Alice Question #20 ~ Symbolism

by Lewis Carroll

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Alice Question #20 ~ Symbolism

Unread postby DeppInTheHeartOfTexas » Sat Feb 20, 2010 2:39 pm

From Through the Looking Glass, Chapter V, Wool and Water

"Oh, please! There are some scented rushes!" Alice cried in a sudden transport of delight. "There really are--and such beauties!"

"You needn't say 'please' to me about 'em," the Sheep said, without looking up from her knitting: "I didn't put 'em there, and I'm not going to take 'em away."

"No, but I meant--please, may we wait and pick some?" Alice pleaded. "If you don't mind stopping the boat for a minute."

"How am I to stop it?" said the Sheep. "If you leave off rowing, it'll stop of itself."

So the boat was left to drift down the stream as it would, till it glided gently in among the waving rushes. And then the little sleeves were carefully rolled up, and the little arms were plunged in elbow-deep, to get hold of the rushes a good long way down before breaking them off--and for a while Alice forgot all about the Sheep and the knitting, as she bent over the side of the boat, with just the ends of her tangled hair dipping into the water--while with bright eager eyes she caught at one bunch after another of the darling scented rushes.

"I only hope the boat won't tipple over~" she said to herself. "Oh, what a lovely one! Only I couldn't quite reach it." And it certainly did seem a little provoking ("almost as if it happened on purpose," she thought) that, though she managed to pick plenty of beautiful rushes as the boat glided by, there was always a more lovely one that she couldn't reach.

"The prettiest are always further!" she said at last, with a sigh at the obstinacy of the rushes in growing so far off, as, with flushed cheeks and dripping hair and hands, she scrambled back into her place, and began to arrange her new-found treasures.

What mattered it to her just then that the rushes had begun to fade, and to lose all their scent and beauty, from the very moment that she picked them? Even real scented rushes, you know, last only a very little while--and these, being dream-rushes, melted away almost like snow, as they lay in heaps at her feet--but Alice hardly noticed this, there were so many other curious things to think about.


In The Annotated Alice Martin Gardner notes: "It is possible that Carroll thought of these dream-rushes as symbols of his child-friends. The loveliest seem to be the most distant, just out of reach, and, once picked, they quickly fade and lose their scent and beauty. They are, of course, consciously intended symbols of the fleeting, short-lived, hard-to-keep quality of all beauty."

Do you agree with Gardner's assessment? Do you see symbolism in other passages from the stories?
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Re: Alice Question #20 ~ Symbolism

Unread postby nebraska » Sat Feb 20, 2010 3:53 pm

I suppose there is some validity to Gardner's observation about beauty. I think the anticipation is often more fun than the event itself. And many times, once I have possession of something I have been wishing for, I move quickly on to the next desire. But once again, I have no idea if this passage had anything to do with Carroll and his young friends. :headache: The whole sheep/store/boat/knitting episode was quite confusing to me.

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Re: Alice Question #20 ~ Symbolism

Unread postby gemini » Sat Feb 20, 2010 5:07 pm

Gardener speaks of the dream rushes symbolism as fleeting short lived beauty but it makes me think of youth. (Of course there is some similarly between beauty and youth). Youth like beauty is fleeting and he seemed to mourn the loss of the children as children. Sort of as if they would loose interest in him and his stories when they became adults.
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Re: Alice Question #20 ~ Symbolism

Unread postby fansmom » Sat Feb 20, 2010 8:52 pm

DeppInTheHeartOfTexas wrote:In The Annotated Alice Martin Gardner notes: "They are, of course, consciously intended symbols of the fleeting, short-lived, hard-to-keep quality of all beauty."

Do you agree with Gardner's assessment? Do you see symbolism in other passages from the stories?
I don't believe that all beauty is "fleeting, short-lived, hard-to-keep." Aren't Claude Monet's water lilies still as beautiful as when they were painted a century ago? (Alice's rushes made me think of the water lilies, but of course there is art that is ancient and still beautiful.)

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Re: Alice Question #20 ~ Symbolism

Unread postby deppaura » Sat Feb 20, 2010 10:42 pm

Carroll was so "taken" and inspired by Alice. Almost as though he wanted to find a way to immortalize the little girl, keep her forever young, by writing these stories. At the same time he knew her growing into an adult was inevitable. Symbolism of fading beauty.

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Re: Alice Question #20 ~ Symbolism

Unread postby Liz » Sun Feb 21, 2010 1:34 pm

“The loveliest seem to be the most distant, just out of reach, and, once picked, they quickly fade and lose their scent and beauty.”

I think that this is typical in all relationships. Are we all not more attracted to those people or things we can’t have. And then when we acquire what we thought we wanted so badly, it loses its appeal. I think it is human nature. But in Carroll’s case, he wanted Alice to remain a child forever. To be frank, I think that is weird. But maybe the reason is that he knew that was the only way he would have her in his life. Still weird.

I think this quote is of interest:


“but Alice hardly noticed this, there were so many other curious things to think about.”

I wonder if he was bemoaning the fact that Alice was growing up and had lost interest in him & his stories.
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Re: Alice Question #20 ~ Symbolism

Unread postby Liz » Mon Feb 22, 2010 1:03 pm

Can you think of any other uses of symbolism in either of the stories?
You can't judge a book by its cover.

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Re: Alice Question #20 ~ Symbolism

Unread postby nebraska » Mon Feb 22, 2010 6:37 pm

Liz wrote:Can you think of any other uses of symbolism in either of the stories?


Do you mean like Alice drinking the potion to become smaller to get through the door but not remembering to get the key off the table first? Meaning to not put the cart before the horse or something like that?

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Re: Alice Question #20 ~ Symbolism

Unread postby gemini » Mon Feb 22, 2010 7:24 pm

Well the obvious symbolism are the many drug references made popular in the 60s. Personally I would not have taken the White Rabbit as a drug reference without hearing the song and having my peers of the day tell me it was a drug reference. Everything crazy like the queen or mad like the hatter or reversed like the tweedels all are like a hallucinogenic drug trip.
My problem is that a kid's wild imagination and a psychedelic dream are also symbolic in many ways. I think the drug references in the Beatle songs were there but I don't think they were there in Carrolls day and he was not that ahead of his time.
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Re: Alice Question #20 ~ Symbolism

Unread postby DeppInTheHeartOfTexas » Mon Feb 22, 2010 9:18 pm

What about the sheep? That has been bugging me, why a sheep?
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Re: Alice Question #20 ~ Symbolism

Unread postby Liz » Wed Feb 24, 2010 6:23 pm

nebraska wrote:
Liz wrote:Can you think of any other uses of symbolism in either of the stories?


Do you mean like Alice drinking the potion to become smaller to get through the door but not remembering to get the key off the table first? Meaning to not put the cart before the horse or something like that?

Works for me, nebraska.



I don’t know if this counts, but what about how the three words in quotes (quotes of which I believe he put there) from the 2nd to last stanza of the prefatory poem to TTLG are the last 3 words of the end of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland?

Last sentence of AAIW:


and how she would feel with all their simple sorrows, and find a pleasure in all their simple joys, remembering her own child-life, and the happy summer days.

2nd to last stanza in the poem:

And, though the shadow of a sigh
May tremble through the story;
For “happy summer days” gone by.


He seems to keep harping on grieving the end of her childhood.



And he used the word “pleasance” in the last line of that poem:


And vanish'd summer glory--
It shall not touch, with breath of bale,
The pleasance of our fairy-tale.


Pleasance is Alice Liddell’s middle name.



DITHOT, I can't stop thinking about the sheep in CATCF. :yikes:
You can't judge a book by its cover.

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Re: Alice Question #20 ~ Symbolism

Unread postby nebraska » Wed Feb 24, 2010 7:20 pm

Liz wrote:
nebraska wrote:
Liz wrote:Can you think of any other uses of symbolism in either of the stories?


Do you mean like Alice drinking the potion to become smaller to get through the door but not remembering to get the key off the table first? Meaning to not put the cart before the horse or something like that?

Works for me, nebraska.



I don’t know if this counts, but what about how the three words in quotes (quotes of which I believe he put there) from the 2nd to last stanza of the prefatory poem to TTLG are the last 3 words of the end of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland?

Last sentence of AAIW:


and how she would feel with all their simple sorrows, and find a pleasure in all their simple joys, remembering her own child-life, and the happy summer days.

2nd to last stanza in the poem:

And, though the shadow of a sigh
May tremble through the story;
For “happy summer days” gone by.


He seems to keep harping on grieving the end of her childhood.



And he used the word “pleasance” in the last line of that poem:


And vanish'd summer glory--
It shall not touch, with breath of bale,
The pleasance of our fairy-tale.


Pleasance is Alice Liddell’s middle name.



DITHOT, I can't stop thinking about the sheep in CATCF. :yikes:


I googled sheep symbolism in general and I looked at my Annotated Alice book and didn't come up with much except that sheep give us many products - meat, milk, wool - and thus somehow can serve as a symbol of the population as a whole.

Didn't the white queen suddenly transform into the sheep? Maybe it was as simple as needing a white animal.

:headache:

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Re: Alice Question #20 ~ Symbolism

Unread postby Buster » Wed Feb 24, 2010 8:16 pm

I think that sheep often represent dithering "wooly-minded" characters. And it seems to me that the White Queen did bleat a bit... ;-)

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Re: Alice Question #20 ~ Symbolism

Unread postby DeppInTheHeartOfTexas » Wed Feb 24, 2010 10:58 pm

:lol:
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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