Logic/Shakespeare in Alice and Wonderland Term Paper

  • Length: 10 pages
  • Sources: 4
  • Subject: Literature
  • Type: Term Paper
  • Paper: #17875448

Excerpt from Term Paper :

Of course, the studious scholar might point out that nearly every document produced since the time of Shakespeare must have been influenced by the writer because of the sheer number of vocabulary words he created, but the focus of this essay is literary references and influences (the Language).

In Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, evidence of Shakespeare's influence is most noteworthy in Carroll's use of the themes of foolery, communication problems, and identity as it relates to power. Yet, if a grander source of influence outside Shakespeare could account for the text better than Shakespeare, Bloom's theory would be debased.

Of course, a larger sources of influence on Carroll's works has already been determined, the influence that came from within himself, his own vocation. I contend that although Shakespeare may have influenced Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, the principles of mathematical and logical reasoning are a grander source of influence on Carroll's novel because they are the only concepts that seem to remain constant and true in Wonderland, and they are the only method by which chaos is harnessed and order is established. Alice's Adventures in Wonderland has already been described as mad, and mad it is, full of mad hatters, babies that turn into pigs, and foods that make one grow at alarming rates. The world is disorderly and illogical. As previously explained, however, Carroll uses logic to make the illogical logical, and therefore establishing order. In fact, the very themes of the book are highlighted by this use of logic to tame illogical disorder. For instance, Alice spends quite a bit of time speaking with the hookah-smoking caterpillar about her size. She punctuates nearly all of her sentences with "you know." Clearly, as the caterpillar states, he does not know. Alice intimates that she feels it is horrible to be the small size that she is during the novel and the caterpillar quickly takes offence, pointing out that he is the size Alice seems so ready to discriminate against (Carroll?). Through the caterpillar's logical replies to what the author quickly sees are Alice's illogical assumptions (though they are the assumptions most would make if in a similar situation), the reader not only begins to understand the upside-down and topsy-turvy atmosphere of Wonderland, but he or she also becomes aware of one of Carroll's most prevalent themes -- the dynamic of assumptions and offence between strangers in strange lands.

Thus, Carroll's use of logic is ultimately a more influential source in his work than his considering of Shakespeare. By using logic not only to prove the illogical and make sense of the nonsensical world of Wonderland, but also to highlight his major themes, Carroll himself proves that this was of greater influence on his work than was Shakespeare. But because Carroll so expertly used Mathematics and logic to write the intriguing tales of Wonderland, using formal logic to disprove Bloom's argument that Shakespeare was the larger influence in Carroll's literary career is important. Formal logic allows two methods of attacking or debasing a conclusion. The first is by disproving one or more of the premises, and the second is by providing an alternative source for the conclusion (without breaking premises). In this examination, it is most effective to utilize the first method, which entails examining the premises of Bloom's argument for fallacies and weaknesses that may nullify his conclusion.

Testing Bloom's Premise: Shakespeare's Influence:

restatement of the syllogism to be disproved follows:

Premise 1: if a literary work is post Shakespearean and Western, then Shakespeare influenced it.

Premise 2: No other theories are capable of encompassing Shakespeare, and Shakespearean

Theory encompasses all other theories.

Conclusion: Shakespeare is the dominant source of influence in all Western works of literature that succeed him.

Lewis Carroll was born on January 27, 1832, in Daresbury, Cheshire, England and published Alice's Adventures in Wonderland in 1872. As England is included in the Western Tradition and William Shakespeare lived from 1564 to 1616, we see that Lewis Carroll fits safely within the initial confines of premise one.

The second claim of premise one is that since Alice's Adventures in Wonderland is a Post-Shakespearean work of the Western tradition, it is influenced by Shakespeare. Yet, in order to validate Bloom's first premise, it is essential to examine the text for evidence that reflects and confirms this claim.

One of the ways in which Shakespeare's influence is apparent in Alice's Adventures in Wonderland is because the inhabitants of Wonderland are a cast of Shakespearean "fools," who create confusion, add humor through songs, jokes, and puns. Particularly, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland is comparable to Shakespeare's comedy Twelfth Night, as they are both stories in which characters combine their foolishness and wits to attack those that attempt to avoid reality.

Additionally, Carroll's Wonderland is similar to Shakespeare's Illyria of Twelfth Night, a "country permeated with the spirit of the Feast of Fools, where identities are confused, 'uncivil rule' applauded...and no harm is done (Welsford page?)."

Beyond Twelfth Night however, the reader continues to observe ways in which Carroll's novel reflects broad Shakespearean influence. "Chaos," which is defined as "a state of complete disorder and confusion," by whom/what is a primary theme in Shakespeare's literary works that reemerges in Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. For example, Shakespeare's a Midsummer Night's Dream is almost wholly based on the concept of chaos and fools. Foolish lover, and perhaps not simply fools in love, but also fools in general, are bewitched and run around chaotically between fairies and nymphs seeking out one another. A spiritual feud between paranormal spirits and miscommunications to their messengers leads to this chaos. This depiction of chaotic and foolish characters running through a wood seeking something that is lost even though they are not sure why they seek it is not much different then Alice wandering aimlessly through a Wonderland filled with chaotic creatures as she looks for something that she cannot quite identify. Maybe it's the rabbit, perhaps her cat Dinah, a way home, or the little garden door. Nevertheless, in both Shakespeare and Carroll stories what is sought is elusive truth in a world where chaos is king.

Like Shakespeare, Carroll creates chaos through communication errors that contribute to identity struggles by using many of the same linguistic techniques as Shakespeare, such as puns, syntax play and soliloquies. Examples of this include Alice's befuddled conversations with the caterpillar, duchess, and mock turtle, all of which say illogical words and phrases that turn out to be perfectly logical, depending on what angle one is reading them from.

A memorable pun is found in the novel's second chapter. In "the Pool of Tears," the mouse attempts to dry everyone who was caught in the pool of tears by reciting some history, which is the "driest" thing he knows (Carroll?). In this case, "dry," of course, means dull, and the Mouse's words fail to relieve the dampness of the creatures, who are left "as wet as ever" (Carroll?).

Later, when Alice meets the Mad Hatter and the March Hare, they confuse Alice by playing with the order of words (syntax), another popular device of Shakespeare:

Then you should say what you mean," the March Hare went on.

A do," Alice hastily replied; "at least -- at least I mean what I say that's the same thing, you know."

Not the same thing a bit!" said the Hatter. "You might just as well say that 'I see what I eat' is the same thing as 'I eat what I see'!"

You might just as well say," added the March Hare, "that 'I like what I get' is the same thing as 'I get what I like'! (Carroll?)

Communication struggles also appear in self-communication, which occurs most often in the form of soliloquy. This contributes to interiority, an element highly valued by Harold Bloom, as it is the primary method by which unique and praiseworthy characters are developed. Like Shakespeare's Hamlet, Alice's frequent conversations to herself are soliloquies, and it is through miscommunications, confusion, and chaos within herself that she becomes unsure of her own identity and more susceptible to madness and powerlessness in Wonderland. For example, Alice exclaims to herself:

Dear, dear! How queer everything is to-day! And yesterday things went on just as usual. I wonder if I've been changed in the night? Let me think: was I the same when I got up this morning? I almost think I can remember feeling a little different. But if I'm not the same, the next question is, Who in the world am I? Ah, THAT'S the great puzzle! (Carroll).

In Wonderland, language is powerful and often interpreted literally as it is directly related to identity and power. Carroll uses many figures of speech in his text and, in fact, many of his characters are named after…

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