Alice. Sir John Tenniel, wood-engraving by the Dalziel brothers, for Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, by Lewis Carroll, 1865. WikiCommons.

Alice in Wonderland is a fictional character created by Lewis Carroll in the 1860s. She is based on a real girl, Alice Liddell, and her sisters. Carroll spent a great deal of time with these girls and their family, and was fond of telling them stories on their rowing trips. Alice’s character would have likely been an amalgamation of traits that Carroll gathered from the sisters.

Alice is a curious, stubborn, yet trusting little girl who goes on quite surreal adventures involving people, animals, flowers, and decks of cards. While the stories are meant for young people, specifically those sisters, there a raft of adult themes and overtones. Whether or not this was intentional by Carroll, we do not know. Many darker intentions have been suggested, but nothing is documented.

Originally Carroll himself drew illustrations for Alice, but hired John Tenniel, a political cartoonist, to do the drawings for his books, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass. Quite opposite to the real Alice who had short brown hair, the Alice that Tenneil created, the one we recognize, has long flowing blonde hair and is dressed in a full skirt, stockings, and flat shoes. She is the model of an average Victorian middle-class girl. Generally, she has good manners and really enjoys being a child‚ not being responsible or too serious.

In this illustration, Alice is facing the very strange situation of having to use an upside down flamingo as a croquet mallet while playing a game with the Red Queen. Her expression is of subtle frustration at the absurdity of what she is having to do, and since she is fairly logical, this doesn’t make any sense to her.

Alice’s pretty and clean appearance makes her emblematic of childhood innocence which serves the story. However, Tenniel has a hard edge to his images, likely from working on the satirical magazine Punch and shows that the world of Wonderland is not all that it seems and perhaps is even a bit sinister.

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