Alice in Wonderland

Today in my Portuguese class (irrelevant) we were discussing Charles Dodgson’s Alice in Wonderland (I’m only 16! Also irrelevant). As always, my colleagues started saying that it was all supposed to be a psilocybin mushroom ‘trip’, or some other kind of hallucinogenic drug and that Dodgson was a paedophile.

Anyways, I said that Alice In Wonderland wasn’t about a drug trip, and that what they were claiming was an outrage. This fueled a huge argument where practically the whole class was arguing against me. I do know that Dodgson used to take pictures of young girls and once attempted to take pictures of them naked.

What is the ‘straight dope’ on this matter?


Here’s Cecil’s take on whether Dodgson was a perv.

And as far as the drug trip issue, I believe that if you could prove with 99% certainty that there were zero drug use that contributed to Alice’s adventures, your classmates would still never believe you.

Some people just have to believe drug use contributed to something that has become popular and well known. Possibly as a justification for their own interest in said drugs, “It makes you smarter and write amazing stories.” or some other such BS.

The human mind doesn’t need drugs to come up with some crazy-ass stuff.

Wasn’t Alice partly political commentary?

If you really wanted to debate the topic with them, you might try to ask them, “What drugs do you think” Lewis Carroll had in mind when he wrote the Alice stories. I’m guessing, if they mention their favorite opiate, or possibly Sigmund Freud’s research into cocaine, they may have an argument. But if they jump right into LSD, psilocybin mushrooms, and pot – I’d suspect they’d gotten their history screwed up, at least a little bit, and they might become less certain of their position.

See if they mention Grace Slick and Jefferson Airplane. That’ll be the clincher…:smiley:

Charles Dodgson, aka Lewis Carroll, was not a druggie. (See Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s “Kubla Khan” for an example of something from roughly the same era that was produced under the influence.) He was, however, a mathematician (with an interest in logic that is very clear in Alice if you know what to look for), and at heart a parodist (much of the weirdness in Alice is parody, satire, and punning on things, many of which are no longer well known).

I am a professional writer who does not use drugs - beyond a couple beers a week, that is - and an absurd amount of caffeinated soda.

In fiction (books or movies) The Stereotypical writer is a drunk, but also produces nothing of value while drunk, as they are using the alcohol because of their writer’s block - or both the block and the alcoholism stem from the same traumatic incident. In any case, the sterotypical fictional writer does not overcome their block until they put down the bottle.

There’s a truth to that stereotype. It’s damn difficult to keep all the facts straight in your head over the course of a 100,000 or so words to make a contiguous novel. Drugs, of any kind, hamper this ability.

Lewis Carroll’s works, however, are barely contiguous. Indeed they bounce from scene to scene and from frivoulous to innane to absurd. It’s easy to see how they could be the result of some sort of opiate use.

Poets, unlike novel writers, do not need to maintain a story in thier minds for months on end and are freer to muddle their brains with toxins at whim.

Much the same effect by which a lot of the Python works are considered extra-trippy by my 36 year old self: taken out of context they are (even more) completely bizarre.

Eight-year-olds don’t need chemical help to appreciate fantastical adventures like that. He was telling a story that Alice Liddel would appreciate. And I don’t see what his feelings towards young girls in general has to do with any supposed drug use.

The drug theory makes me CRAZY. I have had someone tell me he was on LSD, which really gets me mad. LSD wasn’t even synthesized yet.

It really seems hard for some people to believe someone could write a beautiful fantastical story without drugs. :rolleyes:

Alice in Wonderland has enough of the dream quality to it that either he was on drugs, or he was very good and remembering how weird his dreams were. Of course, in that time cocaine use was not considered that bad, about the same as smoking today. In his stories, Sherlock Holmes indulged according to Dr. Watson; Freud was said to have used it. many artists of the day used it.

I saw a book in a bookstore once about 40 years ago of photos made by Dodgson - including probably those “discovered nudes” mentioned in the article. They were nothing explicit, but IIRC the little girls were nude, but in the same manner as classical painting nudes - nothing explicit visible, or strategically hidden with props - I don’t remember.

Of course it was a much more innocent time in some ways - not that people didn’t molest, but that it would probably not occur to most people that their acquaintances would do such a thing, and they probably wouldn’t suspect a person of that if he asked to take photographs and said all the charming things necessary. They probably thought he and the photos were harmless.

Also, polite society didn’t tolerate innuendo about straight adult sex; I would be suprised if perversions were common in anyone’s mind. (The story goes that homosexuality among men was outlawed but not lesbian activity, because nobody could figure out how to explain lesbian activity to Queen Victoria who had to approve all laws.)

Based on the descriptions of his character - shy, stuttering, not many close friends - I suspect he had the urge but, since he was never “run out of town” I suspect he never followed through. There’s some interesting quotes somewhere about his opinions on little boys (evil and nasty types) and little girls(along the vein of “sugar and spice”); I assume his opinions of boys goes back to being tormented by other boys growing up.

[nitpick]There is no such book. Carroll wrote two Alice books, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass.[/nitpick]

Dodgson was considered quite a good photographer for his time. You can find at least some of his photographs, and dicussions of him as a photographer, online: see here for example.

This essay discusses some of the “myths” about Lewis Carroll, including that he “only liked little girls; he did not like little boys”:

I imagine Carroll didn’t get along nearly as well with the noisier, rowdier sorts of boys as he did with quiet, artistic, intellectual sorts of children of either sex. One fact that may shed some light is that, when he was growing up, he had several sisters, whom he used to amuse with his writings, games, and puzzles.

As for whether he was sexually attracted to children: Maybe he was, but didn’t act on his urges, for both internal (he was a proper, Christian, moral, Victorian gentleman) and external (fear of punishment, shame, and losing access to children) reasons. Maybe he had such urges but repressed or denied them to himself. Maybe he was afraid of or uncomfortable with sexuality in general, and liked prepubescent girls because they were “innocent” and safely nonsexual. As far as I know there’s no evidence that he ever engaged in sexual activity with anyone, child or adult.

Yes, he was a deacon or something in the church IIRC. (TLTG - Too Lazy to Google…) So likely he was principled enough restrain himself if he actually felt the urge. It says something about the naivete of the age that he left the evidence to suggest his preferences to a cynical modern audience, whether it was innocent freindship he felt or not. (In fact the current cynic in us says “church official - therefore unlikely to molest children???”)

When someone waxes poetic about childhood today, like Michael Jackson, it immediately attracts the moneygrubbing blackmail sharks and sets off the cynic alarm in the rest of us.

Plus, one rumor was that Dodgson was close friend of Alice especially, and when she got older her family distanced themselves because either (a) he has suggested marriage or (b) they thought he might.

No proof of that, but a logical alternative. I could imagine a more socially elevated family like the Lidells were not thrilled about their daughter marrying a poor and socially inept and frankly weird nobody like Charles. Of course, today they and Alice are only remembered in connection with him.

There’s another story (TLTG) that Queen Victoria quite enjoyed Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland, and asked to get his next book when available. Some earnest but unimaginative palace drudge dutifully delivered a thick and dense book on solving complex mathematical equations…

There are plenty of weird theories about the Alice books. They usually come from people who have no idea what imagination is.

I’ve always thought it was his take on how a little girl views the world of adults; confusing and mysterious, and sometimes illogical. And apart from some minor petulant arguing, she doesn’t fight against it, because that’s just how the world works (from an eight year old’s point of view).

Not quite. Alice’s dad, H.G. Liddell, and Robert Scott compiled the standard lexicon of ancient Greek that has been used by virtually everyone learning the language for more than 160 years.

Of course, for the last 100 years that has probably been a vastly smaller number than the readers of the *Alice * books. I doubt either Dr. Liddell or Dr. Dodgson would have imagined that a couple of small books of nonsense would be more popular than the immense work of scholarship that is the lexicon.

Also not true. I’m NTLTG.

Since this is about a work of literature, and the question has been answered as much as it probably can be, I’m moving it from General Questions to Cafe Society for further discussion.

This. the book is specifically crafted satire to present the “scary” grownup world to a child in a way that makes light of it all, as an attempt to show how you really don’t need to be frightened. I doubt that a man who was on drugs could have come up with a work as tediously presented as it is.