Hunger, Dominance, and Undesirability
Lewis Carroll’s fairy tale, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, written in 1865, fuels the
stereotype of how girls are required to be petite, feminine, and submissive to men through Alice’s eating habits, the contrast between young Alice and older women characters, male control, and Alice’s behaviour at the end of the story. This influences the minds of young audience members who read Carroll’s work instills the idea that in order to be beautiful, a girl must control her desire to eat and never overpower the men they associate with. In Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, the author targets the importance of a woman’s size and how food consumption influences femininity and desirability. During the story, Alice is exposed to various situations involving food and beverages. Carroll’s first introduction on the emphasis on Alice’s size, is when she is falling down the rabbit hole and she sees a jar labelled “Orange Marmalade”. When she grabs the jar, she finds that there is nothing inside. This is an early indication that unless Alice is instructed to satisfy her hunger,she must not indulge her desires or her level of perfection will decrease. Throughout the story, Alice is then exposed to bottles and foods that are labelled “Eat Me” or “Drink Me.” Without hesitation, she ingests the products with labels. Alice’s petiteness, and thus her beauty, come directly from her eating and drinking habits. Only when she is allowed to eat, does her body undergo positive
changes. These positive changes lead her to experience new adventures and improve her education, which is another noticeable attribute in the tale. Anna Helle-Valle and Per-Elinar Binder argue that “the body is central to self-experience” and to Alice, the size of her body determines what she is able to do and how she sees herself (Helle-Valle and Binder 4). The Caterpillar in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, offers insight into the ideal of size. The extreme changes in size damages one’s self identity. Alice shares her confusion with the Caterpillar during their first meeting: “I’m not myself, you see-being so many different sizes in a day is very confusing” (81). The Caterpillar forces her to say who she is, but because of her recent changes in size, she is not able to say who she believes herself to be. Size is critical to one’s understanding of the self, and Carroll’s Alice struggles with understanding that a small size is important. In a societal context, Alice represents what a girl should be: petite and feminine. However, she expresses her concern for her small size during a conversation with the Caterpillar. The Caterpillar is the male authoritarian figure in the section and is furious with her concern. He then informs Alice that three inches is, in fact, a “good height to be” (84). The Caterpillar forces Alice to be comfortable with herself, for being any larger causes her to be less desirable to her new found dominant male figure. The Caterpillar’s statement offers no argument, and Alice’s perfect and submissive attitude cause her to listen to the dominant with no complaint. In Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland is the idea that female sexuality consists of the importance of curiosity and politeness, and a submissive attitude: this is due to Carroll’s desires and the Victorian beliefs. In the story, Alice’s character is that of an ideal girl, and her curiosity often leads to find new and exciting ventures in Wonderland. The reason that Alice is able to experience Wonderland is because of her curious nature that led her to tumble down the rabbit
hole. Jennifer Geer contends that Alice’s manners, as well as the want to impress the creatures in Wonderland, comes from the moral implication of Victorian literature (Geer 2). The literature in the 1800s centers on politeness and manners, which Alice offers to all of the creatures and people in Wonderland. One of the most positive attributes...
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