Long-time readers of this blog, and long-time knowers of Casey, the person, know that I have a mild obsession with Alice (as in, “in Wonderland”). The books themselves are full of whimsy but also very true observations about childhood, adulthood, and the way the two coincide. Moreover, I think Alice is a positive protagonist, heroine, and character, particularly for young girls (or females of any age, really) (or dudes, too, I guess).
So in reading Morton Cohen’s book Lewis Carroll: a Biography, I was delighted to come across this bit of business:
In both cases [of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass], Alice should meet a strong male rescuer, a Prince Charming, and they should fall in love and live happily ever after. But she does not. She succeeds, but not through the formula of grand romance. Instead of honeyed happiness, she gains confidence, a way of dealing with the world; instead of love, she finds advancement, recognition, acceptance.
Isn’t that an amazing thing to read? Both Cohen’s synopsis and as a concept itself, of a girl going on an adventure and coming out of the process with all sorts of self-knowledge to take on the entire world. That’s just amazing.
I know I’ve ranted and raved on here often enough about sacrificing plot for romance, or the insistence of having romance when it isn’t necessary, just for the sake of having it, or because the author (or the agent, or the editor, or the publisher, or someone’s well-meaning mother or writing group) thinks that it has to be included for anything to be taken seriously or have meaning or sell well (or all three). So it’s delightful when I have instances when romance is secondary if it’s included at all, a reminder that there are multiple kinds of stories and multiple kinds of characters, and not every female character has to fall into a neat little category. And lest anyone think that doesn’t sell, Cohen points out to us that neither Wonderland nor Looking-Glass has ever gone out of print (since the 1800s!), and that as of 1993 (the Carroll biography was published in 1995), over seventy-five editions and version of Alice were available in all sorts of media. Ladies (or small Victorian children) are doin’ it for themselves.