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Is ‘Alice In Wonderland’ a Story About Drugs?

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland or just Alice in Wonderland is a novel published in 1865 by an English mathematician Charles Lutwidge Dodgson. The author is better known as Lewis Carroll. This story about Alice was told and dedicated to a particular 10-year-old girl named Alice Liddell. Even so, many people tend to believe that it contains many layers of meaning.

Since the 1960’s, people have discovered the theme of drugs in the book. But is the theme really there? Read on.

Alice Liddell photographed by Lewis Carroll

Alice Liddell photographed by Lewis Carroll

 The plot

Alice is a girl who disappears down a rabbit hole where she experiences many bizarre adventures. First, she follows a running white rabbit wearing a clock, falls in a pool of tears, eats mushrooms and talks to a caterpillar that smokes a hookah. Afterward, Alice meets a smiling cat and a Mad Hatter with whom she drinks some tea. Upon leaving the tea party, she enters a garden full of living playing cards. Upon the request of the Queen of Hearts to kill Alice, comes back to her senses, and the story ends. Throughout the whole book, Alice hallucinates like she would is she were using LSD.

 Alice on the screen

The first movie about Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland was filmed back in 1903 in a British silent film. Since then, more than 20 films have been released about this girl. However,  the most psychedelic versions were the one produced by Tim Burton in 2010 and its sequel, Alice Through the Looking Glass (2016).  Both are in 3D.

Although the book was issued at a time when drugs were freely used, Carroll does not refer to drugs in the book. Also, there is no evidence that he actively used drugs.  

“The notion that the surreal aspects of the text are the consequence of drug-fuelled dreams resonates with a culture, particularly perhaps in the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s, when LSD was widely-circulated and even now where recreational drugs are commonplace,” says Dr. Heather Worthington, a Children’s Literature lecturer at Cardiff University

 The book of nonsense

This book has been translated into more than 170 languages. Since 1865, it has never been out of publishing. The original scenes from the book are part of the popular culture. The book is simple yet very amusing with its surreal concepts. The text itself is unusual, innovative and never dull. The book is famous for being full of nonsense. 

Jabberwocky is a nonsense poem from this book. Although it doesn’t mean anything, it’s one of the most popular poems in the English literature. The poem consists of so-called “nonce” words, words coined for only one occasion. Bandersnatch is a fictional wild animal; brillig means four o’clock in the afternoon, ‘the time when you begin broiling things for dinner’, according to Humpty Dumpty; chortled is a mixture of chuckle and snort; mimsy is a combination of flimsy and miserable; snicker-snack is possibly related to a large knife, the snickersnee, etc.

No one can be sure if Carroll had some deeper meaning in mind while writing this book, or he simply wanted to amuse children. However, it is clear that he fully freed his imagination.

 The truth behind the psychedelic moments of the story

Lewis Carroll had a rare neurological disorder that made him hallucinate. He really saw things differentiate in their size. At times, he would feel bigger or smaller than he really was.  This disease was first discovered 57 years after Carol’s death by an English psychiatrist named John Todd. Since the book presented the effects of the illness, the illness was nicknamed Alice in Wonderland Syndrome (or Todd’s syndrome).

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