much more of a coming of age novel. Although Alice stays the same age through the novel, the story revolves around maturing through her journey and learning more about the world around her. In most coming of age novels, this is done through the constant questioning of societal values, as Alice does. The Wizard of Oz, however, is an American fairytale, where the journey of the protagonist ends with a moral learned. It doesn’t serve the literature to have Dorothy question the customs of Oz because the moral of the story is to not take for granted a loving family, no matter the allures of a different land.

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