Monday, April 4, 2011
Go ask Alice
My son came home from his first week at Columbia wearing a tee-shirt imprinted "Go ask Alice." Of course to me it was a time machine back to White Rabbit, Grace Slick, and the Jefferson Airplane. Well, "Alice" turned out to be the office that answered bewildered freshmen's questions.
Fairy tales and myths such as these two films from last year, Alice in Wonderland and Black Swan, now seem to me a safe way for young people to learn why treacherous paths need to be avoided, bringing them into adulthood "keeping their heads." (This was the last line in White Rabbit: "Keep your head.") They remind parents not to judge too much (Black Swan) and to let their children play out their fantasies so they grow up knowing what reality actually is.
Charles Dodgson was in reality Lewis Carroll, author of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. The New York Times once compared him to Nabokov, author of Lolita. However, we would never say that about the Brothers Grimm and Hansel and Gretel or Charles Perrault and Little Red Riding Hood. Somehow we have to gain an awareness of our dark sides early on, and that is why these stories are acceptable. Perhaps Charles Dodgson never grew up himself; he comes perilously close to tampering with the innocence of the real Alice:
last two photos from April 2010 issue of Smithsonian Magazine
Posted by Margaret Pangert at 9:06 PM