Alice (Alice's Adventures in Wonderland)

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Alice par John Tenniel 04.png
Alice in one of John Tenniel's illustrations for Alice's Adventures in Wonderland
First appearance Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (1865)
Last appearance Through the Looking-Glass (1871)
Created by Lewis Carroll
Gender Female

Alice is a fictional character, the protagonist of Lewis Carroll's children's novel Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (1865) and its sequel, Through the Looking-Glass (1871). A young child living during the mid-Victorian era, she goes on adventures by falling down a rabbit hole to Wonderland, and in the sequel, through a mirror to Looking-Glass Land. The character has her origins in stories told by Carroll to the young Liddell sisters while rowing on the Isis with his friend Robinson Duckworth, and on subsequent rowing trips. Although she shares her name with Alice Liddell's given name, it is controversial among scholars as to whether or not she can be identified as Liddell. Carroll characterised her as "loving and gentle," "courteous to all," "trustful," and "wildly curious".[1] His illustrations of her in Alice's Adventures Under Ground, the first version of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland are influenced by the Pre-Raphaelite artists.

Political cartoonist John Tenniel illustrated Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass.


John Tenniel's illustration of Alice and the pig from Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (1865)

Alice is a fictional child living during the mid-Victorian era.[2] In Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (1865), which takes place on 4 May,[nb 1] the character is widely assumed to be seven years old,[3][4] although the author Lewis Carroll does not give the year which the story takes place;[3] Alice gives her age as seven and a half in the sequel, which takes place on 4 November.[3] In the text of the two Alice books, Carroll often did not remark on the physical appearance of his protagonist, offering only "very few details".[5] Details of her fictional life can be discovered from the text of the two books. At home, she has a significantly older sister, a nurse, and a governess, who teaches her lessons starting at nine in the morning.[6] Additionally, she had gone to a day school at some point in the past.[6] Alice has been variously characterised as belonging to the upper class,[7][8] the upper-middle class, middle class,[2] or part of the bourgeoisie.[9] Her social class is reflected in her "educated speech, dress, and surroundings".[7]

When writing on her personality in "Alice on the Stage" (April 1887), Carroll described her as "loving and gentle," "courteous to all," "trustful," and "wildly curious, and with the eager enjoyment of Life that comes only in the happy hours of childhood, when all is new and fair, and when Sin and Sorrow are but names — empty words signifying nothing!"[1] Commentators characterise her as "innocent",[10] "imaginative,"[6] introspective,[6] generally well-mannered,[8][2] "outspoken and forthright in challenging authority",[2] and "witty and intelligent".[10] Others see less positive traits in Alice, writing that she frequently shows "casual cruelty" in her conversations with the animals in Wonderland,[11] takes violent action against the character Bill the Lizard by kicking him into the air,[12] and reflects her social upbringing in her lack of sensitivity and impolite replies.[12] According to Donald Rackin, "In spite of of her class- and time-bound prejudices, her frightened fretting and childish, abject tears, her priggishness and self-assured ignorance, her sometimes blatant hypocrisy, her general powerlessness and confusion, and her rather cowardly readiness to abandon her struggles at the ends of the two adventures—[....] many readers still look up to Alice as a mythic embodiment of control, perseverance, bravery, and mature good sense."[9]

The degree to which the character of Alice can be identified as Alice Liddell is controversial. Some critics identify the character as Liddell,[11][13] or write that she inspired the character.[14] Others argue that Carroll considered his protagonist and Liddell to be separate.[15][16] According to Carroll, his character was not based on any real child, but was entirely fictional.[17]


One of Carroll's drawings of Alice from Alice's Adventures Under Ground

Alice debuted in Carroll's first draft of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, Alice's Adventures Under Ground.[18] Under Ground originated from stories told to the Liddell sisters during an afternoon[nb 2] on 4 July 1862[18] while rowing on the Isis with his friend Robinson Duckworth, and on subsequent rowing trips.[20] At the request of ten-year-old Alice Liddell, Carroll wrote down the stories as Alice's Adventures Under Ground, which he completed in February 1864.[20] Under Ground contains thirty-seven illustrations,[20] twenty-seven of which Alice is depicted in.[21] As his drawings of Alice bear little physical resemblance to Alice Liddell, whose given name she shares, it has been suggested that Alice's younger sister, Edith, might have been his model.[22] He portrays his protagonist as wearing a tunic, in contrast to the "fitted children's dresses with soft trim" that the Liddell sisters might have worn.[23] His illustrations drew influence from the Pre-Raphaelite painters Dante Gabriel Rossetti and Arthur Hughes, whose painting Girl with the Liliacs (1863) he possessed and visually alluded to in one drawing in Under Ground.[24] He gave the hand-written Alice's Adventures Under Ground to Alice Liddell in November 1864.[25]

John Tenniel (1820-1914) illustrated Alice Adventures in Wonderland (1865) for a fee of £138, which was roughly a fourth of what Carroll earned each year and which he paid for himself.[26] Tenniel, who was forty-four years old at the time, was an already successful, well-known lead illustrator for the satirical magazine Punch,[27] when Carroll employed him as an illustrator in April 1864.[28] In contrast, "Carroll was a total unknown".[28] Tenniel likely based the majority of his illustrations off those in Under Ground.[29] Carroll carefully oversaw his work;[30] among his suggestions was that Alice should have long, light-colored hair.[30] Tenniel's depiction of Alice has its origins in a physically similar character which appeared in at least eight cartoons in Punch, during a four-year period that began in 1860.[31] In an 1860 cartoon, this character wore "the full skirt, pale stockings, flat shoes, and a hairband over her loose hair."[31] The character served as "one of Tenniel's prototypical representations of a nice middle-class girl";[32] she has been described as similar to Alice: "a pacifist and noninterventionist, patient and polite, slow to return the aggression of others."[33] Alice's clothes are typical of what a girl belonging to the middle class in the mid-Victorian era might have worn at home.[31] Her pinafore, a detail created by Tenniel and now associated with the character, "suggests a certain readiness for action and lack of ceremony."[34]

Tenniel's illustrations for Through the Looking-Glass (1871): Alice and the White Queen (left) and Queen Alice and the Frog (right)

Tenniel's fee for illustrating the sequel Through the Looking-Glass (1871) rose to £290, which Carroll again paid for out of his own pocket.[26] Tenniel changed Alice's clothing slightly in the sequel, where she wears horizontal-striped stockings instead of plain ones and has a more ornate pinafore with a bow.[31] The headband that she wears in Tenniel's illustrations is called an "Alice band", after the character.[35] Originally, Alice wore a "crinoline-supported chessmanlike skirt" similar to that of the Red and White Queens, as a queen; the design was rejected by Carroll.[36] Her clothing as a queen and in the railway carriage is a " 'polonaise' dress" with a bustle, which would have been fashionable at the time.[31] The clothing worn by the characters in "My First Sermon" (1863) by pre-Raphaelite painter John Millais and "The Travelling Companions" (1862) by Victorian painter Augustus Leopold Egg have some elements in common with Alice's clothing in the railway carriage.[37] Carroll felt that some of Tenniel's illustrations of Alice lacked proper proportions, with her "head decidedly too large and feet decidedly too small", as a result of Tenniel's refusal "to use a model".[38] The evidence is lacking for the hypothesis that either Mary Hilton Badcock or Kate Lemon served as the visual model for Tenniel's Alice.[39]

In February 1881, Carroll contacted his publisher about the possibility of creating The Nursery "Alice", a simplified edition of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland with coloured and enlarged illustrations.[40] Tenniel coloured the twenty chosen illustrations from Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, in addition to revising some aspects of them;[41] Alice's dress became pleated with a bow at the back of it, and she now wore a bow in her hair.[42] Edmund Evans printed the illustrations in colour through chromoxylography, which "used a number of woodblocks for each image, with colours mixed to produce a variety of hues and tones."[42] Alice is blonde and her dress is yellow, with blue stockings; The Nursery "Alice" marked the first time that Tenniel's illustrations had been colored.[43]


Set in summer, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland opens with Alice on the riverbank with her elder sister. She falls down a rabbit hole into Wonderland after following the White Rabbit. Meeting many characters and changing her size several times, she eventually finds herself at the trial of the Knave of Hearts as a witness. Ordered to leave by the King and Queen of Hearts, Alice argues with them, eventually claiming that they are just a pack of cards. As they swarm her, Alice awakens on the riverbank and realizes that it was just a dream.

Set during autumn, Through the Looking-Glass begins with Alice indoors as she plays with the kittens of her pet cat, Dinah. Through a mirror, she travels to Looking-Glass Land, an alternate world where chess pieces are alive. Encountering various characters, she eventually becomes a queen, and attends a party celebrating her coronation, although it quickly grows chaotic. Grabbing and shaking the Red Queen, Alice awakens back indoors, holding one of the kittens. The novel concludes with Alice's speculation on whether or not it was her dream or the Red King's.

Other illustrators[edit]

One of Rackham's art-nouveau illustrations, in which Alice encounters the Caterpillar (1907)
Newell's monochrome illustration of Alice among the Looking-Glass flowers (1901)

The two Alice books are among "the most-often illustrated books in the history of children's publishing."[44] The expiration of the copyright of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland[nb 3] in 1907 resulted in eight new printings, including one illustrated in an Art Nouveau style by Arthur Rackham.[45] The illustrators for the other editions published in 1907 include Charles Robinson, Alice Ross, W.H.Walker, Thomas Maybank, and Millicent Sowerby.[47] Among the other notable illustrators are Blanche McManus (1896);[21] Peter Newell (1901), who used monochrome; Mabel Lucie Atwell (1910); Harry Furniss (1926); and Willy Pogany (1929), who featured an Art Deco style.[48]

Notable illustrators from the 1930s onwards include Edgar Thurstan (1931), and his visual allusions to the Wall Street Crash of 1929; D.R. Sexton (1933) and J. Morton Sale (1933), both of whom featured an older Alice; Mervyn Peake (1954); Ralph Steadman (1967), for which he received the Francis Williams Memorial award in 1972; Salvador Dali (1969), who used Surrealism;[49] and Peter Blake with his watercolors (1970).[50] By 1972, there were ninety illustrators of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and twenty-one of Through the Looking-Glass.[51] Among the notable illustrators of Alice in the 1980s, 1990s, and early 2000s are Barry Moser (1982); Greg Hildebrandt (1990); David Frankland (1996); Lisbeth Zwerger (1999), who used watercolors in her adaptation; Helen Oxenbury (1999), who won two awards, the Kurt Maschler Award in 1999 and the Kate Greenaway Medal in 2000, for her work; and DeLoss McGraw (2001), who used an "abstract style".[52]



The first public stage adaptation of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, Alice in Wonderland, debuted at the Royal Polytechnic Institute in London, England, on 17 April 1876, and continued until 19 August.[53] The musical Alice in Wonderland, a Dream Play for Children, in two acts, an adaptation of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass, appeared on 23 December 1886 at the Prince of Wales Theatre in London, and continued until 18 March 1887, to good reviews;[54][53] it starred Phoebe Carlo as Alice.[53] The musical was later revived and performed at the Globe Theatre from 26 December 1888 to 9 February 1889, with Carroll's friend, Isa Bowman, as Alice.[55] The musical was frequently revived during the "Christmas season," being produced eighteen times from 1898 to 1930.[56] Alice's Adventures in Wonderland has since been adaptated for various forms of the stage, including "ballets, operas, experimental theatre, Broadway musicals, puppet plays, mime acts, and rock musicals."[57]

Film and television[edit]

Walt Disney's film adaptation (1951), which drew influence from Tenniel's earlier illustrations,[58] proved to be influential in the popular image of Alice.[59] Disney's depiction, which has its roots in Mary Blair's illustrations, "has done the most to fix her image, to wed her firmly to a blue dress and white pinafore, to blonde hair and black shoes."[34]

Directed and produced by Cecil Hepworth, the first film adaptation of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland debuted in Great Britain in 1903 as a silent film and in January 1904 in the United States.[60] It starred May Clark as Alice.[60] Two more silent film adaptations of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland were produced: one in 1910 starring Gladys Hulette, and another in 1915 with Viola Savory as Alice.[61] Ruth Gilbert starred as Alice in the first Alice film with sound (1931), followed by Charlotte Henry (1933), and Carol Marsh (1948), and Kathryn Beaumont voiced her in the Walt Disney's film (1951).[61] Alice has also been portrayed by Fiona Fullerton (1972), Amelia Shankley and Coral Browne (1985),[61] Kristyna Kohoutova (1988),[62] and Mia Wasikowska, who notably played Alice as a teenager as opposed to a child (2010).[63] Actors who portrayed or voiced Alice in television-film adaptations include Janet Waldo (1966), Anne-Marie Malik (1966), Natalie Gregory (1985), and Tina Majorino (1999).[61]

Alice has appeared in television series, such as Once Upon a Time in Wonderland (2013–14), as portrayed by Sophie Lowe.[64]

Video games[edit]

Alice has also appeared in video games. In American McGee's Alice (2000), Alice appears as the protagonist and player character, a psychologically traumatized young woman who returns to a corrupted Wonderland after being sent to an asylum,[65] while in its sequel, Alice: Madness Returns (2011), Alice, still traumatized by the loss of her family, seeks the truth behind their deaths in Wonderland and London.[66]

The Walt Disney version of Alice is present in the first installment of the Kingdom Hearts series, as a non-player character.[67] In the 2003 video game, she is the protagonist of Alice in the Country of Hearts, a reimagining of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland.[68]


The character of Alice has appeared in other literature, besides Carroll's novels. The premise of the young-adult fiction The Looking Glass Wars series is that its warrior-princess protagonist and rightful heir to the throne of Wonderland, Alyss Heart, fled to Victorian England from Wonderland, where she met Lewis Carroll and told him her story, which he turn into a nonsensical fairy tale.[69] In Alan Moore and Melinda Gebbie's pornographic graphic novel Lost Girls (1991), she appears as Alice Fairchild, a central character.[70] Manga (Japanese comics) adaptions or reimaginings of the Alice books include Miyuki-chan in Wonderland[71] and Key Princess Story: Eternal Alice Rondo.[72] Willow Shields played Alice in the Dancing With The Stars Disney night.

Cultural impact[edit]

"In all her different and associated forms—underground and through the looking glass, textual and visual, drawn and photographed, as Carroll's brunette or Tenniel's blonde or Disney's prim miss, as the real Alice Liddell [...] in novel, poem, satire, play, film, cartoon, newspaper, magazine, album cover or song—Alice is the ultimate cultural icon, available for any and every form of manipulation, and as ubiquitous today as in the era of her first appearance."[73]

—Catherine Robson, Men in Wonderland

Alice has been described as a cultural icon.[74][75][73] Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass were critically and commercially successful in Carroll's lifetime;[76] more than 150,000 copies of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and 100,000 copies of Through the Looking-Glass had been printed by 1898.[77] Since then, the Alice books have continued to remained in print and "have been translated into more than seventy languages".[78] Alice's Adventures in Wonderland has continued to maintain its popularity, placing on surveys of the top children's books.[79][80][81] Alice placed on a 2015 list of the top twenty favorite characters in children's literature.[80] As Sigler writes, "Carroll's independent, unconventionally inquisitive, and often bad-tempered protagonist has become iconic, as have John Tenniel's images of her, and a vast and profitable 'Alice industry' has continued to produce countless spinoffs and sequels, comic books and manga, cartoons and anime, stage and film productions, board and video games as well as a vast array of collectibles".[74]

Alice's continuing appeal has been discussed by critics. Biographer Morton N. Cohen suggested that an underlying subject of the Alice books is maturity; he writes that children can identify with Alice, and as she becomes more self-confident through her encounters with "a hostile, unpredictable environment," she gains "advancement, recognition, [and] acceptance" and the books ultimately reassure the child that he or she can mature into an adult.[82] According to literary critic Valerie Krips, Alice is familiar and unchanging for adult readers, as well as a reminder of the bygone Victorian era and a lost childhood, during which they discovered the Alice books, which their parents enjoyed.[83]

Some critics have highlighted Alice's character as unusual or a departure from the typical mid-nineteenth-century child protagonists. According to Krips, "Alice is a seditious character when compared to the children who precede her in books written for children. She cries, displays temper, is forthright, finds things and people tiresome—and says so—yet she always remembers her manners and speaks tenderly of her cat, Dinah."[84] Alison Lurie wrote that Alice, excluding her manners, defies mid-Victorian conventions of the ideal young girl: "she is not gentle, timid, and docile, but brave, active, and impatient; she is highly critical of her surroundings and the adults she meets."[85]

Parodies and inspired works[edit]

The cover of Clara in Blunderland (1902), a parody of Alice in Wonderland

During the half century after the publication of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, "almost two hundred literary imitations, revisions, and parodies" appeared.[86] They featured one or more protagonists with characteristics similar to Alice's ("typically polite, articulate, and assertive"),[87] regardless of gender.[87] Notable revisions which explore the Victorian ideas on gender and childhood and feature protagonists "who demonstrate power over their fantasy adventures" include Mopsa the Fairy (1869) by Jean Ingelow, Speaking Likeness (1874) by Christina Rossetti, Wanted—A King; or How Merle Set the Nursery Rhymes to Right (1890) by Maggie Brown, and A New Alice in an Old Wonderland (1895) by Anna M. Richards.[88] Imitations inspired by Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and part of Carroll's collection of books similar to his Alice ones include From Nowhere to the North Pole (1874) by Tom Hood and Mabel in Rhymeland; or, Little Mabel's Journey to Norwich, and Her Wonderful Adventures with the Man in the Moon and other Heroes and Heroines of Nursery Rhyme (1885) by Edward Holland.[89][90] Among the recreations that use sentimentality are Davy and the Goblin (1885) by Charles E. Carryl and New Adventures of "Alice" (1917) by John Rae,[91] while the parodies, which were for adult readers, include The Westminster Alice (1900–02) by Saki, Clara in Blunderland (1902) by Caroline Lewis, and Alice in the Delighted States (1928) by Edward Hope.[91]

After the early 1930s, when the Alice books were considered to be serious, literary works for adults by modernists, fewer parodies and inspired works appeared.[92] According to scholar Carolyn Sigler, subsequent works inspired by the Alice books tended to be for adult readers, which "refer[...] minimally or obliquely to the Alice books"; examples include Dreamhouse (1995) by Alison Habens, Alice in Thunderland (1993) by Maeve Kelly, and Alice in Bed (1993) by Susan Sontag.[93]


  1. ^ 4 May was the birthday of Alice Liddell, the young friend of the author.[3]
  2. ^ Although Alice Liddell and Carroll both recall that the day of 4 July was hot, cloudless, and sunny, the weather report suggests that it had been cloudy with a high of 68 °F (20 °C).[19]


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  39. ^ Hancher 1985, pp. 101, 103.
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  41. ^ Wakeling 2014, pp. 86–7.
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  44. ^ Menges, Jeff A. (ed.). "Notes on the Illustrations". Alice Illustrated: 120 Images from the Classic Tales of Lewis Carroll. Mineola, New York: Dover Publications. p. xiii. ISBN 978-0-486-48204-0. 
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  67. ^ "Kingdom Hearts Guide/Walkthrough". IGN Entertainment. Archived from the original on 23 December 2012. Retrieved 3 June 2014. 
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  74. ^ a b Sigler 2014, p. xxi.
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  77. ^ Cohen 1995, p. 134.
  78. ^ Cohen 1995, pp. 134-5.
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  84. ^ Krips 2004, p. 7.
  85. ^ Lurie, Alison (1990). Don't Tell the Grownups: Subversive Children's Literature. Boston: Little, Brown. p. 7. 
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  87. ^ a b Sigler 1997, p. xvii.
  88. ^ Sigler 1997, pp. vii, xviii-xix.
  89. ^ Brooker 2004, p. 77.
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  91. ^ a b Sigler 1997, p. vii.
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  93. ^ Sigler 1997, pp. xvi-xvii.


External links[edit]