Water as an Archetypal Image in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass
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Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass, by Lewis Carroll, are filled with archetypal images that enhance the underlying meaning of the story. From the Cheshire cat to the caterpillar to the garden, Carroll uses abstract ideas to symbolize archetypal images. Lewis Carroll makes images represent the archetypal trickster, mentor, temptress, and more. One of the less prevalent, but most meaningful images in these books is water. In the “Alice” stories, Lewis Carroll uses the archetypal image of water to represent the situations and events that Alice encounters through her journey.
The most obvious use of water by Lewis Carroll comes in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, in which Alice cries so much that it creates a pool of tears. Carroll writes, “But she went on all the same, shedding gallons of tears, until there was a large pool all round her, about four inches deep and reaching half down the hall” (27). However, the significance of this is not that Alice is crying; it is the pool of tears that she creates while doing it. Alice eventually falls into this water. Water in this instance, as an archetypal image, symbolizes a few different things. One thing it symbolizes is a baptism for Alice. This baptism can be equated to her being cleansed. While being in the water Alice is also reborn; she almost becomes a new person. Her eyes open up to the world while she is in this pool. In the pool Alice starts to talk to different animals and offends them. Alice insults them because she is a young girl and does not really know how to communicate well with others. So, Alice grows and is reborn even though the full extent of her growth is not seen until Through the Looking-Glass. After being in the water Alice is complete...
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... between the two. At this point Alice is nearing the end of her journey of maturing and becoming an adult, which in this book is compared to becoming a queen for Alice. Alice crosses the brooks, representing the passage of time, and as this happens she is growing up and nearing a turning point in her life. Alice’s crossing of the brooks is a small section of the “Alice” stories, but it really sums up many of the ideas that Carroll tries to get across.
Although water is not the most prominent image used by Carroll in the “Alice” stories, water adds a lot of meaning. This image aptly reflects Alice’s growth in the stories. All the other images in the stories, such as the Mad-Hatter, the White Queen, and the steps in the “Journey of the Hero” are easily recognized and likely to be over-analyzed. However, few have the significance that water has in the “Alice” stories.