However, as one grows older one does feel guilty for not have given ‘must reads’ a proper chance. So, it’s been a little while since I’d been planning on getting myself an other copy of Lewis Carroll’s famous book. Never really getting round to buying though, I decided to read it in installments from DailyLit.
I’m glad I did. I still found Alice annoying. All the little animals were interesting. But, what really captured my attention this time and caused to really like this books was Carroll’s play with words. He would take words, exploring their various meanings within the context of the story. I suppose that is why, at a cursory glance, the story itself is meaningless. But, stay awhile and let the sounds wash over you without letting the story bother you, and it’s quite fascinating! Even Carroll’s own twists on well known rhymes and poems make sense in this topsy turvy world.
My favourite chapter was “The Mock Turtle’s Story”. It was the one in which I enjoyed the play of words the most!
`When we were little,’ the Mock Turtle went on at last, more calmly, though still sobbing a little now and then, `we went to school in the sea. The master was an old Turtle–we used to call him Tortoise–’
`Why did you call him Tortoise, if he wasn’t one?’ Alice asked.
`We called him Tortoise because he taught us,’ said the Mock Turtle angrily: `really you are very dull!’
`You ought to be ashamed of yourself for asking such a simple question,’ added the Gryphon; and then they both sat silent and looked at poor Alice, who felt ready to sink into the earth. At last the Gryphon said to the Mock Turtle, `Drive on, old fellow! Don’t be all day about it!’ and he went on in these words:
`Yes, we went to school in the sea, though you mayn’t believe it–’
`I never said I didn’t!’ interrupted Alice.
`You did,’ said the Mock Turtle.
`Hold your tongue!’ added the Gryphon, before Alice could speak again. The Mock Turtle went on.
`We had the best of educations–in fact, we went to school every day–’
`I’VE been to a day-school, too,’ said Alice; `you needn’t be so proud as all that.’
`With extras?’ asked the Mock Turtle a little anxiously.
`Yes,’ said Alice, `we learned French and music.’
`And washing?’ said the Mock Turtle.
`Certainly not!’ said Alice indignantly.
`Ah! then yours wasn’t a really good school,’ said the Mock Turtle in a tone of great relief. `Now at OURS they had at the end of the bill, “French, music, AND WASHING–extra.”‘
`You couldn’t have wanted it much,’ said Alice; `living at the bottom of the sea.’
`I couldn’t afford to learn it.’ said the Mock Turtle with a sigh. `I only took the regular course.’
`What was that?’ inquired Alice.
`Reeling and Writhing, of course, to begin with,’ the Mock Turtle replied; `and then the different branches of Arithmetic– Ambition, Distraction, Uglification, and Derision.’
`I never heard of “Uglification,”‘ Alice ventured to say. `What is it?’
The Gryphon lifted up both its paws in surprise. `What! Never heard of uglifying!’ it exclaimed. `You know what to beautify is, I suppose?’
`Yes,’ said Alice doubtfully: `it means–to–make–anything–prettier.’
`Well, then,’ the Gryphon went on, `if you don’t know what to uglify is, you ARE a simpleton.’
Alice did not feel encouraged to ask any more questions about it, so she turned to the Mock Turtle, and said `What else had you to learn?’
`Well, there was Mystery,’ the Mock Turtle replied, counting off the subjects on his flappers, `–Mystery, ancient and modern, with Seaography: then Drawling–the Drawling-master was an old conger-eel, that used to come once a week: HE taught us Drawling, Stretching, and Fainting in Coils.’
`What was THAT like?’ said Alice.
`Well, I can’t show it you myself,’ the Mock Turtle said: `I’m too stiff. And the Gryphon never learnt it.’
`Hadn’t time,’ said the Gryphon: `I went to the Classics master, though. He was an old crab, HE was.’
`I never went to him,’ the Mock Turtle said with a sigh: `he taught Laughing and Grief, they used to say.’
`So he did, so he did,’ said the Gryphon, sighing in his turn; and both creatures hid their faces in their paws.
I read this passage over and over again and laughed myself to stitches! Carroll is simply wonderful twisting words and sounds here. If I were to read Alice in Wonderland again, I would do so to read Carroll’s language and not for the story in particular.
Hmmm…really, now that I think about it I would give this book a 4 on 5 rating rather than the 3 it has now. I’m off to change that!