“Alice in Wonderland” and World War 1

I’m not sure if any of you all noticed that on Dr. Scanlon’s first post introducing us all to the course and to the blog, she used a tag saying that the other class she is teaching is on “Alice in Wonderland” and to discuss that. Having had Dr. Scanlon’s Down the Rabbit Hole FSEM three years ago I knew that there had to be some type of connection between both “Alice” and the War in some way or else Dr. Scanlon wouldn’t have left that comment. 

When I say that this has bugged me since I saw it, I’m not lying! It bothered me since I saw that post that, being a veteran of Dr. Scanlon’s FSEM class, I could not immediately figure out how in the world these two very different things were connected. Since “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” was published in 1865 and “Through the Looking Glass” was published in 1871, I realized the connection couldn’t lie within the work or around when it was released into the world. This also being said, and along with his death in 1898, meant that Lewis Carroll was not this link between “Alice” and the war either.

Young Alice Liddell. I also believe this is a photo that Carroll took of Alice.

This is when it clicked with me: it had to be with Alice herself. Let me give you a little rundown. Alice Liddell, pronounced “Little”, and her sisters are said to have been the inspiration for these stories. Carroll even gave Alice one of the original copies of “Alice’s Adventures”. He was infatuated with her and their relationship was kind of strange, but that is a whole other topic (one of which is worth looking up). Alice Liddell was born in 1852 and died in 1934 which meant she was alive during World War 1

In 1880, Alice was married to Reginald Hargreaves and went on to have three sons with him: Leopold, Alan, and Caryl Hargreaves. All three of her sons went off to serve England in the war. However, both Alan and Leopold were killed in action–Alan in 1915 and Leopold in 1916. This was the connection factor, the link between “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” and the war. It lied wit in Alice Liddell’s real-life adventures and sadness.

Alice’s sons: Leopold Reginald “Rex”, Alan, and Caryl.

I find it very interesting how a story we all consider a children’s story has branches that reach to something as destructive as war. A woman who’s youth inspired a story that still thrives today went on to face the devastation of losing two of her children during a war. Maybe this can be one of those things where we say “it’s such a small world!” or maybe this helps to show just how widespread the effect of the war actually was. I also really enjoyed how somehow a class I took freshman year has connections to one I am taking now as a senior. I hope this surprised you in some way or made you think about the possibilities of connections that can be made between life, literature, and the war. Also, if you know of some more information that I did not include in this post (sorry Dr. Scanlon if I missed something) please feel free to add to or reflect on this.

224 thoughts on ““Alice in Wonderland” and World War 1

  1. Your post reminds me just how pervasive war is. I think war’s influence, in general, spreads beyond the actual battles and fighting. But when you begin to imagine a war this big, this widespread as a global phenomenon, then it really messes with you.

  2. I had no idea Carroll’s Alice was based on a real person much less how she was connected to the war. The whole connection becomes even more weird if you look at Alice in Wonderland with a theme of innocence and compare it to the loss of innocence war commands in All Quiet

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