Alice in Wonderland
1. The start of the book seems to be going out of its way to deviate from every expectation the reader has. It plunges straight into the surrealism without any point of reference, encouraging and almost forcing the reader to become disoriented. Although the story’s meaning has been interpreted dozens of different ways, Lewis Carroll never actually clarified any authorial intent he might have had, and there is simply so much symbolism over the course of the book that it could be interpreted in any way the reader chooses.
2. The film, on the other hand, appears to have several clearly defined themes. Tim Burton appears to have gone with the feminist interpretation, clearly indicated through the change in Alice between the beginning of the film before she goes down the rabbit hole, where everyone expects her to wed a man who the film takes great care to convey as “repulsive”, and the end where she ends up becoming apprenticed to a businessman, something that clearly goes against the gender norm of the time. However, beyond the feminist-specific message, there seems to be a more general theme expressed throughout the film, from the thoughts of the Hatter that are so mad they just might work, to the six impossible things before breakfast. Over and over, the film conveys the idea that although some may consider it mad to go against the norm, it is for that exact reason that all the best people are considered a bit mad.
3. The most significant deviation between the film and the book appears to be at the beginning and end, since the film takes a great deal of time to frame the story, while the book has her going down the rabbit hole by the fourth paragraph. The necessity of this is probably comparable to the film adaptation of The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe. In both instances, the time period in which the book was originally published made it much easier to frame the setting and context beyond the direct scope of the story. However, the passage of time has removed this assumed familiarity, and so a greater effort must be made to establish the setting. Just as the Nazi bombing of London during World War II was needed for this in the film adaptation of The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe, so too did the film adaptation of Alice in Wonderland need to present the attitudes and condescension of the upper class in the mid-19th century.
4. http://roseannetangrs.com/?p=7654949 : analyzes the film’s political messages, but the writer’s enjoyment makes it difficult for her to find anything wrong with it.
http://www.maa.org/devlin/devlin_03_10.html : An analysis of the book from a mathematical perspective, since Alice in Wonderland was written by a university mathematics professor.
http://mythicthinking.org/?p=278 : An incomplete essay analyzing the film, the character of Alice, and the overarching symbolism to the world situation. Though the essay never refers to it as such, it observes that Alice’s development over the course of the movie follows the Hero’s Journey archetype. It also makes the interesting point that the Alice we see in Underland has lost her innocence when compared to Alice as a child, much like how September 11 caused America to lose its innocence.
5. Although there is clearly a feminist bent to the overarching theme prevalent in the film, it appears to merely be the best historically contextual vehicle for a more universal message. The film is often called feminist because of how Alice breaks away from the gender role for women in that era and forges her own path, proving herself just as capable as men. However, at no point in the film is her path impeded by a man, or even overtly challenged by gender roles. At the end of the film, Alice was offered a role traditionally given to men, an apprenticeship, without ever needing to ask for it or advocate herself for the position, and the man offering it acted as though this was nothing out of the ordinary. The role in Underland that everyone kept trying to force her into had nothing to do with her gender, and in fact was a role that would have run counter to the expectations of the “real” world. The message seems to not be gender-specific, but rather a call for attention to the fact that great thinkers and great individuals become so great by breaking away from normal or expected behavior or ways of thinking.