44 pages 1 hour read

Lewis Carroll

Alice's Adventures In Wonderland

Fiction | Novel | Middle Grade | Published in 1865

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Critique of Victorian-era Children’s Education

Carroll satirizes both the methods and the content of Victorian-era education. Frequently, Alice tries to apply her book knowledge to her experiences in Wonderland, usually in vain. Her very first observation initiates this theme, when she laments that her sister’s book contains neither drawings nor dialogue (5). Alice longs for imagination and creativity; the activity that she considered doing before falling asleep was making a daisy chain, a simple but creative and whimsical activity. It is presumably a weekend, since Alice is not in school. It is ironic, then, that so much of her experience in Wonderland focuses on her education.

The education system in Britain expanded rapidly in the Victorian era, establishing public schools and providing educational opportunities for girls. School subjects were primarily taught through memorization and recitation, and the emphasis was placed on forming children’s moral character. Children in general were not supposed to speak unless spoken to, and could be punished for speaking their mind or answering back. Carroll’s choice of an opinionated young heroine signals that he is challenging the accepted role of children in society.

In the 1860s, education for girls of the upper class still mainly consisted of subjects in the arts and homemaking to prepare them for their future roles as wives and mothers.