To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

Birthday

Happy Birthday Harper Lee! Today in celebration of her birthday I am reviewing her only novel, To Kill a Mockingbird. I will admit I enjoyed it but not loved this in high school, but I still managed to see why it was wonderful and a classic. Perhaps it was just being the 15 year old, or maybe it is now I am  older (it always changes most things), but I can see it differently now, similarly, but different. One of those complex emotions.

Harper Lee’s full name is Nelle Harper Lee, she was the youngest of five and was raised in Alabama. Her only book was To Kill a Mockingbird, she did have a second but it was never published. Famously Lee has never extensively discussed her book or any insights about its meaning and the popularity, and has stayed out of the public eye. Growing up Lee was friends with author Truman Capote and together they wrote an article in the New Yorker which Capote then turned into In Cold Blood, his nonfiction masterpiece. It is said that Atticus in her novel is based on her father who was also a lawyer and who once defended two black men accused of murdering a white shopkeeper. She has though played down any real correlations despite there being similarities, however Capote once said he thinks that certain things she wrote were true and being neighbours and friends he initially used similar aspects of their childhood in his own work.

Published: May 23rd 2006
Goodreads badgePublisher: Harper Perennial Modern Classics
Pages: 324
Format: Book
Genre: Adult Fiction
★   ★   ★   ★   – 4 Stars

Tomboy Scout Finch comes of age in a small Alabama town during a crisis in 1935. She admires her father Atticus, how he deals with issues of racism, injustice, intolerance and bigotry, his courage and his love.

To Kill a Mockingbird was finished in 1959 and it won a Pulitzer Prize award and became a best seller. It soon become a classic novel and has become influential, if not a powerful message about race, inequality, and human decency. It is not only its story, but the characters that people admire and idolise, the key figure being Atticus Finch, father of the narrator, Scout. Naturally is also became campaigned against to be removed from classrooms and libraries. We can’t even look down on the past as the list of banned books still rings high and true today for the same idiotic reasons.

Atticus Finch, who is an attorney, and all round upstanding man, is always listed on the top characters of all time, or most influential characters, or most idolised characters, and really, it is probably true. To Kill a Mockingbird is a classic for a reason, and Lee deals with intense issues in this unjust world with one man trying to do the right thing. As a character he presents unwavering morality, strength, and honour, having an impact not only in the books pages, but with the readers as well. He was a hero not for super powers or for saving the world, he was a hero for doing the right thing.

To Kill a Mockingbird opens with a look into history with a Finch ancestor fleeing religious intolerance in England, settling in Alabama. The main story takes place a few years after the Great Depression. The narrator is Scout Finch who is retelling her story of when she was young and the events that unfolded around her in her town of Maycomb. Initially we see nothing about the racial drama that unfolds later on; instead Lee introduces us to Scout, her brother Jemm, and their friend Dill. The trio enjoy their summer but are fascinated, yet terrified, of “Boo” Radley, a reclusive neighbour. This introduction about Boo and the children go on but it isn’t long before the tentative relationship between the children and Boo is replaced by the appointment of Atticus to defend Tom Robinson, a black man accused of raping a white woman.

The descriptions in the book and excellent, the way Lee describes the heat, the people, the town, the naivety of children and the insights they provide, and also the way she portrays characters relationships to one another is well done. She doesn’t shy away from the facts and the details of the town life, the trial, or the social messages and reaction; that is where some power comes from. And her language in doing so makes it what it is as much as the events. Her language is deep and the lessons you take from this book are timeless.

One of my absolute favourite aspects of this novel is the fact that Atticus lets his children call him Atticus instead of father. This is the purest and simplest way to demonstrate him as man, Atticus does it as a sign of respect as he sees every one as equal, despite their age, class, race or authority. Not sure I would do the same, but it is very telling nonetheless. The title of the book comes from Atticus, who tells Jemm it is a sin to kill a Mockingbird. Scout questions this and is told that “Mockingbirds don’t do one thing except make music for us to enjoy. They don’t eat up people’s gardens, don’t nest in corn cribs, they don’t do one thing but sing their hearts out for us. That’s why it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird.”

What I found interesting in this book is Lee’s wonderful way of telling this story. By using Scout, a young girl with very little knowledge of the world, who is always looking for answers and explanations, to tell this story, you get great conversations and relationships between characters. Certainly the best are those with Atticus and Scout, though her own opinions of her father are from the view of a child she has some very insightful words, and not only about him. She uses people she knows to discuss the issues around her, more so since the trial began as the people in the town are less than sympathetic, and they also cannot understand Atticus’ desire to defend Tom.

Scout is feisty and is willing to fight for her father which is admirable and a wonderful representation of her relationship to Atticus, but also of her own personality. While Atticus can defend himself, though in more moral and less violent manners, a wonderful scene is when the three children manage to essentially shame a lynch mob by making them see things from Atticus’ perspective. The wonderful quotes that can be taken from this novel are vast, but “You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view…until you climb into his skin and walk around in it” is a key theme among the many.

What this trial demonstrates is how divided the world was, there is a coloured balcony above the courtroom, away from the main area, and the tone, interactions, and outcomes are certainly surprising. Perhaps this is because reading this in 21st century Australia has a separate impact, but that doesn’t stop my knowledge of what it was like to some degree. Even though Lee has denied any strong autobiographical connection, the story of Tom is not a single fictional case. But even though she writes about this injustice and this ill treatment for a man accused, Lee has added so much more into this narrative than it is also about so much more than the colour of his skin essentially, it is about growing up, learning about the world, class and society, and basically loss of innocence.

The trial is detailed and well planned out; Lee keeps it poignant and fiery, while still upholding all the virtues Atticus has in a town that has already condemned Tom. We go through testimonials and cross examinations, Atticus does his job well. Tom’s point of view is not forgotten, we see his sides of things, and you do know right away of his innocence, but that is nothing in the eyes of the law it seems. That is where your investment goes, into the anticipation and hope that this super hero Atticus Finch, with all his deep wisdom and goodness, can help save Tom for a crime of simple being black.

The outcome of the case has consequences for everyone and the victims are far spread. I won’t reveal the ending, there is a lot in it that speaks more volumes than I could convey, but Lee does a wonderful job. She takes us through this journey and this emotional turmoil about these characters but she almost adds some justice at the end, but in a way she doesn’t. Scout pulls this together wonderfully in her voice and as I said, I think that makes so much difference compared to if it were a simple third person, or another characters point of view, you need her innocence, her loss of innocence, and her perspective telling this story. She uses all the wisdom her father has given her and by the end of the book you know it has sunk in.

There is a movie version on this book, with Gregory Pack as Atticus. It is pretty amazing. It would have to be for this book I think. Made in 1962 it is in black and white but do not let that deter you, it manages to bring all the emotion and the drama from the book and make it just as moving and important as the book. It is reported that Lee visited the set during filming and she did do a lot of interviews to support the film. The film was as popular as the book, with eight Oscar nominations and four awards including Best Actor for Gregory Peck.

The quotes from this book are fantastic, I need to list some, for the pure fact they are insightful and so very true, but there are so many more.

“I wanted you to see what real courage is, instead of getting the idea that courage is a man with a gun in his hand. It’s when you know you’re licked before you begin, but you begin anyway and see it through no matter what.”

“Atticus, he was real nice.”
“Most people are, Scout, when you finally see them.”

“Miss Jean Louise, stand up. Your father’s passin’.”

“Before I can live with other folks I’ve got to live with myself.”

So it is today that we wish Harper Lee a very happy birthday, I thank her for this book,  and while To Kill a Mockingbird will give you no useful advice on killing Mockingbirds, it will teach you not to judge a man by the colour of his skin.

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Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë

Birthday

Today we wish
Charlotte Brontë happy birthday, she would have been the ripe old age of 197 so we are honouring this with a look at Jane Eyre.
Brontë was born on April 21 1816 and there were six Brontë’s altogether, five daughters and a brother. Charlotte was one of the three Brontë sisters who tried their hand at writing, and set forth the future where I forever get names mixed up. When I was younger I could never remember if Jane Eyre or Charlotte Brontë was the name of the book (I blame Jane Austen for adding to this confusion, but I am in part thankful for the other Brontë sisters for making me remember there was multiple Brontë’s) But that was teenage me, adult me read this book and was able to see Brontë has encapsulated rather well the life and thoughts of Jane.

It is interesting to see who gets remember from the family and for why. I must say I always forget about dear Anne, who had works published like her sisters, yet she does not seem to be as remembered. The sad thing about the Brontë family is that out of the six children, three died within ten months of one another. This was after the two eldest girls Maria and Elizabeth did not make it to adulthood. After that tragedy brother Branwell and sisters Emily and Anne all passed away, they were only in their late 20s or early 30s at the time.

Charlotte had Jane Eyre published in 1847, two years before the death or her siblings. What I found interesting about Brontë when I first was introduced to her was that she wrote Jane Eyre under the pen name Currer Bell. You don’t get many people using pen names these days, though I can name exceptions. But there is also not as much need these days, certainly not for the simple fact that a woman was writing a book. This was not her only pen name she had others as well, as did her sisters. Charlotte did reveal hers later on though, apparently as rumours spread the sister’s works were written by the same person.

Published: February 4th 2003
Goodreads badgePublisher: Penguin
Pages: 507
Format: Book
Genre: Literature
★   ★   ★  – 3 Stars

Orphaned into the household of her Aunt Reed at Gateshead, subject to the cruel regime at Lowood charity school, Jane Eyre nonetheless emerges unbroken in spirit and integrity. 
She takes up the post of governess at Thornfield, falls in love with Mr. Rochester, and discovers the impediment to their lawful marriage in a story that transcends melodrama to portray a woman’s passionate search for a wider and richer life than Victorian society traditionally allowed.

The novel is written as a first person autobiography of a young girl through her years at school and to her older years working as a governess. Jane tells her story from her child years where she lived with her aunt and cousins and was abused, her education at Lowood school, her work as a teacher in the same school, and her move to become a governess at Thornfield Hall; all with the social commentary, emotional reactions, and themes of family, religion, forgiveness, and gender relations woven in-between.

I didn’t love this book and think it was amazing, but I enjoyed it and I can see how everyone says how powerful it is. People say being forced to read Jane Eyre is the worst way to be introduced to it, and really appreciate it. I didn’t study this in school, I studied it at University, so technically that was by choice. And I enjoyed all, well most, books I had to study so that can’t be why I don’t seem to adore it. Perhaps a reread will be needed to give it more appreciation, who knows.

Jane Eyre has also been classed as a romance novel and I do not see this at all. It is a realism novel and what little romance in this novel, is barely romance. What it is is a weird relationship between Jane and Rochester that has a strange affection and romance about it, but I still wouldn’t classify it as a romance novel. Besides, the ending seems like Brontë had to find a way to finish it with the conclusion she wanted, despite the peculiarness of it.

Jane writes, “Most true is it that ‘beauty is in the eye of the gazer.’ My master’s colourless, olive face, square, massive brow, broad and jetty eyebrows, deep eyes, strong features, firm, grim mouth, — all energy, decision, will, — were not beautiful, according to rule; but they were more than beautiful to me”. For Jane, Rochester had an effect on her in a different way, his features were full of interest, an interest that overcame her.

I won’t be too harsh, they do have a good relationship, it is honest and classy and proper. It is a relationship about who you are as a person rather than the idea of you or what you look like. There is a line in there that says “I am not an angel, and I will not be one till I die: I will be myself”, and that is what these characters are: they are themselves. That is why I find this a realism novel, it is a snippet of Jane’s life and who she meets and what she does, all the thoughts and feeling of a diary entry with Jane’s knowledge that people are reading it. She is writing her story for us, and that is more wonderfully grand than romantic in my mind.

Anyone who has read The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde and the early sequels can see an excellent discussion about the ending of Jane Eyre, along with the fact Fforde can confuse the life out of you and what you thought you knew about Jane Eyre. He makes you doubt your own memories of the book, that is part of its brilliance, but he also addresses an excellent explanation for the end of this book, filling in the gaps of the mystery and, magically I suppose, part of the ending, which to me felt like a deus ex machina without the presence of a deity. But I do understand how it was supposed to be powerful and “romantic” but it just was weird.

What I found remarkable when I first read this book was that Brontë/Jane addresses the reader in her work. Jane is writing her story and she is writing it as if people are reading it (are they not?) but I remember thinking how at the time of publication that it must have been different, or perhaps reading at that time was different and that acknowledging your reader was normal, however I have found it in few others to see this possible. To give it credit, there are some amazing quotes that can be taken from this novel, the one that I always remember is the first line of the last chapter, won’t tell, big spoiler, however there are others, a favourite was always “I would always rather be happy than dignified”.

As a character and love interest Rochester isn’t the most handsome of people, this is brought up through the novel, about his looks. This I think holds a lot because of how Jane and Rochester’s relationship develops from her arrival to Thornfield. She sees him as a person, she is never smitten on his looks, and she is there for her job. I particularly liked Jane’s first meeting of Rochester, the way they meet gives nothing about their positions held, their duty to one another, or at least her to him. Jane never said he is unattractive however she says say of their first encounter “I felt no fear of him, and but little shyness.  Had he been a handsome, heroic-looking young gentleman, I should not have dared to stand thus questioning him against his will, and offering my services unasked”. He even asks her later if he is hideous and she tells him “Very, sir: you always were, you know”. This simple act of Brontë’s shows the kind of person Jane is very well, she is strong, honest,  and independent of course, but she is also not afraid to speak what she thinks, and yet not in an obnoxious and forward manner either.

Jane narration is very descriptive; she has an excellent turn of phrase about her environment and the people she meets. This helps you create a rounded image of where Jane is at all the stages described in her life, as well as the people she interacts with. And of course must remember she narrates her whole life, the stories of her life with her aunt, and at school are a little bit confronting and painful, also a bit emotionally and confronting, but they are her memories, it was her life and that makes it easier to read, she is telling her story, and being a first person narration lets Brontë get away with giving her character a hard life. I didn’t intend on making this just about Jane and Rochester, there are so many more characters and stories she tells, but in the end I suppose it does come down to the pair of them. But I want you to know there are other characters and stories in jane’s life that make her who she is and influence her life. I may need another review one day to cover them, but for now we fell into the Jane/Rochester trap.

So it is on this day we say happy birthday Charlotte Brontë once more, thank you for Jane Eyre, it is a great book, people have loved it, I’m sure there are those out there who did not, but there is no mistaking it is a classic. We are here for the review but also for Charlotte, for the tough life she had losing all her siblings but she powered on, she kept writing and she has instilled herself in our minds, with characters that hold power and influence in the messages she was promoting, however intentional they were.

Waiting for Godot by Samuel Beckett

Birthday

Happy Birthday Samuel Beckett!

In honour of Mr Beckett’s birthday I am reviewing one of his famous works, Waiting for Godot which it itself turned 60 this year. Premiering January 5 1953, Beckett’s play has gone on to become extremely popular, highly debated, and widely interpreted by many. I first read this in 2009 and since then I have adored it. I could read it over and over, and I could watch it being performed all day long. I do not know what it is but there is something in its absurdity that is so engaging and appealling. I loved its obscurity, I loved the fact it goes around in a circle, and I love the meaning and details and messages hidden through it. How people can find this play boring is beyond me.

Published: January 5th 2006
Goodreads badgePublisher: Faber and Faber
Pages: 87
Format: Book
Genre: Play
★   ★   ★   ★   ★  – 5 Stars

“Nothing happens, nobody comes, nobody goes, it’s awful?” Estragon’s complaint, uttered in the first act of “Waiting for Godot”, is the playwright’s sly joke at the expense of his own play – or rather at the expense of those in the audience who expect theatre always to consist of events progressing in an apparently purposeful and logical manner towards a decisive climax. In those terms, “Waiting for Godot” – which has been famously described as a play in which “nothing happens, twice”- scarcely seems recognizable as theatre at all. As the great English critic wrote “Waiting for Godot jettisons everything by which we recognize theatre. It arrives at the custom-house, as it were, with no luggage, no passport, and nothing to declare; yet it gets through, as might a pilgrim from Mars.”

Waiting for Godot is a play, rather on the absurd side, that tells the story of two men, Vladimir and Estragon. We are introduced to these characters as waiting by a tree, for what for we know not. The pair muses the notion that there’s “Nothing to be done”, the implication that nothing is a thing that must be done, and we then go on to watch the pair do it. The cover of this play descibes it as a tragicomedy in two acts, and it is both tragic and comedic in all aspects. The comedy comes from the characters interactions, the dialogue, the mumbling, the circular conversations, the passersby – they are the comedy. And as far as I am concerned the tragedy aspects are the exact same things.

We get our first mention of Godot after Estragon says they should leave – ‘We can’t’ says Vladimir, ‘we’re waiting for Godot’. And thus the cycle begins. The waiting is filled with discussions about religion, hunger, sleeping, hat exchange, and the option of suicide – just to see what happens. The waiting is also interupted by the arrival of visitors through the play, these visitors do little to help the men in their mental assurences about their purpose, past, or Godot, and as a reader you too start to realise that perhaps like Wonderland, every one is mad here. These passerbys help to reveal slightly more about why Vladimir and Estragon are waiting for Godot, but the majority of the time they have their own interests and obscurities to contend with.

To some degree this story is hard to describe, you do have to read it to understand it completely without giving a completely plot breakdown, even then I can’t assure you’ll understand it. But it is well worth it, it gets you thinking, but you also are not entirely sure what about. It’s great. This play has been voted the most significant English language play in the 20th century and I don’t disagree. I know I am not exactly across the ins and outs of what the best of the best, most influential and socially criticising literature works are, but I know that others do, and when you read something you love, that has been acclaimed and loved for 60 years, than who am I to argue? I simply read it, and decided whether I liked it or not. Isn’t that all we can do with any story.

I know people like to think of people like Beckett and Kafka as being some sort of obscurist, high class, meaningful literature that cannot be enjoyed by everyone, but I think they are wrong. People are not so daft that they would not be able to take soemthing away from reading Beckett or Kafka. Whatever the intention and messages woven into these kinds of stories are meaningful, and are often good reflections on ironies and social behaviour, but what you take from any story is going to differ the person beside you, and even in a simple novel people are not always in touch with author intensions to the letter, yet people find their own ideas to take from it.

There are versions of this play being performed on YouTube if you care to see it played out for you, it can give the discussions and the scenes a lot more when you see them being performed. It also can have a greater impact I find. This play is certainly one that stays with you and I will admit, a small laugh escaped me when I say it referenced in a Jasper Fforde book. Good to know Mr Beckett is not being forgotten, happy birthday.

Through the Looking-Glass (#2) by Lewis Carroll

Published: June 25th 1998
Goodreads badgePublisher: Oxford University Press
Pages: 133
Format: Book
Genre: Fantasy/Literature
★   ★   ★   ★   ★  – 5 Stars

Nothing is quite what it seems once Alice journeys through the looking-glass, and Dodgson’s wit is infectious as he explores concepts of mirror imagery, time running backward, and strategies of chess-all wrapped up in the exploits of a spirited young girl who parries with the Red Queen, Tweedledee and Tweedledum, and other unlikely characters.

Since we did Wonderland of course we had to do the sequel. I do not really have any preference between the two, there are favourite moments in both. I think the problem is Wonderland is much more well known, and the parts that  have been borrowed from Looking-Glass are mistaken for being in Wonderland which is a shame. This second Alice book is set a few years after the Wonderland adventures; Alice looks older and Dinah has grown and has kittens of her own. Through the Looking-Glass takes Alice into another strange land that begins when she walks through the mirror into Looking-glass House.

Unlike Wonderland there is a lot more structure to the world.
The absurdities and irrationalities remain, but the land is set out like a chess board, and the characters Alice meets are players on the board. When Alice meets the Red Queen she gives Alice and the readers a summary of what is going to happen through the rest of the book. Since the world is divided into squares she tells us that at the Seventh Square Alice will meet the Knight, and Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum at the fourth. You do tend to forget that it is a chess game as you read but the rules of the game are woven throughout. Alice is given the position of the pawn and therefore is only allowed one square at a time. The goal, like chess, is to get to the other side unharmed.

The way Carroll has constructed the Looking-Glass world is amazing and there has been a lot of thought put into this to replicate the game. This book also has one of my all time favourite poems in it: The Walrus and the Carpenter. I first fell in love with this poem from watching Harriet the Spy of all things, and I often wondered how you could have ceiling wax, and what it actually was. That is until I learned about sealing wax that was used in letter writing. It made slightly more sense, but in terms of the poem not a whole lot changed. There is the Jabberwocky poem, but the best has to be the Walrus and the Carpenter. Carroll weaves these poems though the novel, just as he did in Alice in Wonderland, and once again accompanies them with stunning black and white drawings.

This new land does confuse Alice a bit more in certain areas but she recovers well. There are a lot of familiar characters such as the talking flowers, Tweedle Dee and Dum of course, and a few others that are less well known but very funny indeed. The ending is once again instantly devoid of any mystery. I think Carroll likes to demonstrate that imagination of a child rather than give us a wonderful world that could be true or could not be. He does not leave anything unclear. However there is a moment with Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum where they remark whether Alice is within the dream of the sleeping Red King or whether he is in her dream. That is as far as the analysis of the world gets.

I do think if you are going to read Wonderland you have to read this as well. If you came to these book as a fan of a movie – even the Disney one, it will be good because a lot of book two was used in the Disney film and some of one character’s attributes were transferred to other people; you may find your favourite character was not actually who you thought. If not for that reason than simply because it is a strange and peculiar book that somehow manages to make a lot of sense while still being strange but very enjoyable. If you love the absurd than this will be great, but it is not so bad as to cause any confusion, Carroll does restrain himself in that sense.

Alice in Wonderland (#1) by Lewis Carroll

Published: June 25th 1998
Goodreads badgePublisher: Oxford University Press
Pages: 111
Format: Book
Genre: Fantasy/Literature
★   ★   ★   ★   ★  – 5 Stars

Journey with Alice down the rabbit hole into a world of wonder where oddities, logic and wordplay rule supreme. Encounter characters like the grinning Cheshire Cat who can vanish into thin air, the cryptic Mad Hatter who speaks in riddles and the harrowing Queen of Hearts obsessed with the phrase “Off with their heads!” This is a land where rules have no boundaries, eating mushrooms will make you grow or shrink, croquet is played with flamingos and hedgehogs, and exorbitant trials are held for the theft of tarts. Amidst these absurdities, Alice will have to find her own way home. 

In recognition of Lewis Carroll turning 181 last month I feel a review is in order of the glorious Alice in Wonderland. I know this is a book that has been turned into so many movies and television shows (41 at last count according to Wikipedia), but the only one I see as being even remotely similar (that I have seen) is the Hallmark telemovie Alice in Wonderland starring Tina Majorino as Alice with a host of stars including Gene Wilder, Whoopi Goldberg, Christopher Lloyd and so many more.

When I studied this book at Uni I discovered that Carroll based Alice on someone he knew; much the same way J.M Barrie did for Peter Pan. Alice Liddell was the 10 year old sister of a friend of Carroll’s and he’d became a good friend to the family. He liked her a lot and he told the story of Alice in Wonderland (then Alice’s Adventures Underground) for her and her sisters. I found this website that gives a nice history about the book which is really quite interesting, and I think it would be much better than me telling you because I would become distracted in the fascinating history and not review the actual book. Plus trying to remember a university class almost five years ago may not do it justice. The edition of my book actually has a long introduction that tells the story, but it is not really necessary whatsoever to know.

I always loved this story, and when I read it growing up I liked the absurd nature of it. I am certain I did not understand half of the things I did as I got older, which personally I think is half the fun. There is a quote by Clifton Fadiman that states When you reread a classic, you do not see more in the book than you did before; you see more in you than there was before. . Whether it is about the book or yourself it doesn’t matter, I think learning something about yourself each time you reread something is just as wonderful. You can see how you have changed since the last time, in one of those small ways that you don’t notice until your attention is brought to it.

Carroll has written this book in the style that a young girl would, she is trying to remember all the proper etiquette she has be taught but she also thinks like a young girl which then reflects in her actions. The story opens with Alice being bored by her circumstance and her sister’s inability to read anything interesting that has pictures and dialogue. What I do remember discovering upon one of my later readings was that there is also a brother, so while I knew there was the older sister no one remembers she had a brother as well. Again, not important but still rather interesting.

As the narrator Carroll speaks to the readers on the odd occasion, especially during the rabbit hole sequence. He addresses readers as Alice falls which works well when you are reading to yourself but also lends itself to the fact it was initially an oral story. Everything Carroll describes does not seem as outrageous as it actually is; when he writes about growing larger, rabbits in waistcoats and singing griffins it seems perfectly natural. There is an accepted reality that Wonderland brings that is so absurd around every corner that you don’t question it. If there had been more real world similarities I think the absurd ones would stand out a lot more.

Aside from all the strangeness in this book the most strange is watching as this young girl eats and drinks everything she finds. Though one of my favourite quotes is “if you drink much from a bottle marked ‘poison,’ it is almost certain to disagree with you, sooner or later.” Something in the matter of fact way Alice approaches this world is part of the joy I think. She is very understanding and accepting of her circumstances, she is driven by her curiosities more than anything which explains away a few things, the need to know outweighs thinking about consequences. This comes more from her being such a young child than anything else I think, and perhaps in part who she is a person. She does have faltering moments where she struggles to remember who she was, as she recites the lessons and what she knows Alice attempts to assure herself she is who she thinks she is. So in that respect Wonderland does begin to affect her.

Two of my favourite characters and scenes have to have been the Mock Turtle and the Gryphon. There is nothing in that scene I love more than the other; it is funny, clever, sweet all at the same time. What is great about Carroll, like Dahl, is that there are songs and poems within the story. The songs the Mock Turtle and Gryphon sing are beautiful and a lot of fun. In terms of creating characters Carroll is an expert at creating varied and unique figures that contrast Alice well, and also manage to suit the Wonderland world ideally without making them generic and all the same. He starts us off simply with a rabbit in a waistcoat and then slowly drags us further from the world we know until we reach the Queen of Hearts who is playing croquette with flamingos. In between we get mad tea parties, caucus races and not enough pepper, all of which makes it a joyful and amusing journey.

Each character offers a lot of wisdom to Alice as she passes through Wonderland. The Duchess, the King, the Cheshire Cat are just some of the many who offer strange and seemingly confusing advice that is somehow profound in their own ways. The irony is of course that Alice offers no moral to readers, it is simply a tale of wonder and adventure. The Duchess herself says that ‘Every thing’s got a moral, if only you can find it.’ That is why this book is so great, there is no need for morals, it is what it is and what it is is a strange mix of absurdity and nonsensical actions that make up a bizarre series of events. Why read any deeper meaning into it and spoil the fun?

The ending I know has caused some issues to some people but I don’t really mind it. I think there is nothing wrong with how Carroll has finished the book. There is a sense that it is open to interpretation but I also think that it depends on who you look at: Alice or her sister. Since the sister was not there and has the rational mind of someone who reads books without pictures and dialogue, perhaps she is trying to justify Alice’s story, unable to believe it is true. It is something I think you have to make up your own mind about when you read it for it is the only way you’ll know.

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