The delights of nonsense
On July 4, 1862, a math that is little-known at Oxford, Charles Dodgson, went on a boat trip together with his friend, Reverend Robinson Duckworth, Alice Liddell along with her two sisters. The day that is next under the pen name Lewis Carroll, he began writing the story he made up for the girls — what he first called the “fairy-tale of ‘Alice’s Adventures Under Ground.’”
As Alice fell down, down, along the rabbit hole, so too have Carroll lovers after her, trying to explain just how Wonderland made such huge waves in children’s literature. How does a global with a cat that is disappearing hysterical turtle, and smoking caterpillar capture and hold readers’ imaginations, old and young from now and then? It might seem obvious, but at the time, Carroll’s creation broke the rules in unprecedented ways that are new.
They departed from prior children’s books, which served as strict moral compasses in Western puritanical society, eventually adding more engaging characters and illustrations once the years passed.
But by the time Carroll started recording his tale, children had a genre to call their own, and literary nonsense was just taking off. The scene was set for Alice.
Written throughout the Golden Age that is first of Literature, Carroll’s classic is an absurd yet magnificently perceptive form of entertainment unlike something that came before if not after it.
B efore 1865, the entire year Alice went to press, children did not read books with stammering rabbits or curious girls who were unafraid to speak their minds:
`No, the Queen was said by no. `Sentence first — verdict afterwards.’
`Stuff and nonsense!’ said Alice loudly. ` the basic notion of having the sentence first!’
`Hold your tongue!’ said the Queen, turning purple.
`I won’t!’ said Alice.
This kind of rubbish certainly d >The Pilgrim’s Progress (1678), by Puritan John Bunyan, “was either forced upon children or more probably actually enjoyed by them in lieu of anything better.”
Another illustrated collection of short stories wasn’t even exclusive to children. Published in 1687, Winter-Evenings Entertainments’ title page read, “Excellently accommodated for the fancies of old or young.”
Books — even fables, fairytales, and knight-in-shining-armor stories — are not intended solely for the amusement of girls and boys. This all started initially to change as people, most notably Jean-Jacques Rousseau, started thinking about childhood in a way that is new. Rousseau rejected the Puritan belief that humans are born in sin. As Йmile, or On Education (1762) illuminates, he saw individuals as innately good, and kids as innocent. The fictitious boy Йmile learns through observing and interacting with the corrupt world around him; he follows his instincts and grows from experience, like Alice.
Thus, by the mid-18th century, a romanticized portrayal of childhood — full of unbridled action, creative expression, innocent inferences, and good intentions — began seeping into children’s literature.
Authors and publishers dusted stylistic sprinkles to their stories, because children were no further viewed as having to depend on religion or etiquette guides which will make sense of the whole world. As writers realized the power of entertainment, preachy, elbows-off-the-table books became less dry. Books entered a brand new, more fantastical phase: “instruction with delight.”
Publishers paired history, religion, morals, and social conventions with illustrations and nursery that is catchy. “Bah, bah, black sheep,” “Hickory dickory dock,” and “London Br >Tommy Thumb’s Pretty Song Book (1744). John Newbery, known as “The Father of Children’s Literature,” came out together with book that is first Little Pretty Pocket-Book (1744). The small, pretty edition was bound in colorful paper and came with a ball for boys and pincushion for females — an imaginative means of expanding the children’s book market. Teaching young readers through amusing and playful techniques became much more popular, and thanks in large part to Newbery, children’s books had potential to be commercial hits.
This hybrid of storytelling, education, and entertainment became referred to as a “moral tale. because of the end of this 18th century” As stories grew longer and much more sophisticated, like Maria Edgeworth’s “Purple Jar” (1796), writers introduced “psychologically complex characters place in situations in which there wasn’t always an obvious moral way to be studied.”
A milestone for authors like Carroll, these kinds of tales gave characters, and as a result young readers, the capability to learn by doing and not by being told through a parent, preacher, or pedagogue. Alice embodied that shift:
“She had never forgotten that, if you drink much from a bottle marked `poison,’ it is
almost certain to disagree to you, in the course of time. However, this bottle was NOT marked `poison,’ so Alice ventured to taste it, and finding it very nice…she very soon finished it off.”
Unlike the familiar middle-class abodes or charming villages in which most moral tales were set, Alice swims in a pool of tears and plays croquet with flamingos and hedgehogs. During the time that is same she sticks up for herself, tries her best to utilize sound judgment and never gives up — values moral tales would encompass. Wonderland, though, perfectly satirizes the narrative that is instructive even while epitomizing an emerging genre of that time called “nonsense literature.”
The better. in a February 1869 letter to Alexander Macmillan, Carroll wrote, “The only point I really look after when you look at the whole matter (and it’s also a source of very real pleasure to me) is the fact that the book ought to be enjoyed by children write my essay — while the more in number”
Carroll’s peculiar creation twists logic and language, but nonetheless is sensible. Its non-human characters act like people and contradict one another; however, its riddles and juxtapositions deconstruct the reality without destroying it.