This month hundreds of people congregated in Oxford to celebrate Alice Day, as they do every year. Although this year, the 150th anniversary of the book, was bigger than ever: 150 Alices, a lobster quadrille, a mad tea party and chapters being brought to life all over the city.
Why does Alice endure when so many have faded?
The answer to that is far longer than a mouse’s tail…But here is my potted version:
Alice is the first heroine in children’s literature with interiority. We can identify with her as she struggles to communicate with the mad creatures she meets.
Alice is essentially a coming of age story. As she grows and shrinks and tries to make sense of the world. And who hasn’t felt like her? Like a child adrift in a world of crazy adults.
Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland transmogrifies itself for every era. It adapted to the acid taking 60s, the psychoanalytical movement and still looks fresh in the steampunk moment of now.
Alice has leapt free from the bounds of her covers. We are all Alice now: you can’t open a paper without someone having “gone down the rabbit hole” or stepped “through the looking glass.” The book is said to be the third most quoted in the English language, after the Bible and Shakespeare. And I, who notice whenever Alice is mentioned, can easily believe it.