Alice Question #8 ~ WHO are You?

by Lewis Carroll

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Alice Question #8 ~ WHO are You?

Unread postby Liz » Mon Feb 08, 2010 10:42 am

Who Are You?

[youtube]l_FZVD5lsAw[/youtube]


The Caterpillar and Alice looked at each other in silence: at last the Caterpillar took the hookah out of its mouth, and addressed her in a languid, sleepy voice.

“Who are you?” said the Caterpillar.

This was not an encouraging opening for a conversation. Alice replied rather shyly, “I—I hardly know, sir, just at present—at least I know who I was when I got up this morning, but I think I must have been changed several times since then.”

“What do you mean by that?” said the Caterpillar sternly. “Explain yourself.”

“I cannot 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?”
“Not a bit,” said the Caterpillar.

“Well, perhaps your feelings may be different,” said Alice; “all I know is, it would feel very queer to me.”

“You?” said the Caterpillar contemptuously. “Who are you?”

Which brought them back again to the beginning of the conversation. Alice felt a little irritated at the Caterpillar's making such very short remarks, and she drew herself up and said, very gravely, “I think you ought to tell me who you are, first.”

“Why?” said the Caterpillar.



Chapter V, Note 2:

Fred Madden, IN Jabberwocky (Summer/Autumn 1988), calls attention to a chapter titled “Popular Follies of Great Cities,” in Charles Mackay’s classic work, Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds (1841). Mackay tells of various catch phrases which sprang up suddenly in London. One such phrase was “Who are you,” spoken with emphasis on the first and last words. It appeared suddenly, “like a mushroom….one day it was unheard, unknown, uninvented; the next day it pervaded London….Every new comer into an alehouse tap room was asked unceremoniously ‘Who are you?’”

In “Who Are You: A Reply” (Jabberwocky, Winter/Spring 1990), John Clark points out that Carroll owned Mackay’s book and probably heard the question shouted at him when it was a short-lived London rage.


In Through the Looking Glass, Chapter III:

"This must be the wood," she said thoughtfully to herself, "where things have no names, I wonder what'll become of my name when I go in? I shouldn't like to lose it at all -- because they'd have to give me another, and it would be almost certain to be an ugly one. But then the fun would be, trying to find the creature that had got my old name! That's just like the advertisements, you know, when people lose dogs -- "answers to the name of "Dash": had on a brass collar' -- just fancy calling everything you met "Alice,' till one of them answered! Only they wouldn't answer at all, if they were wise."

She was rambling on in this way when she reached the wood: it looked very cool and shady. "Well, at any rate it's a great comfort," she said as she stepped under the trees, "after being so hot, to get into the -- into the -- into what?" she went on, rather surprised at not being able to think of the word. "I mean to get under the -- under the -- under this, you know!" putting her hand on the trunk of the tree. "What does it call itself? I do believe it's got no name -- why, to be sure it hasn't!"

She stood silent for a minute, thinking: then she suddenly began again. "Then it really has happened, after all! And now, who am I? I will remember, if I can! I'm determined to do it!" But being determined didn't help her much, and all she could say, after a great deal of puzzling, was, "L, I know it begins with L!"

Just then a Fawn came wandering by: it looked at Alice with its large eyes, but didn't seem at all frightened. "Here then! Here then!" Alice said, as she held out her hand and tried to stroke it: but it only started back a little, and then stood looking at her again.

"What do you call yourself?" the Fawn said at last. Such a soft sweet voice it had!

"I wish I knew!" thought poor Alice. She answered, rather sadly; Nothing, just now."

"Think again," it said: "that wo'n't do."

Alice thought, but nothing came of it. "Please, would you tell me what you call yourself?" she said timidly. "I think that might help a little."


Note 17 from Ch. III:

In Language and Lewis Carroll (Mouton, 1970), Robert Sutherland points out that the theme of forgetting one’s name is common in Carroll’s writings. “Who are you?” the Caterpillar asks Alice, and she is too confused to answer; the Red Queen admonishes Alice, “Remember who your are!”; the man in white paper tells her, “So young a child ought to know where she’s going, even if she doesn’t know her name”; the White Queen is so frightened by thunder that she forgets her name.

Do we need labels to know who we are?

Do you think Carroll was just capitalizing on or poking fun at the short lived “who are you?” craze, like maybe Laugh In or Saturday Night Live might? Or do you think he had issues with labels?

WHO are you? I really want to know. :hatterspin:
You can't judge a book by its cover.

The only thing that matters is the ending. It's the most important part of the story.

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Re: Alice Question #8 ~ WHO are You?

Unread postby nebraska » Mon Feb 08, 2010 3:30 pm

Having read the Annotated Alice I believe a great deal of things in AIW were fads of the day, either games or songs or popular phrases or referred to contemporary but not necessarily famous people. Because so much of it had references to things that were common then but aren't known today, I believe we often fail to appreciate how truly clever the story and its author were.

I think life is easier if we have a label (name). It makes conversation so much simpler. Otherwise, if I had no name, people might have refer to me by the much longer and more difficult description of the gray haired lady with the dirty glasses. :biglaugh:

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Re: Alice Question #8 ~ WHO are You?

Unread postby fansmom » Mon Feb 08, 2010 4:09 pm

Funny that a man who is most famous under a pseudonym might have issues with labels.

(That superbowl halftime show made me reminisce. I first saw The Who in 1974 or '75. I'm too old to remember! :lol:)

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Re: Alice Question #8 ~ WHO are You?

Unread postby gemini » Mon Feb 08, 2010 6:49 pm

Yes, a name is only a label. Many try to live up to the name they are given and some change them. I have heard many times that the name you receive helps form you in some way, but really who we are is what we feel we are on the inside and the label is only for convenience, as Nebraska says.

Yes fansmom, reminiscing about the Who makes me think of "Happy Jack" and "Pinball Wizard". Guess that's showing my age again.
As for Carroll, Nebraska makes a good point about him using the fads of the day and he likes conversations to go in circles.
"If there are no dogs in Heaven, then when I die I want to go where they went." Will Rogers

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Re: Alice Question #8 ~ WHO are You?

Unread postby deppaura » Mon Feb 08, 2010 10:54 pm

I just LOVE the WHO and how clever they were to choose that name for their group!! Like, the HUH? The challenges to Alice are very tricky. Some in fun, some problematic. A real growing experience presented in a somewhat nightmarish manner! I have been very impressed with her presence of mind. For me, just falling through the hole would have done me in. I guess having a name keeps an order to things. A way to identify one person from another. Of course in most cases we have no choice in the matter. Wonder how many of us are really happy with the name we were given?

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Re: Alice Question #8 ~ WHO are You?

Unread postby Liz » Mon Feb 08, 2010 11:49 pm

I’m reminded of Darryl, Darryl and Darryl….also a reference to pop culture of the time (what was that? The 80s?). But how could one Darryl be distinguished from another?

The WHO was a fad of 70s era. And I made use of them in this tidbit. I have to say, fansmom, that I had no idea that they were playing the Super Bowl until the day of. I had already decided to precede this question with this video, but it was going to be asked a little later in the discussion. I moved it up because I had to take advantage of their presence in yesterday’s game…..as a tie in to pop culture.

I think this happens a lot today (mostly in commercials). But I do believe that many novelists take advantage of references to pop culture. Maybe Carroll was ahead of his time.
You can't judge a book by its cover.

The only thing that matters is the ending. It's the most important part of the story.

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Re: Alice Question #8 ~ WHO are You?

Unread postby Linda Lee » Wed Feb 10, 2010 1:59 pm

I think this question has more to do with "Who" you are than your name. We are all many things. We have many influences that shape our character and make us "who" we are.
Our names are convenient identifiers of the person we are speaking to or about but they don't necessarily define us.

“What's in a name? That which we call a rose By any other name would smell as sweet” :lilyrose:
William Shakespeare
Serenity is not freedom from the storm but peace within the storm. ~ Unknown

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Re: Alice Question #8 ~ WHO are You?

Unread postby DeppInTheHeartOfTexas » Wed Feb 10, 2010 4:19 pm

We seem to have a need as a culture to define who we are, or who you are so then I will know how to relate to you. It's easy to get stuck in a mindset based on such thoughts and ideas, prejudice being one offspring that comes to mind. Labels can also limit how we see ourselves. I conducted a survey as a part of an assignment for a college sociology class. The professor divided us up into groups and assigned us to survey certain age groups of the population using the statement "I am..." followed by a blank line to be filled in by the person taking the survey. I think there may have been 10-15 blank lines. My age group was my parents generation. The women in the survey all answered the question, at least the first 7 lines or so, by defining themselves in relation to others...such as "I am Mrs. John Doe, I am Kathy's mother, I am Jane Doe." None of them answered with anything such as "I am creative, or I am someone who loves music". They were using their societal labels to define themselves. Interestingly enough, the males generally answered in terms of their profession, hobbies and personality traits. Just to put a face on the time, this was in the early 70's.

I was a huge Who fan back in the 60's and 70's and saw them in concert several times!
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Re: Alice Question #8 ~ WHO are You?

Unread postby Buster » Wed Feb 10, 2010 11:45 pm

Having just introduced my son to "Tommy* the WHO have loomed large in our lives.

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Re: Alice Question #8 ~ WHO are You?

Unread postby DeppInTheHeartOfTexas » Wed Feb 10, 2010 11:46 pm

I assume his reaction was... :yahoo:
Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming -

Wow! What a ride!

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Re: Alice Question #8 ~ WHO are You?

Unread postby Liz » Thu Feb 11, 2010 1:58 am

Well, I'm happy to say that I sat on a couch watching the half-time show in between my DH and my son. And my son was singing along and shared that he's liked the WHO for a while now. Needless to say, I was quite pleased. :cool:

But back to the question at hand...

I agree with Linda Lee that it was probably more about "who" we are deep inside. I think that Carroll was probably deep enough to go there.

DITHOT, that survey is quite telling about our parents' generation. None of my peers would have answered that way. We would have talked about our personalities, our interests, our feelings, our values. It would be interesting to see a study comparing the answers from the different generations from the 50s on to see how they compared.

Speaking of which, no one answered my last question.....Who are you? I really want to know.
You can't judge a book by its cover.

The only thing that matters is the ending. It's the most important part of the story.

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Re: Alice Question #8 ~ WHO are You?

Unread postby gemini » Thu Feb 11, 2010 6:24 pm

Liz wrote:Speaking of which, no one answered my last question.....Who are you? I really want to know.

Do you mean who we really are as individuals?
That is sort of hard to answer without writing a bio. I don't think many can give a short answer that would qualify. As Nebraska said, I probably look to strangers as the little old lady with glasses. I would have to tell you how I think and feel about many things for you to know me. Politics, religion, where I like to live and visit, what I read, whom I love, what do I like on television, or to listen to. My career or jobs I've worked, my hobbies, everything that has shaped me into who I am. I had better stick to little old lady with glasses. :biggrin:
"If there are no dogs in Heaven, then when I die I want to go where they went." Will Rogers



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Re: Alice Question #8 ~ WHO are You?

Unread postby fansmom » Thu Feb 11, 2010 7:30 pm

Liz wrote:Speaking of which, no one answered my last question.....Who are you? I really want to know.
I am someone who carries a tattered clipping of a photo of the Who in my wallet. Seriously. It's so old that probably only I can recognize it.

Oh, and the severed head of CJS is on my keychain. Know me, know my purse.

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Re: Alice Question #8 ~ WHO are You?

Unread postby Liz » Fri Feb 12, 2010 12:21 am

What the heck happened to my post? I could have sworn I hit submit, but it's not here. So let's try this again.....


Well, somehow, I don’t view you as a little old lady with glasses, gemini. And I’ve seen pictures of nebraska, and I don’t view her as the "grey haired lady with dirty glasses" either.

But just to clarify, my question is about how you see yourself, personally. What are you made up of? I’m not asking your real name. So no worries there.

And I will start with myself. I am extremely (actually too) analytical. I’m sure that’s not a surprise. I’m a glass half empty person. I’m open-minded, romantic, sensitive, emotional, affectionate, shy, and I like to shock. I’m driven by love, artistic or creative pursuits and a sense of fairness. And I’m a type A personality. I hate housework & filing. BUT I’m also an “aging” (I won’t say old) woman with glasses. :biggrin:

Fansmom, I think that is so cool that you have kept that picture. You are obviously a WHO fan. And I have a few pictures of JD lying around myself.
You can't judge a book by its cover.

The only thing that matters is the ending. It's the most important part of the story.

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Re: Alice Question #8 ~ WHO are You?

Unread postby Buster » Fri Feb 12, 2010 3:18 am

Mechanic, artist, reader. Parent, musician, and major screw up. Always looking for new ways to think, and grateful for a venue.


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