Alice in Wonderland Political Allusions

In Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass, Carroll uses political allusions to entertain the indirect, adult audiences of the book. Many of the complicated topics and themes contained in the book are much too difficult for the younger, children audiences to understand. As the story is supposed to be a funny, fantastical fairy tale, the primary audience of this story is young children as they are the ones who are generally interested in stories of the sort. However, a common practice in Western Cultures is that children are read fairy tales by their parent, often before bedtime. In many cases, the fairy tales are so simplistic, that parents are often bored while reading them to their children. Carroll used this knowledge to create a fairy tale that mantains its primary audience as being for younger children, yet mixes in enough “more-intricate” story elements to keep these adults reading alongside interested in the tale.

The major example of a story element which corroborates this premise is the King’s Court. While the idea of good and bad is understood by the small children, they are unable to grasp the more complicated political undertone of the section. The novel was published in 1865. The adults who were a reading the book at the time period, would have easily noticed the connections to the the February Revolutions happening in nearby France in which corrupted court systems were used by the king of France to crush out the rebellion. In France, the king would use his power to act as the judge himself, to make sure that his will was always carried out, an exact replica which is done in Alice in Wonderland by the king and queen.

“’Are they in the prisoner’s handwriting?’ asked another of the jurymen. ‘No, they’re not,’ said the White Rabbit, ‘and that’s the queerest thing about it.’ (The jury all looked puzzled.) ‘He must have imitated somebody else’s hand,’ said the King. (The jury all brightened up again.) ‘Please your Majesty,’ said the Knave, ‘I didn’t write it, and they can’t prove I did: there’s no name signed at the end.’ ‘If you didn’t sign it,’ said the King, ‘that only makes the matter worse. You MUST have meant some mischief, or else you’d have signed your name like an honest man.’ There was a general clapping of hands at this: it was the first really clever thing the King had said that day. ‘That PROVES his guilt,’ said the Queen.”

In this example from the book, the king and queen are able to manipulate the truth however they want and no one is able to question them because of their power. This sort of historical allusion would be near impossible for the young children of the time to understand as many of them were not even born during the February Revolutions!

In Through the Looking Glass, the war is during a chess game between Red and White, as opposed to the traditional Black and White. Upon further examination, it turns out that there is actually deeper meaning behind the choice of colours. This is a direct political allusion to yet another series of wars, not so close timewise, but in Carroll’s own home country of England. During the war, the white roses represented the House of York while the red roses represented the House of Lancaster. In the first book, the Queen would often exclaim, “Off with his head” to numerous different characters. This is a clear cut reference to Queen Margaret’s famous quote, *“Off with the crown, and, with the crown, his head.” *The prolonged wars between the two houses vying for power after the 100 year war was characterized by equal matchup and nearly even wins. This is clearly characterized by the fight between the red and white knights during Through the Looking Glass in the quote, *“One Rule seems to be that if one Knight hits another he knocks him off his horse, and if he misses he tumbles off himself.” *This political allusion would be well known to the adult audiences of the book, as they would have a decent understanding of the history of their own nation, but the topic is too advanced to have been commonly taught during the younger grades, the primary audience of Alice in Wonderland. Therefore, the political allusion must be directed towards the older audiences of the book, who would have been educated enough to recognize the historical allusions.

In conclusion, Lewis Carroll definately uses historical allusions in his novels as a means to entertain older audiences. This is clear as the topics of these allusions are complicated enought that they would not be understood by the younger children who are the primary audience simply because they had not yet been educated enough to understand them.