The story, “Alice in Wonderland” seems nothing, but a simple fairytale, though, it is not quite right. The story goes deeper – Alice is intended to enter in a world of adults, to play their games, she is engaged in a quest of her own growth and identity. Time, death, and authority are the main concerns on which life of adults rests on. All the fantastic adventures and characters in this book try to show our modern life in all its absurdity, with an ironical implication. Carroll wanted to tell, how a little child struggles to adapt to the strange behavior and rules of the grown-ups.
The world, ruled by nonsense and chaos is Alice`s place of maturation and growth. The things are getting “curiouser and curiouser” (Carroll, 1898, p. 19), while Alice is proceeding through Wonderland`s quest. Alice is a very intelligent girl, but sometimes she says or does foolish things that any child can say. The world of adults is very dangerous – ignorance of laws is no excuse for Alice, hence, she runs the risk of danger. Alice is a very curious girl, and, as all children, she eagers to learn more – that is why she follows a White Rabbit. The latter is a mere representative of this adult world: he owns a watch (a symbol of everlasting lack of time), he is concerned for schedules and appointments, and is always very busy, and finds no time for anything. "Oh dear! Oh dear! I shall be too late!" (Carroll, p. 11) says the White Rabbit, and disappears in the rabbit hole - such phrase can be frequently heard from adults.
The Caucus race in the third chapter of the book refers to a political process – the animals run around in circles, never achieving anything. At the end of the race, Alice must give a prize to everyone, and the creatures give her a thing that she already has (this moment shows how scarcely the politicians can give to an ordinary citizen). The writer explicitly defines the contrast between them, “Alice thought the whole thing very absurd, but they all looked so grave that she did not dare to laugh” (Carroll, p. 31).
Alice cries very often throughout the story, when she is forceless to obey the laws of Wonderland (the latter can be regarded as adulthood). In the fourth chapter, Alice faces a problem of growing up: she gets stuck in the house of the White Rabbit, and fantasizes about writing a book about her adventures when she will grow up, but then she realizes that she is already “grown up” (Carroll, p. 39), but not mentally (she is still too naïve). This means that growing up is far more than growing in size.
The conversation with the Caterpillar is of great interest, as it focuses attention on themes of growing up and change. When the Caterpillar asks Alice who is she, the girl can barely answer, “I - I hardly know” (Carroll, p. 46), which means that she came into a period in growth, when the vulnerability of a child is high, and his perception of the world and himself vary from time to time. The Caterpillar stands for a sage grown-up, for whom constant growth and change are natural processes of life; he is unshakably calm, and his mysterious concise responses contrast with Alice`s confused replies and exasperation. Dramatic transformations, as well as change, are a game that Wonderland plays with Alice, and the Caterpillar understands that the girl needs to learn a lot. He advices Alice to "keep her temper" (Carroll, p. 47), because it is one of the traits that adults need to possess.
The Duchess is one of the characters, whom Alice meets in Wonderland. She is an undisputable example of how odd adults often seem to children. She is emotionally volatile, and always switches from dark mood to friendliness. The Duchess is showed as an ignorant, and utterly irrational member of an upper class (e.g. she confused “axis” and “axes”); through this example, Alice questions the authority of adults. However, the Duchess, being an adult, observes that Alice, “doesn't know much” (Carroll, p. 62), which signifies that Alice`s lack of experience is quite visible to other in Wonderland`s grown-ups. From the point of child`s fantasy (always hyperbolic), in relation to reality, adults are often irresponsible, impulsive, and self-indulgent. This is excellently pictured in the description of the brutally violent cook`s conduct, “at once set to work throwing everything within her reach at the Duchess and the baby - the fire-irons came first; then followed a shower of saucepans, plates, and dishes” (Carroll, p. 62). A risk of growing up is displayed in the wonderful “growth” of the baby. The baby of the Duchess transforms into a pig (a symbol of an unpleasant person), which shows, how one can grow into a disagreeable adult. In confirmation of this, Alice thinks of other children she knows, and “who might do very well as pigs” (Carroll, p. 66).
The Cheshire cat is a very interesting and mysterious character in the story, which Alice considers her only friend: he always gives good advice, and treats Alice like an equal. The cat is the only to understand that all people in Wonderland are gone completely mad, and that their actions do not make any sense. Moreover, it is the only creature, which is able to admit his own madness, “We're all mad here. I am mad. You're mad” (Carroll, p. 66). Such “madness” of people is noticeable in real world, because everyone is in a hurry, for money, time, social status, etc. Moreover, the cat alludes to the fact that each person can be considered mad only because he lives in this world, and undergoes its influence, trying to succumb its rules.
Time is a central theme in the story – the Mad Hatter, who is obsessed with time, along with the mad March hare, is always having teatime, with no time for other things. This resembles the adults from our world, who always do not have time for anything, except work and moneymaking. Another central motif is power and rank. As Alice finally reaches the garden, she meets the Court of Cards, which stands for people of power in real life. The cards depend on social status and costume for their rank. Carroll turns the powerful people into a deck of cards, thus, showing how Alice tries to socialize in a social set of powerful people. The theme of Wonderland games and their rules resonates with the real people`s life: Alice realizes that no one else is paying attention to the rules. Same with real people: they are able to cheat, to steal, to kill and tell lies, etc., but every transgression from their side is considered as acceptable, if it is a means of pursuing a goal (public status, promotion at work, pecuniary profit, etc.).
Carroll satirizes the justice system, as the proceedings are evidently unfair. The jurors are depicted as fools, who hardly know their names, and the supreme authority is satrapical. The letter at the trial is similar to the use of evidence in real life, as people usually understand the conclusions of evidence far from their real meaning. Alice realizes that she grows up without the mushroom, and it symbolizes that she grew up enough to see and clearly analyze the process, in which she gets involved. This means that she no longer wants to be suppressed by the workings of this court, can manage the situation, without being intimidated, and can refuse to tolerate the wrongful proceedings of the trial. At this point, the cards fly into Alice`s face, but the girl is huge enough to fight back. This very moment reminds the problems in real world, when a person goes against the stream, and makes enemies among the people, who want him to play “games”, according to their rules.
Alice becomes a strong grown-up at the end of the story: she is prepared to fight against injustice, and has gained the ability for independent thought. Alice becomes more mature through learning through her experiences.