Time is a cruel master, said Alice’s mother.
No, Time is a thief and a villain, Alice replied.
– Alice in Wonderland
Lewis Carroll was quite interested in thinking about time. In Wonderland, tea time is six o’clock in the evening. Unfortunately, time has stopped in Wonderland, so it is perpetually six o’clock, perpetually tea time.
Alice changes her mind about many things in the books, including time. She tells Time (who is a character), “I used to think time was a thief. But you give before you take. Time is a gift. Every minute. Every second.”
The Mad Hatter explains that Time is a “him,” not an “it.” He tells Alice that Time has been upset because the Queen of Hearts said that he was “murdering time” while he performed a song badly. That is when he fixed the time at six o’clock.
Time is rather whimsical and impulsive. Hatter says that “Suppose it were nine o’clock in the morning, just time to begin lessons: you’d only have to whisper a hint to Time, and round goes the clock in a twinkling! Half-past one, time for dinner!”
Filmmakers who have adapted the books have played with time in their interpretations of Alice’s adventures. In Alice Through the Looking Glass, Time lives in a castle of eternity. He has one human hand and one mechanical hand and possesses the Chronosphere, a glowing, spinning, metallic sphere inside the chamber of the Grand Clock that powers all time. If you were to take the Chronosphere, you could travel the Ocean of Time to the past. When it was taken, Time weakened and was dying. Alice and the Mad Hatter returned the Chronosphere to its proper place and Time was resurrected.
Alice once asked the Hatter, “I think you might do something better with the time,” she said, than waste it in asking riddles that have no answers. “
“If you knew Time as well as I do,” said the Hatter, you wouldn’t talk about wasting it.”
Poor White Rabbit with his clock is a modern person worn down by the relentless pressure of time.
Lewis Carroll’s own drawing of Alice Link
Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland is about a child struggling to survive in the confusing world of adults. Alice is open-minded, as are most children, but she learns – and it is rather sad – that adults need rules to live by.
In Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There, Alice climbs through a mirror into the world that she can see beyond it. Everything there is reversed – a reflection. Logic is reversed, so, for example, running helps one remain stationary. Time runs backward. Chessmen are alive, and nursery rhyme characters exist.
It is also about being curious, taking chances, and maybe even falling down a rabbit hole. Or looking closely in the mirror, because it is also about what Caterpillar asks Alice to answer for herself. Who in the world am I?
Mark Twain said “the stillest and shyest full-grown man I have ever met” was Lewis Carroll, who was born Charles Lutwidge Dodgson in Daresbury, England in 1832. He went to Oxford, was gifted at math, graduated with honors, and stayed at the college as a teacher for the rest of his life. He didn’t really like teaching, but it earned him a living, and he thought of it as a temporary endeavor while he worked on becoming famous as an artist of some sort.
He wrote poems and short stories and took photographs. One day in 1856, he took three little girls, Ina, Edith, and Alice on a boating trip and told them a story that would become Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland which was published in 1865. Six years later, he published its sequel, Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There.