Advice from a Caterpillar

One of the episodes that I found the most interesting was” Advice from a caterpillar”. What stood out to me the most was the image of a caterpillar sitting on top of a mushroom smoking a hookah.  I heard a rumor once when I was on vacation in Europe that Lewis Carroll was taking hallucinogens while he wrote Alice in Wonderland. I have no basis to believe that’s true but can at least understand why someone may think that based on that image alone. I normally am not a big fan of fantasy novels however I enjoyed reading that episode immensely. In the book Alice seems to be very opinionated and a bit of a know-it all like many 7 year olds her age.  What made this scene important was that the caterpillar seemed to disagree with almost everything Alice says.  She finds him very annoying but yet continues speaking to him.

He starts off the episode by smoking his hookah and completely ignoring her.  By working with children I’ve realized that they must have your attention and despise indifference. I feel that his purpose was to let Alice know that she is not the most important thing happening at the moment. An example of this is when he says “You!!!……..Who are you?”.   It causes her to be on her guard and she is amazed how the caterpillar is responding to her. What I found puzzling was the content of the poems that the caterpillar was asking her to recite for the purpose of jogging her memory.

This episode fit the other ones in the way that it continues to put Alice in strange scenarios and requires her to think on her feet and answer questions from characters she would normally not want to talk to.  I feel that Lewis Carroll did a great job of creating a realistic child because even though she is uncomfortable in many of the episodes she still is engaged in conversation and wants the character to believe her.  Another character the challenges her is the pigeon who responds to her with “A likely story indeed” when Alice tells the Pigeon that she is a little girl.  The characters seem to not trust Alice for the most part and again is a challenge to what small children hold value to.

I feel that the lesson of this episode is that it points out although she feels like she knows everything she actually does not. She is very confused because of all the changes she is going through like changing in size but it seems silly that she asks characters that she doesn’t know to tell her who she is. She finishes the episode not sure whether she will keep changing but feeling better that she is at her right size again.  What makes it comical though is that she sees a garden that requires her to be shorter and quickly alters her size yet again.

The Encounter with Mock Turtle in Lewis Carroll’s “Alice in Wonderland”

John Tenniel`s original (1865) illustration for Lewis Carroll`s "Alice in Wonderland".  Alice sitting between Gryphon and Mock Turtle.

John Tenniel`s original (1865) illustration for Lewis Carroll`s “Alice in Wonderland”. Alice sitting between Gryphon and Mock Turtle.

It has taken me 57 years to finally read Alice In Wonderland; if I had waited another 57 years to do so I would not have felt a loss.  Taken on face value without delving into the irony and parody the author may have intended, it reads like the mad wanderings of someone using too many hallucinogens.

Pick a passage, any passage, and you will find yourself thoroughly perplexed and asking, “What’s the point?”  Take for example the scene dealing with the history of the Mock Turtle, which is probably one of the more lucid scenes in the story.  The Queen of Hearts, literally a playing card with human qualities, tells Alice that she must hear the Mock Turtle’s history.  The Queen escorts Alice to a Gryphon, a creature with the head and wings of an eagle and the body of a lion, and directs the Gryphon to take Alice to see the turtle.

The history of Mock Turtle (who looks mostly like a turtle but appears to have the head, rear hooves, and tail of a calf) is sketchy at best.  This melancholy, tearful creature begins his story with the revelation that once, he was a real turtle.  He then continues on to tell Alice that when he was little he went to school in the sea.  He states, “The master was an old Turtle – we used to call him Tortoise,” at which point, Alice interrupts him to ask, “Why did you call him Tortoise, if he wasn’t one?”  To which Mock Turtle angrily replied, “We called him Tortoise because he taught us.  Really you are very dull!”  This exchange is in keeping with what seems to be an underlying theme throughout Alice’s time in Wonderland.  Alice is continually questioning or correcting the inhabitants of Wonderland based upon her perceptions, formed in her world, or her own faulty knowledge.  The implication being that Alice, or any of us, is often too ready to apply her standards to others when in fact, there may be more than one way of doing things and her way of seeing or doing may not be the only way.

The remainder of the chapter, and the beginning of the next, carry on in much the same way with Mock Turtle relating his school days and how to perform the Lobster-Quadrille (a dance).  Numerous plays on words ensue and the overall madness contained in Alice in Wonderland continues unabated.  Certainly there is a moral to this story if one chooses to look hard enough, for example: the need to keep an open mind regarding our perceptions as outlined in the paragraph above.  But, as a form of entertainment, I stand by my opening remarks.  Perhaps this story was considered entertaining fancy for the Victorian reader; if so, it has not stood the test of time.

Advice From a Caterpillar

Chapter V of Lewis Carrol’s  Alice in Wonderland introduces Alice to an odd Caterpillar smoking hookah while resting on top of a giant mushroom. During the initial encounter the two characters stare at each other in silence before the Caterpillar asks Alice who she is.Thus far, Alice had been experiencing an array of events that for that moment she could not explain who she was to the Caterpillar. The Caterpillar’s attitude and annoyance towards Alice’s inability to explain herself made her uncomfortable and as she turns to leave the Caterpillar calls her back to recite a poem, “You are old, Father William”. He knew that Alice had been trying to recite this poem since she had reached Wonderland but she had forgotten the lines. The forgetfulness and inability to define who she is allows Alice to realize that she doesn’t know who she is anymore. Her confusion and feelings of despair further intensify when the Caterpillar appears to be reading her mind. Up to this point of the scene Alice had been experiencing a dilemma trying to become her true height once again. It appears to be that every time she eats something she either got taller or got shorter. The Caterpillar had knowledge of Alice’s struggle before she could even ask him, he stated “One side will make you grow taller, the other side will make you grow shorter” (40). The Caterpillar had answered her unspoken question. She then becomes even more confused and desperate fearing that she has lost ownership of her own thoughts.

The next scene of this chapter introduces Alice to a Pigeon that accuses her of being a serpent. Alice claims that she eats eggs, and the Pigeon argues that Alice must be none other than a serpent as this egg eating trait is that of a serpent. Logically, the Pigeon concludes that Alice is truly a serpent.

The two characters of this episode, the Caterpillar and the Pigeon, question Alice’s being. While the Caterpillar offers guidance to Alice the Pigeon further accuses Alice. In both circumstances Alice found trouble defending herself and explaining who she was. She had trouble remembering a poem, and had trouble remembering who she really was after all of the changes she had undergone in such a short period of time. This episode is particularly significant because it further shows the effects of Wonderland on Alice’s brain.

(Image taken from http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/5/53/Alice_05a-1116×1492.jpg)

Falling Down the Rabbit Hole

The rabbit hole scene is chapter is really when the reader is introduced to Wonderland and Alice. This is perhaps one of the most famous parts of the story, because we as readers begin to understand what kind of world Alice is about to enter, and understand how she is going to react to it. I found this part very interesting because it is where we get the phrase”down the rabbit hole”, which is used whenever things get out of hand,  or someone has gone off the deep end. This is exactly what happens to ALice once she enters the hole, she has found herself in a place where everything is off the deep end and coming out of left field.

During her fall, Alice questions many things, leading the reader to understand that they will not be getting much information from her internal dialogue. Readers are also given a look at how she is going to handle the world she is soon about to enter.

Some things that confused me where how long she was falling. It could of just seemed long to her because she is a young child, and ten minutes could feel like five days. I was also concerned on how she was able to see the things that we falling with her, was it from the sunlight above the hole? And how fast was she falling? Little things like that were what caused questions for me.

This is the first of the episodes that Alice experiences. In it, nothing and no one questions her. She asks questions about what is going on, but they are all rhetorical. There is some back story given about Alice’s home life as well, but none of that really has a major part in the rest of the book.

Alice in Wonderland: A Mad Tea-Party

Upon reading Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland, I found the famous Mad Tea-Party scene (Chapter 7) to be particularly memorable, interesting and puzzling. More specifically, I was intrigued by the silliness and ludicrousness presented in the witty banter which overwhelms the incident. This led me to I asked myself: why is the Mad Tea-Party is one of the most famous episodes in the book? And what is Carroll trying to communicate through the event?

The chapter opens with Alice approaching “a [large] table set out under a tree in front of the house,” where the “March Hare and the Hatter were having tea…all crowded together” (52). The duo are described as “using it [the Dormouse] as a cushion,” as he sat between them “fast asleep” (52). Automatically, the episode’s description illustrates and introduces an unusual and peculiar scene, which only grows in it’s strangeness as the bizarre gathering progresses. The lunacy of the party, which seems to exist outside the order of time and space, is even further emphasized as the reader is already aware of the “madness” of the soirée’s hosts.

The entertainers are disagreeable and unwelcoming when Alice arrives, insisting that there’s “No room! No room!” at the nearly empty and vast table (52). Although, to justify and persuade them to allow her to join, she employs logic: “There’s plenty of room!” (52). When she takes a seat, the March Hare offers her wine, but, ironically enough, there is none. The “uncivil” and confusing conversation continues, as the Mad Hatter and Hare seek to contradict Alice at every chance, constantly correcting her with riddling arguments of strange logic. For instance:

“I do,” Alice hastily replied, “at leastat least I mean what I saythat’s the same thing, you know.”

A Mad Tea-Party, original illustration. Drawn by John Tenniel. From Wikipedia Images.

A Mad Tea-Party, original illustration. Drawn by John Tenniel. From Wikipedia Images.

“Not the same thing a bit!” said the Hatter. “Why, you might was well say that ‘I see what I eat’ is the same thing as ‘I eat what I see’!”

Accordingly, the pair certainly serve as some of the most argumentative creatures/characters that Alice meets in Wonderland. They appear to be intentionally behaving, with scheming purpose, to drive Alice into madness. Or, on the other hand, perhaps they are simply attempting to test her sanity. Nevertheless, their games don’t accomplish either, as Alice grows more confident in her sensibility and reasonability. Consequently, Alice, due to frustration and “great disgust,” resolves to leave: “At any rate I’ll never go there again!…It’s the stupidest tea-party I ever was in all my life!” (58).

The convoluted and absurd remarks of the March Hare and Mad Hatter demonstrate Carroll’s talent for creating humorous word games and perplexing logic puzzles. In turn, the illogical conversation functions to comment on the ambiguity of language–revealing inconsistency of sense and nonsense in words (and in life). However, the pair’s ridiculous lunacy and irrationality don’t seem to be presented with a negative connotation but, instead, are presented as being almost freeing and comical. Related to this, the language games serve to highlight the imaginativeness and unpredictability of the fantastical world of Wonderland. With this in mind, Carroll implies that the orderly principles which govern Alice’s world (time, logic, rationality, etc.) are just as arbitrary/nonsensical as the Hatter’s and Hare’s commentaries and, by extension, existence. In conclusion, Carroll communicates, through his use of clever riddles and puns, significant themes of the novel (time, madness, etc.) that ridicule the notions (such as time and reason) in which society takes so seriously. As a result, Carroll conveys, particularly in the episode of the Mad Tea-Party, that these concepts restrain and limit curiosity, the imagination, and the human experience.

The Pool of Tears

In the episode, The Pool of Tears, we can get a better look at Alice’s personality and how she responds to life situations. When she first starts to cry and loses her own sanity, we can tell that she is still a child and responds to situations in an immature manor. She also becomes distracted by things, which also can show her age. When the rabbit comes along, it’s as if she forgets she was crying enough tears for a river. When she falls into the river that is when she is aware that she had been crying again. She then gets distracted again when she meets with the mouse. Talking to the mouse she becomes aware that she has a home because she reflects on her cat Dinah. What puzzles me about this episode is that she does not deal with fear that in this mystical land where animals can talk. Its like the norm to her almost and she does not question it. Another puzzling part is that she knows things and I am not sure how she comes to certain conclusions. An example of that would be when she grows to nine feet tall and then the rabbit gives her a fan and children gloves and she shrinks down. She knows automatically that it is the fan that contributes to her declining height. How does she conclude that it is the fan and not her own self or the children gloves. I do not understand where her knowledge comes from. It does seem to fit in the episodes around it because she sees the bunny a bit in the episode before but he disappears and he reappears again. Even though it may not make sense in some aspects, the point was not overlooked. They needed this episode to get a further look into the wonderland that Alice is in and how she responds to her surroundings. We can see everything from a child’s position when dealing with Alice.

“The Mock Turtle’s Story” – Alice in Wonderland

In Alice in Wonderland, the main character is led by the Gryphon to hear the Mock Turtle’s story. Alice is indigent that all of the characters in Wonderland order her around, but she follows Gryphon because she is curious about the Mock Turtle. The Queen says that “he shall tell you his history”, and indeed, the Mock Turtle seems to be representing the stereotypical sad storyteller (71). Lewis Carroll describes him as “sitting sad and lonely on a little ledge of rock” and “sighing as if his heart would break” (72). Alice immediately feels sorry for him, but this pity becomes ironic when Gryphon says that “[i]t’s all his fancy, that: he hasn’t got no sorrow, you know” (72).

The Mock Turtle. Original illustration, drawn by John Tenniel. Via Wikipedia Images.

This episode in the story seems to serve no obvious purpose. It does not continue the basic storyline of the Duchess and the Queen and the other characters involved in the trial. In fact, the chapter and a half that deals with the Mock Turtle only seems to be a momentary lull in the chaos of the royal court. However, the Mock Turtle himself seems to draw the reader’s attention to the ironic, or even satirical elements in the story.

The first indication of this comes in the form of his name and the illustrations that accompany him. By calling him the “Mock Turtle”, Carroll draws our attention to the fact that this creature is not supposed to be a real turtle. He is not supposed to be a real turtle in the same way that he is not supposed to be a sad storyteller. Carroll toys with our expectations of what a turtle or a storyteller should be and uses these expectations to create elements of irony in the story. Mock Turtle has the head of a mouse-like animal, with  the shell and flippers of a turtle. His feet are those of a goat and tail is that of a donkey. “Mock” Turtle is not what the reader would expect of a realistic turtle, which acts as a cue to the reader that other things in this scene are also not as expected.

Mock Turtle’s sad history is also not what one is led to expect. For instance, the description of him on the rock, weeping, seems to indicate that his story will be sad. However, this is not true. His “history” is full of tales of school and dancing – the only sad element is the beginning, when he states that “once” he was “a real Turtle” (72). Alice “could not help thinking that there must be more to come, so she sat still and said nothing”. However, his statement is not followed by any explanation of his transformation, but is instead followed by memories. His reminisces recall an old man with many stories to tell who just goes on and on with no true point. Instead of the anticipated dramatic storyteller, Alice listens to ramblings that do not fulfill hers and reader’s expectations of what a dramatic storyteller should tell.

By looking at this short episode in the book as an ironic or even satirical portrayal of a character type, other characters begin to make sense as well (such as the Queen). The Mock Turtle shows that Carroll uses our traditional expectations of character type in order to “mock” or poke fun at these representations.

Trifles

 

Trifles

 

                After I read the play Trifles written by Susan Glaspell, it was very clear that theme of sexist attitudes men had for women was very evident in the play.  The play Trifles has to do with a man named John Wright who was murdered in his own house possibly by his wife Minnie Wright.  His body is discovered the day before by a farmer named Lewis Hale who was coming over to discuss sharing a phone party line with him even though John had not seem interested in doing so in the past. The play consists of the town sheriff and his wife, the farmer and his wife, and the account attorney walking in the house the day after.  The men go up the stairs discussing possible motives, while the women appropriately stay downstairs in the kitchen area.  However the women by being in the kitchen seem to gain a lot of insight in the case that the men are unaware of.

Although I am not sure exactly when this play was written I do know that Susan lived from 1876 to 1948. This was a time period where woman were not thought to be in the same category as men. The dialogue in the play is able to tell us a lot of the view men had for women.  In fact the title Trifles is meant to show that women were concerned with things that weren’t thought of as important.  One example of this is when Lewis Hale says “Well women are used to worrying about trifles” when referring to the mess the fruit preserves made (pg 280).  A continuation of this is when the County Attorney says “Not much of a house cleaner, would you say ladies?” when referring to the messy kitchen to Mrs. Hale and Mrs. Peters (pg280). The views that are seen in this play are not unheard of in our times now but the play seems to insinuate that men would say things like that without thinking twice. A line that shows that the women in the play feel that women are treated unjustly is when Mrs. Hale says “I’d hate to have men coming into my kitchen, snooping around and criticizing” pg. 281). Yet another line that was just as important is towards the end of the play when he says “No Peters, it’s all perfectly clear except a reason for doing. But you know juries when it comes to women” (pg. 286). This line shows how the Attorney feels that people will show automatic sympathy towards a women.

Overall I enjoyed this play and felt that it was able to show us a lot in such a short play.

The Importance of Being Earnest

The Importance of Being Earnest

In the movie version of The Importance of Being Earnest, the clip of the scene titled “Cigarette Case” works because of the chemistry between the two characters Jack Worthing, played by Colin Firth and Algernon Montcrief played by Rupert Everette. Colin Firth plays Jack appropriately but perhaps plays the character as a bit more high strung than in the play.  An example of this is when Jack is visibly becoming upset and bothered when Algernon starts to question him. In the play it does not say for certain how his facial expression should be and I thought they both could have played it playful while in the movie version, one character does and the other doesn’t.  Rupert Everette however seems to play Algernon pretty faithfully to the play and seems to have fun as he pokes holes at Jack’s claims that he doesn’t know anyone named Cecily. Colin Firth’s Jack seems to be uncomfortable but also a bit more passive as well.

The biggest difference of the movie and the play is that in the movie everything is played out a bit more.  The facial expressions that Rupert Everette makes when he is questioning Jack add life to the scene.  The famous dialog of the cigarette banter has not changed with the exception of the gasps of the now present women. In the play Jack is talking to Algernon while in Algernon’s flat while he is preparing to have his aunt Lady Bracknell and his cousin Gweondolen Fairfax over for cucumber sandwiches.  However actions such Jack attempting to eat the sandwiches that Arganon made for his aunt did change and in the play Algernon offered Jack bread and butter instead while trying to shoo him away after a point.

The director made the choices he did in order add a sex appeal to the movie.  The women in the background give the notion that they are perhaps friends of both characters or are women that they have both slept with before. I feel that the actors did a good job and definitely were given direction on body language and how to take the scene. It leads me to believe that this wasn’t supposed to be an exact interpretation of the play and is not surprising because movies in general don’t have the benefit of a live stage for excitement therefore they have to make up with it with set design and music. The set is beautiful with a lot of vibrant colors like red and gold that appealing to the eye. While piano music is lightly heard in the background making it sound like a mild version of the new Sherlock Holmes movies.  Overall I enjoyed it and think they did a rather good job of creating the scene in the movie.

The Importance of being Earnest./Who is your father?

In the scene “Who is your father,” the characters in the movie are the renowned actress Dame Judy Dench playing Lady Bracknell and the popular actor Colin Firth as Mr. Worthing.  It seems as if both of them are having a heated conversation in the living room. where Lady Bracknell, who was going with the notion that Mr. Worthing’s father was rich and famous appears concerned that he does not have a clue as to who his father was; but after some very rigorous questioning about who his father was, she was able to deduce that he actually was found in a leather hand bag by a Mr. Thomas Cardew, a kind hearted soul who had named him Worthing. In the written play, Ms. Prism the governess admits to making a snafu in judgment by putting her manuscript in the bassinette instead of the black leather bag and vice versa.  In essence, Mr. Worthing was not a person of repute. As such he would not be fit to marry Gwendolen. Nor was his residence in a fashionable area of London. This revelation made her look up at Mr.Worthing in consternation and she immediately shredded the piece of paper in her hand into a thousand pieces in annoyance. The look on her face is a clear give away that she knows more than she is letting on.

importance of being earnest

This image was taken from Google.

earnest

This image was taken from Google.

She was so angry by this revelation from Mr. Worthing that she asks him that if indeed he wants to marry Gwendolen, then “It would be in his best interest to acquire some relations.” She acted as if she was astonished to hear such revelation about his parentage. In the written version there is also, a Dr. Chasuble, and Algernon. Ms. Prism is quite crushed when confronted with her mistake, and it is Lady Bracknell who found herself in the unenviable position to explain Jack’s parentage to all of them there. While in the movie it is just Lady Bracknell and Jack present.

In this scene “Who is your father,?” Lady Bracknell is simply concerned that whoever marries her daughter, should at least be rich enough and must come from some upper class parentage, so that Gwendolen would still continue in the life style she grew up with.