While Salvador Dalí’s paintings contain the contents of dreams remembered and dreams discovered, Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland directly addresses the difference between reality and subconcious imagination.
The book is an obvious example of the classic “I woke up and realize it had all been a dream” ending. It’s a tactic viewed as immature or lazy in contemporary writers, but Carroll pulls it off with finesse.
This might be because such a twist ending, in the life of little Alice, does more than quickly excuse unrealistic conversations with wide-smiled cats. Alice, a girl who talks to her kitten and spends her afternoons daydreaming in the shade of springtime foliage, doesn’t quite live in reality in the first place. So, Carroll’s eradication of the “reality” of the bulk of Alice’s events just sends her back to the world she fills with the imaginary anyway.
Alice’s imaginative nature calls into question the reality, or unreality, of her phantasmagorical dream itself. She’s an intentionally unrealiable narrator, blending the real world with her fantasies. It’s easier to fall into the rabbit hole that is her brain when you can’treally tell where the dreams end and real life begins.
Published at See Gauge Blog on February 27, 2013.