24 February 2019
A Feminist Look at Alice in the Courtroom
Strong and bold young female characters in literature have been few and far between relative to the amount of literature published over decades past. Yet Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, by Carroll Lewis in 1865, delivered just such a character in Alice. At one point in this story, the young girl named Alice sits in a courtroom together with a jury, a court of witnesses, a vile queen, and a foolish king presiding as judge. How should a young lady act in this situaiton and how does Alice behave in the story? How is she portrayed and presented to readers of the story as well as other characters within the story? Lewis presented Alice during the Victorian Era, a time remembered for strict gender roles. Women were expected to find fulfillment at home taking care of children, cooking and managing the house and family. Alice is by no means a character without the flaws one would expect a young girl to have, but in many ways during this courtroom scenario, her boldness, intelligence, and confrontational nature breaks free from the norms of society for women and presents a strong model character for women.
Alice sits in the court, observing the trial in the absurd case of the king and queen trying to determine whether or not the defendant stole the tarts. After just a few testimonies had been given, the king called a new witness: Alice. At that moment, Alice had grown larger than others, yet quickly jumped up and proclaimed her presence upon hearing her name. This action caused an accident where she inadvertently upended the jury of animals, yet quickly and politely attempted to fix the situation. The king and judge proclaimed that “the trial cannot proceed – until all the jurymen are back in their proper places,” (Lewis, 46). In this instance, we see Alice the young girl make a mistake and promptly acknowledge it by acting to fix the problem. Here, she noteably does not challenge the authority of the king’s demand. So depending on the situation, she displays politeness and is well behaved. Alice is not above courtesy and acting with kindness when she is wrong.
Standing before the court, king, and judge, Alice is questioned. She knows nothing. Up until this point, she is cooperative. Confusion ensues and soon after, the king reads out a rule which Alice presumes has just been written, for the king had just been busily writing in his note-book, afterwhich he calls for silence and reads rule 42 from his book, that “All persons more than a mile high to leave the court.” The courtroom looks at Alice, and she states, “I’m not a mile high.” At this point, Alice had grown very large and the king and queen seemed to have taken notice. Both king and queen disagree with Alice, proclaiming that she is at least a mile high. Despite standing before an authority, Alice declares, “Well, I sha’n’t go, at any rate.” Alice declares that the rule has just been made. The king tells ...