"Everyone in Wonderland is mad,
otherwise they wouldn''t be down here."
Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland is mainly an oneiric story of the adventures of a maturing Alice. Its dream-like world is the product of a child’s imagination and is therefore susceptible of interpretation along the lines of psychological insights on the world of dreams. According to the psychoanalytical theories of Sigmund Freud, the mind of the dreamer creates an alternate reality in order to fulfill wishes that cannot be achieved in other ways. This invites the reader to a diverse interpretations of Alice’s personality and wishes.
The story, which works as a very complex dream, was extensively designed by the mathematician Lewis Carroll to include significant details. One of the events that immediately call the attention of the psychoanalytic reader is the use of substances to increase or reduce Alice’s size. In some parts "she was the right size for going through the little door into that lovely garden," while in others "she was more than nine feet high." It is not a coincidence that drinking, which does not result in the physical growth is associated with the shrinking whereas eating, which symbolically is the nurture of the body and the search for pleasures, with the increase in size. In addition, Alice’s behavior towards the labels of the bottles she finds in Wonderland with the words ‘eat me’ or ‘drink me'' is significant. With this, she seems to follow adult standards but it could also convey her wish of being consistent with her actions outside of the dream world. However, she believes that the absence of label means that the substance is healthy. The changes in size mirror the physical and emotional modifications that Alice, a very curious, inquisitive young woman and a good observer, passes through as she matures. In several occasions, Alice states that she does not know who she is as a result of her metamorphosis. Finally, she gets used to the new sizes and to her body, representing her adaptation and thus her more mature state. Significantly, Alice doesn''t like the animals in Wonderland who treat her as a child, but simultaneously her new responsibilities as a person approaching adultness frighten her.
The opening scene when Alice falls down the hole after pursuing the peculiar White Rabbit and consequently arrives in Wonderland follows the same oneirical patterns in which rational and scientific principles are suspended. The scientific categories are abolished and time becomes completely relative especially while she falls down: "Either the well was very deep, or she fell very slowly, for she had plenty of time as she went down to look about her and to wonder what was going to happen next." On one hand, gravity does not affect her as it would in reality. Alice’s priorities appear inverted: she is not worried about falling down fatally but about keeping all the books in order and not hurting anyone by any object thrown. This inversion of priorities is not realistic, and the bookshelves on the sides of the hole represent Alice’s wish to escape reality through literature, according to Jerry Maatta’s interpreation (http://www.alice-in-wonderland.net/?explain/alice841.html).
Another Freudian concept that could be present in the story are hallucinations. Alice finds herself in different situations involving various unusual animals that seem to work just as hallucinations do; a white rabbit with a clock, a mad cat, a hookah smoking caterpillar, a mad hatter, a Cheshire cat and a dormouse that drinks tea and is in constant pseudo-hibernation. The oneiric mechanism of condensation, as described by Freud, is present in the dream, as many ideas are symbolically compacted as images and words. Linguistic condensation is present in the creation of the names for these animals. Jerry Maatta argues that the peculiar names of the creatures are made from words from English, French and Latin. The name of the sleep mouse, Dormouse condenses the Latin root dormire which means to sleep, and the English word mouse.
Another Freudian concept that cean be detected in the story idea of daily residue. Freud aruges that this is the response of the body to reduce the thoughs caused by tension that would not let the person sleep. As a result, dreams conceal these thoughts. According to Jerry Maatta, the wonderful garden into which Alice wants to gain access can be a symbol of the Garden of Eden. The inclusion of this thought in the dream might be the consequence of the maturing child having read a religious story. In addition, the scene where the March hare and the Mad Hatter are having a tea party allows the reader to understand more about Alice’s personality. The creatures’ response towards Alice could be a residue of an experience of the young woman in her house. Her subconscious included this detail in her dream to convey her wish to be accepted and to get rid of the worry caused by the daily residue. Finally, the Mad Cat can be read as the product of Alice’s unconscious and a parallel of Dinah, the cat she owns and constantly mentions. Mary Schwingen (http://victorianweb.org/authors/bronte/cbronte/73realcb.html) interprets that through this repetition of the cat along the whole dream, Alice is trying to unconsciously express her need to communicate and gain attention.
When the Cheshire Cat expressed that "everyone in Wonderland is mad, otherwise they wouldn''t be down here" a deep existential meaning is subtly conveyed. According to Jerry Maatta, it could be interpreted that everyone is mad because they are trying to escape from their reality, simply because they are alive or because they dreamt about the cat, implying that it is a hallucination. Finally, based on the dream, I interpret that time is a very important element for Alice. She is becoming aware of time as she matures and is forced to wait with her sister while bored. The escape from reality starts when she sees a rabbit with a watch while waiting in a bank. Later on, the Hatter''s watch shows only days because "it''s always six o'' clock and tea-time".
Interestingly, medicine has labeled a condition based on this book: Alice in Wonderland syndrome (AIWS). This syndrome is characterized by distorted space and body image and is usually associated with visual hallucinations. The patients have a feeling that their entire body, or parts of it, have been altered in shape and size (Medicine.net - http://www.medterms.com/script/main/art.asp?artclekey=24174). This means that the perceptions in Alice’s dream do not necessarily express the need of escaping reality and are not completely irrational or against the laws of reality. In addition, it has been proven that the author suffered from severe migraine and possibly from AIWS. However, by analyzing the dream presented in Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland using Freudian psychoanalysis, the reader gets a deeper understanding of the main character, her physical and emotional journey towards adult life and the anguish produced by the resulting changes.