Reviewed in the United States on September 1, 2017
Alice in Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland' is dreaming and there is no way for me as a reader to tell what physical abilities she may have awake; could Alice have a physical disability? As a reader with Cerebral Palsy, I think yes, in this paper I will interpret Alice as disabled.
There are some passages that I find interesting as they seem to be confirming my theory. The way the Caucus Race Lewis Carroll described The Caucus Race is "All the party were placed along the course here and there. There was no 'One, two, three, and away' but they began running when they liked and left off when they liked..." at last, the Dodo said everybody has won, and all must have prizes.'' As a player of adapted sports, this attitude is not nonsensical but quite normal, as these are often the rules in adapted sports that are less intense for disabled people. Alice also struggles to hold the Duchess' pig-baby. It says "... Kept doubling itself up and straightening itself out again, so that altogether, for the first minute or two, it was as much as she could do to hold it." I've never held a live baby, but since my right arm is weak, it seems logical that I would struggle to do this. She also struggles with holding her flamingo during the game of croquet. It says "The chief difficulty Alice found at first was in managing her flamingo: she succeeded in getting its body tucked away, comfortably enough, under her arm, with its legs hanging down, but generally, just as she had got its neck nicely straightened out, and was going to give the hedgehog a blow with its head, it would twist itself round and look up in her face." The fact that the Queen of Hearts, the villain of the piece, whom the dreaming Alice has created is ableist to the extreme is how the mind of a disabled person like me, would recreate that person in my head. Alice has experienced ableism in real life, and she emotionally processes it through creating this over-the-top situation in her dream. Lewis Carrol only says of the other players that they were "Quarreling," not that they struggled with their flamingos. As a final note, while it does say Alice ran to get to the house at the end of the story, Alice says in "Down The Rabbit Hole" "I shall think nothing of tumbling downstairs! How brave they'll think me at home!" The Line ``How brave they'll think me at home!" implies that this happens more often than it happens to most normally developed children, her Disability may affect some physical abilities and not others. For example, I have the most control over my legs and the least control over my hands. There is also how “Involved” the stuff Alice does in Wonderland is, to begin with.
The content of Alice's dream represents her ambitions, which for a disabled person can be the simplest things. Most of the stuff done in Wonderland is simple, day-to-day activities. Alice dreams of swimming, eating, drinking, having a race, going to a tea party, learning a dance, playing a sport(Croquet), playing fetch with a dog, walking around, talking to people; all given a delightfully bizarre spin by Lewis Carroll; which like the quotes in the paragraph above suggest on a normal day her disability may not let her do the simplest things. The poems being repeated by Alice were based by Lewis Carroll on real poems, and that means Alice is consciously integrating them into her dream like I do today with popular characters and celebrities. This is why I can see myself as Alice rather than just identify with her.
Alice's Adventures in Wonderland gave me confidence in my disabled identity. The Caucus Race had the same rules as the adapted sports I was allowed to play, making the fact that they isolated me from my abled-bodied peers easier. Alice and I both have a strong intellect, She thinks about how far she's fallen, she thinks about how to get into the garden, math, geography, and poetry the typical way we measure intellect, in the first two chapters alone. Alice is disturbed by the fact that she can't seem to remember the things she used to know, She says to the Caterpillar ``I can't remember the things I used".I have Cerebral Palsy, and the one thing I got praise for more than anything else was being smart. None of the other characters seem to notice Alice is smart, this is because there is a stereotype that the disabled aren't smart. Throughout Alice's Adventures in Wonderland' the characters doubt, or simply ignore Alice's intellect. The Caterpillar tells Alice of her rendition of “You Are Old Father William'' that “It was wrong from beginning to end' When told by Alice that “The Earth takes 24 hours to turn around on its axis” the Duchess replies “Talking of axes, chop off her head!” The Mad Hatter teases her with “Why is a raven like a writing desk?” and then tells her he has no idea what the answer is. The Mock Turtle and the Griffin let her explain a little bit of her rendition of “Tis the Voice of the Sluggard.'' Soon after saying that the poem is too hard for them; Alice is making progress. When she finally gets to prove her intellect, called as a witness at the Knave's trial, saying that the evidence “Has not an atom of meaning in it.” and that sentencing someone first is “Stuff and nonsense!” but the response is “Off with her head!” Nevertheless, the Queen of Hearts acknowledges that what Alice said makes sense to her, sending the cards upon her, ending her dream, and finally validating her intellect. Alice's Adventures in Wonderland makes me value my intellect, even if I don't consider breaking stereotypes valuable to myself. The fact that Wonderland is a dream provides me with the opportunity to say “I can go on an adventure, defeat a villain, just like everybody else” because Alice isn't doing anything except sleeping! That's why the “It's only a dream” ending can be molded into something beautiful.
Alice is dreaming, there's hardly any way to judge what abilities she possesses. Wonderland is more accommodating, requiring no physical feats of daring-do, just a chance to prove one's intellect. Her physical struggles in Wonderland reflect her physical struggles in real life. Navigating Wonderland lets her figure out how to combat ableism and oppression. The idea that maybe Alice could be like me is a magical and realistic ending for intelligent, imaginative, and adventurous girls like me and Alice.\