Madness | Alice in Wonderland: A world of stunted growth

by Natalia Santos


Madness | Alice in Wonderland: A world of stunted growth


Madness, craziness, bizarre, absurd, ghastly are all words associated with the Gothic. You know.. words of deadly awe, craze and horror to create a picture of something fitting. Something fitting to the word gothic. Nonetheless with gothic comes normalcy.

Normalcy is a term, which I would like to use here.   A state of normalcy, certainty, and  the mediocre. A state of safety. This is crucial when understanding the gothic because it is very different to the norm. Very scary in fact. And very different to the state of normalcy. This is where the introduction of wonderland comes into light and becomes a wondrous place of exploration. Wonderland, first known to us by the author Lewis Carroll. Wonderland presents us with a distorted reality created by Alice – per say? Carroll gives us a splendid world of Wonderland- splashed with madness, strangeness and hysterics. Carrolls characters can be seen to float in Wonderland with mad characteristics, interesting quirks and almost torturous illnesses.

When thinking about wonderland it’s important not to forget the characters and what they could possibly mean?! Starting with the protagonist: Alice. We watch how she wonders through Wonderland almost aspiring, dreaming, chancing  something that isn’t there. She seems stubborn to leave yet a drop eager to stay (seen within film adaptations – i.e. Tim burton’s style) Nonetheless at the same time Wonderland could be seen as a representation of Alice’s inner most darkest emotions. Emotions such as loneliness, despair seem to emerge. Almost as if Alice is trying to escape the real world just for a little bit. Almost very similar to the story of Peter Pan and how he refuses to grow up and become an adult and face the real world. Moving a way from Alice – the  role of the Mad Hatter is vitally important. The Mad Hatter almost comes to represent the keeper of Wonderland. The one who keeps Wonderland ‘safe’ from anyone trying to cause it harm. The reason for this is because the Hatter almost seems like he has loyal subjects who fend his every need, and obey him. His loyal subjects being the dormouse, the hare and the white rabbit. The Hatter seems like he has control in them.Control with them and wonderland. (Wonderland coming to represent a land of escapism from the real world.) Thus, bringing forth the oh wise.. Chesire Cat. Whom seems to reject this notion of control. The Chesire cat seems free and light headed.   (Sane, yet mad. Not emotionally buried, or stunted, in better terms- like the other characters.) As The Mad Hatter paralyses time – he controls time. He controls the dimension that he is in and remains there. With the rabbit, hare and dormouse.

Ultimately, through interpretation..

  • Alice can be seen representing the dreamer.
  • Mad Hatter: The Bi-polar patient, socially unaware, the frantic need for control.
  • Cheshire cat: The deliriously intelligent, socially aware, the observer
  • The Hare :  Anxiety/Stressed-  The perfectionist
  • The dormouse: Low self esteem Depressed– The need for love and attention
  • The White Rabbit: OCD  frantic- The perfectionist also.


Before we finish, it’s important to note that perhaps the reason they laugh, act silly and so on is a symbol of their pain. . As Stephen King mentions: ‘Humour is almost always anger with its make-up on.’ The characters in Wonderland could subconsciously be crying out to Alice to be saved from their delusions of reality of tortuous pain and sheer misery.