Alice in Wonderland is so ubiquitous now that it's hard to remember it was not always a piece of our cultural mythology, but once was just a book; and, likewise, that Alice was not always the blond, blue-eyed cartoon heroine, but once was a flesh-and-blood girl (neither blond nor blue-eyed). This morning I was reminded of all this when I came across an article about today's date - May 4, the anniversary of the birthday of the child for whom Alice's Adventures in Wonderland was originally written, Alice Liddell.
In fact, it seems there are three Alices: Miss Liddell, the character in both Alice books, and someone else, a ghostlike accumulation of hundreds of interpretations, edits, and re-imaginings. The archetypal Alice that most people recognize today is not only completely disconnected from Alice Liddell, it's often quite a bit removed from the literary heroine. The common Alice today is more of a blank slate on which others project their own phantasmagoria.
I would have to say that the Alice I prefer to remember is the one that lives strictly within the pages of her books. The thoughtful, logical, and curious girl-adventurer, who is more sophisticated a heroine than most the preceded her, and many who came after her. And yet she is still inextricably tied both to the Alice legends has and continues to inspire, and to the human girl who inspired her.
Apparently towards the end of her life, Alice Liddell was rather sick of being known as the "Alice;" one can only imagine how sick she would be of it were she alive in this day and age, especially with all the academic picking apart of her association with author Lewis Carroll, pedophilia charges and all. I don't think there's anything wrong with her keeping her distance from his creations. After all, as others have pointed out, the book Alice is probably not a portrait of a real girl, but of Carroll himself. And beyond that, she's something else, someone different to each person who meets her.
Related Site Update
I've had a certain project idea related to Alice kicking around in back of my mind for a while now, and this article persuaded me to get it going. So here it is: That's Logic, an Alice in Wonderland weblog. I plan to use it to collect various Alice references, creations, and other assorted items of interest. If you like it, let me know and I'll be sure to keep it up.