In class, we briefly addressed the idea of authority and authority figures. I noticed that in Alice in Wonderland, authority over situations and over Alice, herself, switches very often between characters. When looking closer, I realized that there is a rather consistent pattern.
Whenever Alice is in the presence of other characters (no matter who they are or how intelligent they seem to be), she immediately looks to them for guidance, and gives them authority over the situation, as well as authority over her. In certain situations, it does not even take another character for Alice to transfer authority away from herself. For example, when she encounters the bottle with the label that says “‘DRINK ME,’” Alice is very eager to give the authority to the bottle, so to speak, and follow its instructions (she does so without much thought) (Carrol 10). Similarly, when the Rabbit mistakes her for Mary Ann and orders her to go back to the house to fetch gloves for him, “Alice was so much frightened that she ran off at once in the direction it pointed to, without trying to explain the mistake that it had made,” which reveals Alice’s strict habit of listening to authority figures, even though she is the one who allows these figures to have authority over her in the first place; why else would she feel obliged follow orders given to her by a rabbit? (26). Such situations arise with most of the other characters with which Alice interacts (so far, these characters include the mouse, the caterpillar, the pigeon, the Footman, the Duchess, and the Cheshire Cat).
On the other hand, Alice seems to be quite uncomfortable when she is on her own and forced to make her own decisions. This is made especially clear when she says, “‘I do wish they would put their heads down! I am so very tired of being alone here!” (16) Notably, this feeling of uncertainty would seem to be a natural instinct for a little girl who is very lost, so in most cases, such fear would not seem be worthy of discussion. However, the way she copes with this fear makes it appear that, when she is alone and finally forced to make her own decisions, she does not simply make the decisions and act upon them, as a normal person would. Rather, she seems to actively transfer the authority over her and the situation in which she is (usually authority that is controlled by somebody else) from the absent authority figures to herself in such a way that it seems as though there is a part of Alice that is in charge, and a part of Alice that is following Alice-in-charge’s orders. This is clear when she talks to herself: “She generally gave herself very good advice (though she very seldom followed it)” (12). She seems to adopt so much authority over herself that she even disciplines herself when she believes that she has misbehaved, such as the times when “she scolded herself so severely as to bring tears into her eyes; and once she remembered trying to box her own ears for having cheated herself in a game” (12). The situations in which she looks to herself for guidance occur very frequently within the text.
This vein of thought could get pretty interesting when psychoanalytically reading Alice’s double personality (is she transferring her parents’ roles onto herself and other characters in the story for some unexplored reason?), but do you think that it could also just be her subconscious’s final resort at attempting to find an authority figure in herself (or a portion of herself) when a reliable external one isn’t present?