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Translating Emotions Across Time: Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland – Aila Malkki

The Electronic Journal of the Department of English
at the University of Helsinki

ISSN 1457-9960

Volume 5, 2009

Emotions Issue


© 2009 Aila Malkki



Translating Emotions Across Time:

Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland

 Aila Malkki

University of Helsinki



Lewis Carroll’s work Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (1865) can, in many respects, be regarded as a product of emotions – both in terms of its cultural context as well as its history of creation and reception. Although the story and its author have been extensively studied, there still seem to remain areas that so far have gained less attention. One of them is the richness of the emotional subtext and the problems of conveying it in translation. In the present paper, I will discuss this aspect from the point of view of the four Finnish translations (1906, 1972, 1995, and 2000) by contrasting examples from them with the original text, as well as with each other. Some of the interesting questions are: Can we as readers identify ourselves with those who lived in 19th-century Victorian England? Could we, perhaps, build a bridge across the time gap by means of translation, if we took emotions and images within the text more consciously into consideration?


1. Introduction

Lewis Carroll’s novel Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (1865) tells of a little girl who, in her dream, makes a surreal journey to a fantasyland of curious creatures and events. During her journey, Alice metaphorically explores her own future. One of the undercurrents in the novel is the juxtaposition of childhood and adulthood and the contrasting emotions attached to them. Regardless of the time span, this psychological theme tends to remain universal.

Indeed, for a story to be read more than one hundred years after its first publication suggests that it must contain something more than just pure literary value. Among other features, emotions can play an important role in conveying essential human qualities across generations. This particularly applies to Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, in which the influence of emotions can be detected in three major ways. Firstly, the story originally sprang from personal feelings of friendship, in a real-life situation of story-telling. Secondly, the time of the book’s creation in Victorian Britain was particularly famous for keeping emotions under control, which only increased their acuteness in life and, consequently, in literary art. Thirdly, the warm reception of the book by readers of all ages around the world has made it a beloved classic, which has been and will be reprinted and retranslated time and again.

I will first describe the effects of these three aspects of emotion on Carroll’s work. I then will show how the emotional subtext in Alice may be conveyed to another time and into another language, by comparing examples from the Finnish translations with each other and with the original.

2. Background

The story of Alice, then, has survived for more than a hundred and forty years, if measured by its solid position in the literary canon. The cultural distance between then and today, however, is obviously much wider than the simple number of years might suggest. Nonetheless, even in our time, we do have access to surprisingly direct links to the life of Lewis Carroll. Most notably, a film clip still exists showing the real Alice, the model for the protagonist, saying a few friendly words about the author (“Lewis Carroll. Elämäkerta.” YLE TV1, 2008). In addition to Carroll’s vast correspondence (Carroll 1979a, 1979b) and collection of diaries (Carroll 1953a, 1953b), we can learn about his character through family legends and descriptions by his contemporaries (see e.g. Cohen 1995: 284-86).

This effect of combined distance and proximity is very intriguing: we are almost able to touch the past and see beyond the chain of generations – and yet, all the history in between irrevocably separates us from the time of Carroll. Is it still possible for the translators to capture the world of Lewis Carroll and the effects of his personal involvement in the creation of Alice?

3. Author’s Emotions

In Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Lewis Carroll, born Charles Dodgson, succeeded in interweaving the private with the universal. The story contains a multilayered texture of life, as if the essence of Carroll’s creative mind and extraordinary versatility had found full expression in this particular book. As a mathematician and a clergyman, he seems to have cherished both intellectual and spiritual values. What is more, placing his story in a dream, Carroll could move freely within the human mind to convey emotions through symbolism and the surreal. This way the author could also conveniently detach himself from the story’s connections to real life.

As often happens, the highly personal motives that once gave an impetus to a story have ensured its universality regardless of changing fashions. One of the most prominent themes in the book concerns the process of transformation from childhood to adolescence. According to Carroll’s diary entries and letters, witnessing this change in young people caused him great distress and alienated him from his former friends (Carroll 1953a: 230-31, 1979b: 876). Carroll’s ideals, as an author, conformed to the Romantic idea of the wisdom of the child (Cohen 1995: 106-20). His poetry, for example, reflects a deep yearning for the early days of life, as in the last stanza of his poem “Solitude,” from 1853, when he was twenty-one (cited in Woollcott 1939: 860-61):


I’d give all wealth that years have piled,

The slow result of Life’s decay,

To be once more a little child

For one bright summer-day.


The depth with which Carroll cherished childhood was based on mutual respect and affection between him and his large circle of young friends, who were all girls (Cohen 1995: 175-76, 181). His devotion to the children shows, for example, in the unique manuscript, with illustrations by Carroll himself, which he presented to Alice (Carroll 1969: 17-109). He could really relate to the world of children, because, in a way, he remained childlike himself all his life, as his relatives recounted (“Lewis Carroll. Elämäkerta.” YLE TV1, 2008). According to Pudney (1976: 20), the company of children, fantasy, and poetry were “real life” for Carroll. In short, with his imaginative spirit, he could escape the complexities of adult life.

4. Victorian Emotions

From the very beginning, Carroll had in his verse questioned the Victorian way of refraining from showing one’s feelings. This is particularly evident in his poem “My Fairy”, written in 1845, at the age of thirteen (Carroll as cited in Woollcott 1939: 700):


I have a fairy by my side

Which says I must not sleep,

When once in pain I loudly cried

It said “you must not weep”.

If, full of mirth, I smile and grin

It says “You must not laugh”;

When once I wished to drink some gin

It said “You must not quaff”.

When once a meal I wished to taste

It said “You must not bite”;

When to the wars I went in haste

It said “You must not fight”.

“What may I do?” at length I cried,

Tired of the painful task.

The fairy quietly replied,

And said “You must not ask”.

Moral: “You mustn’t.”


The morals in general function as a symbol of Victorian society; their power in the community is encapsulated in this young man’s outpouring. Even the fairy is not on his side. The fact that Carroll chose this topic of social suppression of emotions and deals with it with such maturity tells us of its great significance to him. In this poem he succeeds in capturing the predominant mentality of control, while at the same time managing to express his subdued anger and frustration. This becomes evident in the last stanza, in particular, in which the earnest intensity of the “I” and the solemn patience of the fairy are in sharp, almost painful, contrast. The object of his emotions, however, is intangible, which makes it all the more exasperating. With their rigorous rhythm, the repetitive lines emphasize the compelling nature of the rules but also reveal their contradictions, as for example in: “When to the wars I went in haste/ It said you must not fight.”  The perplexity rather explicit in this poem shows more implicitly in the emotional subtext in Carroll’s prose later.

In the story of Alice, Carroll enlarges the theme of subdued emotions, such as confusion and despair, and challenges the logic of prevalent truths, by turning things upside down by means of language. Even though Carroll seems to tear the morals into pieces, especially in Chapter IX, when the Duchess imposes her own proverbs on Alice, there is a serious undertone in the sayings. Witnessing the strange turns of conversation (for example, in Chapter VII during the Mad Tea-Party) parallels the efforts to find out how to deal with the rules in the Victorian era. Furthermore, the dream setting emphasizes the striking contrast between the restrictions of the community and the boundless dream world.

5. Translation and Reception

The reception of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland in 1865 was mostly positive, although it also caused some puzzlement, at least among adult readers (Clark 1981: 110; Pudney 1976: 79). A decade later, it had already become “unexpectedly popular” (Carroll 1979a: 273). Even though Carroll originally told, and eventually wrote, the story to a ten-year old girl, Alice Liddell (see Clark 1981: 73-74), the many facets of the tale make it possible to categorize it under several genres: in addition to children’s literature, it contains features of surrealism, social satire, and psychology.

Whichever reading we may choose, the cornerstones of the story remain the same: the compelling visuality of the text and the abundance of inherent emotions, allowing for rich mental associations and durability in the memories of readers. The readerships of Alice have certainly varied through the years, and nowadays it seems to appeal to adults in particular. Some readers may have developed a nostalgic relationship to the story: the book might even function primarily as a symbolic token of childhood rather than as a simple story. 

It is not only the nostalgic element attached to the book that makes it survive. Its longevity is also based on the quality of the language. The fact that Carroll’s language has not become outdated is, to a great extent, due to its concreteness: the predominance of common verbs over adjectives, the preference for short words, as well as the frequent use of the conjunctions and and but contribute to the readability (Oittinen 1997: 22-23). Most importantly, the undecorated language provides a neutral background for highlighting the linguistic play (cf. Examples 2 and 3 as against Example 1 in Section 6).

The same applies to translations that recognize the purpose of this purity, which is the result of the juxtaposition of simple language, on the one hand, and vivid playfulness, on the other. In terms of language, all the Finnish translations have survived the years surprisingly well. Many sayings today originate from Alice – the title itself, Liisa ihmemaassa, has become a set phrase in Finnish, denoting a state of utter, mostly exciting, puzzlement. When a work has found its way so deeply into a foreign culture as to penetrate its language, it is likely to influence the readers’ way of thinking. What is more, it serves to create a link between the time of Carroll and today’s Finnish readers.

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland was first translated into Finnish in 1906 by Anni Swan, at a time when Finnish culture was still very much tied to its agrarian background, and literature was a way of strengthening the feeling of national unity (Oittinen 1997: 26-28; 81-83). It was not until 1972 that the work was retranslated; Kirsi Kunnas and Eeva-Liisa Manner made a modern translation clearly for children – a fantasy to counterbalance not only the earlier, less experimental approach by Swan, but the prevailing literary and social trends in the 1970s as well (Oittinen 1997: 30-32). Then, only about twenty years later, in 1995, Alice Martin produced an elegant, foreignizing translation to suit adult tastes, by, for example, retaining the name Alice, unlike all the other translators (Oittinen 1997: 35), and by avoiding explicitation. The newest retranslation, in 2000, by Tuomas Nevanlinna, highlighted yet another aspect of the story: according to him, its language is so exceptionally rich that it allows for an infinite number of retranslations (Rinne, City 10/2000). In the following section, I will examine these features, particularly in terms of their impact on reader emotions.

6. Contrasting Emotions Across Time

In what follows, I intend to compare the four translations of Alice with each other and with the original by examining three examples of wordplay revealing the emotions of despair, happiness, and yearning, in the context of Carroll’s time and his early verse. The poem “My Fairy” clearly anticipated the themes further developed in Alice, such as the lack of logic in morals, or the gap between childhood and adulthood.

6.1 Despair

The Duchess acts as one of the representatives of the complex womanhood that Alice will eventually enter. In Chapter IX, Alice reencounters this intruding figure, who starts to impose her morals on Alice, but in a seemingly careless manner produces them in a twisted form.


Carroll Example 1

“I quite agree with you,” said the Duchess; “and the moral of that is – ‘Be what you would seem to be’ – or, if you’d like it put more simply – ‘Never imagine yourself not to be otherwise than what it might appear to others that what you were or might have been was not otherwise than what you had been would have appeared to them to be otherwise.’”

(Carroll 1970: 122)


Example 1 illustrates the desperate search for logic in morals, and in language, but in both respects, the incompatibility is evident. From the point of view of Carroll’s social and emotional integrity, this philosophical reference to the obscurity of meaning can be considered one of the key points in the story. The more closely you examine a moral, as in Example 1, the more evasive it becomes. It would be an unending task to try to specify the meaning with more and more explanations. Consequently, morals serving to suppress emotions by means of language are, in fact, weaker than emotions, which do not depend on words.

As for understanding, it seems that it is actually based on the imprecision inherent in language, which allows for flexibility for individual interpretations. We can thus see an analogy between language and society, as they both turn out to be illogical and, in this respect, will not bear closer examination. How could a child, then, be expected to discern the inexplicable rules that govern life, without falling into confusion and despair?

The translation strategies for Example 1 vary from simplification to over-interpretation in the first two translations, while the two latest ones follow the original more closely.

In 1906, Anni Swan translates the passage into Finnish as follows:

Swan Translation of Example 1

”Olen aivan yhtä mieltä sinun kanssasi”, sanoi herttuatar. ”Ja tästä voimme taaskin oppia: Ole se, miltä näytät! Tai yksinkertaisemmin lausuttuna: Älä koskaan luulottele olevasi toinen kuin miltä muiden silmissä näytät tai olet näyttänyt, tai älä näyttäydy toisena kuin mikä toisten silmissä olet ollut, silloin kun näytit toiselta toisten silmissä.”

(Carroll 1966: 77)


Due to her clarifying approach, Swan has lost the essential element of chaos. The next translators, Kirsi Kunnas and Eeva-Liisa Manner, feel free to take even more liberties by making reference to an earlier part in the novel in Chapter VIII (Carroll 1970: 111-12), in which Alice was to use a live flamingo as a croquet mallet:

Kunnas & Manner Translation of Example 1

– Aivan, sanoi Herttuatar. – Ja siitä taas opimme: Ole sitä miltä näytät, tai yksinkertaisemmin: Älä koskaan luule olevasi muuta kuin miltä näytät tai miltä muut luulevat sinun näyttävän. Jos he luulevat että olet lapsi, älä luulottele olevasi vihannes, ja jos olet vihannes, älä luule olevasi lintu. Ja jos lintua, joka sinulla on kainalossasi, luullaan krokettimailaksi, ei sillä ole oikeutta purra minua.

(Carroll 1974: 94)


Both Swan and Kunnas & Manner have applied explicitation and even omission in translating this passage: Swan formulates a fairly understandable moral, that is, be your true self, while Kunnas & Manner get carried away in their interpretations by replacing the end of the passage with sentences of their own. As for the emotional content, the two translations above have lost the core of the original: the feelings of helplessness and despair in front of the impossible have vanished. The challenge of an over-complicated sentence for the protagonist, and for the reader, is no longer there. For the sake of reason, they have sacrificed mystery.

Some twenty years later Alice Martin returned to the original idea:

Martin Translation of Example 1

”Olen samaa mieltä” herttuatar sanoi, ”ja mitä siitä opimme: ’Höyhenistään puu tunnetaan’ eli ’ole mitä olet olevinasi’ – tai jos haluat saman asian yksinkertaisessa muodossa, ’älä koskaan luule olevasi olematta toista kuin toisista voisi näyttää sinun olevan tai lienevän joskus olleen toista kuin toisista on voinut näyttää olleen täysin toisin.’”

(Carroll 1995: 94)


While retaining the original confusion, Martin adds an extra proverb for linguistic play: Höyhenistään puu tunnetaan, ‘A tree is known by its feathers’, stands for Hedelmistään puu tunnetaan, ‘A tree is known by its fruit’.

Tuomas Nevanlinna, for his part, also respects the philosophical mystery:

Nevanlinna Translation of Example 1

”Olen aivan samaa mieltä kanssasi”, sanoi Kreivitär, ”ja sen opetus on ’ole sitä miltä näytätkin’ – tai jos ilmaisee sen vähän yksinkertaisemmin: ’Älä luule ettet ole muuta kuin se miltä ehkä muista näytät kuin se mitä olet tai olisit voinut olla olisi näyttänyt heistä muulta kuin se mitä olit ollut mikä olisi näyttänyt heistä muutoin muulta.’”

(Carroll 2000: 150-51)


For the Finnish readers, the retranslations of Carroll Example 1 seem to become increasingly nonsensical every time, so that in Nevanlinna, it is almost impossible to follow the train of thought, which best represents Carroll’s inherent idea.

6.2 Happiness

The fact that emotions tend to remain suppressed in the novel shows, among other things, in the use of symbols. One of them is the Cheshire Cat, a mysterious character that philosophizes on Alice’s dilemma of where to go next and on the difference between cats and dogs in Chapter VI (Carroll 1970: 88-89). Most significantly, the Cat has the power to vanish in the air.


Carroll Example 2

“Well! I’ve often seen a cat without a grin,” thought Alice; “but a grin without a cat! It’s the most curious thing I ever saw in all my life!”

(Carroll 1970: 91)


The Cheshire Cat here keeps appearing and disappearing, so that when it gradually fades away, the last thing that Alice can see of it is its smile. In explaining the grin without a cat, Gardner (in Carroll 1970: 91) interprets it as a metaphor for mathematics. He substantiates his claim by citing Bertrand Russell’s description of mathematical theorems as belonging to a realm “remote from human passions”. In a way, Carroll, the mathematician, may have found in his academic field a happy retreat to pure thought (cf. grin), devoid of the emotional complexities connected to happiness (cf. cat) in relationship to people.

The name of the cat, in fact, is identical with Carroll’s birthplace, Cheshire, of which he held happy memories (Pudney 1976: 21). Even if the atmosphere in Alice in general is more surreal than happy, this detail exemplifies the author’s willingness to tie the story to elements of emotion in real life. While the Cheshire cat as a breed does not actually exist, Carroll may have associated the name with the Cheshire cheese, which was once sold shaped like a cat that seemed to be grinning (see Grin in Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, 1999).

The peculiarity of the Cheshire Cat has led to a variety of translations. Anni Swan (Carroll 1966: 50) translated the Cheshire Cat as irvikissa ‘the grinny cat’, and some ninety years later, Alice Martin (Carroll 1995: 60) retained this Finnish neologism connoting negative images (cf. irvikuva ‘distortionʼ, or irvileuka ‘mockerʼ). In between the two, Kunnas & Manner (Carroll 1974: 62), however, chose to refer to the cat as Mörökölli-kissa ‘the sulky cat’. This choice sounds somewhat contradictory to the original idea, as the Cheshire Cat seems wise and cunning, while the very Finnish word Mörökölli connotes dull drowsiness, even indignation. Under the rough surface, however, there is genuine tenderness, too, in the onomatopoeia of the word for Finnish readers to find. But it certainly does not associate with the intimidating Cheshire Cat, nor with the de-emotionalized happiness that this character also may represent, as discussed earlier.

In contrast, Tuomas Nevanlinna’s (Carroll 2000: 96) translation Hangon kissa combines the cat with the Finnish town of Hanko, which is readily associated with a bakery product, the smiling biscuit, Hangon keksi. The translation maintains a presumed connection with food (cheese – biscuit), with an allusion to an established cultural item. For the cat’s smile, Nevanlinna has used the milder verb virnistää ‘to grin out of pleasure or mischief’, instead of irvistää ‘to grin out of meanness or pain’. Nevanlinna’s rendition is more likely to decrease the enigmatic, slightly ominous atmosphere found in the original. By domesticating some of the imagery, though, Nevanlinna has succeeded in integrating into his translation the nostalgic feelings of an author from another era.

Nevertheless, transmitting cultural associations becomes more complicated in the field of education, for example, because of the big differences in the school systems between the two countries and times.

6.3 Yearning

Many of the subjects taught at school provided Carroll with a fruitful source for linguistic play, which was one of the main ways to create an emotional subtext in the story. The next example belongs to a long series of puns in the Mock Turtle’s nostalgic reminiscences in Chapters IX and X (Carroll 1970: 125-42), as he, accompanied by the Gryphon, talks to Alice.

Carroll Example 3

“I never went to him,” the Mock Turtle said with a sigh. “He taught Laughing and Grief, they used to say.”

(Carroll 1970: 130)


The juxtaposed words Laughing (Latin) and Grief (Greek) have been rendered by an instance of wordplay in all the Finnish translations. Nevertheless, none of the first three translations take into account the Mock Turtle’s nostalgic mood, as he is telling about the challenging, and clearly emotionally-charged, school subjects – here “Laughing and Grief” – that he missed.

Swan Translation of Example 3

”Minua hän ei opettanut”, sanoi valekilpikonna huoaten. ”Hän opetti platinaa ja sebraa, kuten sanottiin.”

(Carroll 1966: 84)


Interestingly, Swan replaces latina ‘Latin’ by platina ‘platinum’, a precious metal, and uses sebra (seepra) ‘zebra’ to refer to heprea ‘Hebrew’ instead of Greek – all symbols of prestige. Indeed, in Finnish sayings, Hebrew is seen as the most difficult language, or thing, to understand (cf. Se on minulle täyttä hepreaa, ‘It is Greek to me’). The next two translators, however, settled with Latin and Greek:

Kunnas & Manner Translation of Example 3

– Minä en koskaan ottanut tunteja häneltä, sanoi Valekilpikonna huokaisten. – Sanottiin että hänen latinassaan oli patinaa ja että hänen kreikkansa kreikkasi.

(Carroll 1974: 100)


The original idea of opposite emotions is lost in the examples above and is, perhaps, least evident in Kunnas & Manner, since both subjects reflect negative things: ‘his Latin was old-fashioned’ and ‘his Greek wavered’. Alice Martin, however, does juxtapose difficulty and relief:

Martin Translation of Example 3

”Minä en koskaan päässyt hänen tunneilleen”, huokasi valekilpikonna. ”Hänen tunnuslauseensa oli kuulemma tämä: ’Alku aina kratinaa, lopussa vasta leikkaa.’”

(Carroll 1995: 101-02)


But without any clear association to the school subjects, her solution, in fact, rests upon the earlier renditions – it is not obvious to what kratinaa ‘difficulties’ (cf. latinaa), and leikata ‘to cut; to understand’ (cf. kreikkaa) refer to, unless you have read the original or the earlier translations. It is only Nevanlinna that invents a pair of words that carry the double idea of a pun on the noble school subjects and the absent, similarly noble, feelings that the subjects represent:

Nevanlinna Translation of Example 3

”Sen tunneilla minä en koskaan ollut”, Vilpikonna sanoi. ”Se kuulemma opetti ilosofiaa ja murheilua.”

(Carroll 2000: 160)


The contrasting emotions of happiness and sorrow are thus expressed in Nevanlinna’s translation, as Laughing is rendered by ilosofia (cf. ilo ‘joy’ and filosofia ‘philosophy’), and Grief by murheilu (cf. murhe ‘sorrow’ and urheilu ‘sports’). What is more, ilosofia and murheilu are examples of blended meanings packed into portmanteau words, which was one of Carroll’s own inventions for coining words in English, as for example, mimsy, combining flimsy and miserable (Carroll 1970: 272).

Though the subjects were taught at school, they – as well as the emotions they symbolized – remained out of the Mock Turtle’s reach, which still makes him sad. As to the network of associations, here again, the latest translation seems to succeed in transmitting more of the original idea than the first three.

7. Discussion

The overall development of the translations with respect to each other in the three examples discussed above appears to be roughly in accordance with the Retranslation Hypothesis. This theory suggests that every retranslation manages to capture the original better than the preceding ones, so that in this process of refinement the latest translation would be the most source-text oriented (see e.g. Koskinen and Paloposki 2003: 21-23).

There are, however, numerous counter-examples, as Koskinen and Paloposki (ibid.) point out in their critical discussion of the hypothesis. In fact, all of the four translations of Alice reflect (or react against) the values or the translation strategies of their own time (see Oittinen 1997: 26-35). Thus, instead of competing with each other, they truly complement one another in a dialogue at the macro-level. At best, this accumulation of translational solutions may sometimes inspire retranslators to find fresh renderings.

In hermeneutics, too, the pure meaning is also believed to emerge in retranslations through temporal distance from the source text. In this view, we do not need to cross the bridge to the past, because distance gives us an opportunity for deeper, universal reading, proceeding from details to greater wholes and vice versa, in a circular movement. Understanding can only start when the text truly touches us, after we have accepted it in its original context (Gadamer 2004: 29, 38-39).

Consequently, in Alice, we can relate to the strength of the emotional subtext by taking into consideration the complex network of the private and social undercurrents that surrounded the novel and made real life and fantasy become intertwined. This larger idea shows in many of the details in the book, some of which are dealt with in the examples above.

But how do we know what the author really intended? Can we – or need we – know it in the first place? Carroll himself wrote in a letter that “[W]ords mean more than we mean to express when we use them; so a whole book ought to mean a great deal more than the writer meant” (cited in Green 1960: 51). Leaving a translation as open as possible lets it breathe freely and live longer than texts manipulated with fixed interpretations. This flexibility – even vagueness – contributes to creating literature of long-lasting beauty.   

While obsessed with logical precision, most of the curious inhabitants of Wonderland seem to have lost their natural acceptance of the inherent ambiguity of language. It is noteworthy that most of the figures in Wonderland rarely smile or cry empathically; they are clearly deprived of sympathetic qualities that require emotional maturity. In other words, they have lost the secret of understanding and, thereby, their ability to feel compassion.

In translating Carroll, the importance of discovering the many shades of meaning is quite relevant, since he was extremely sensitive about the connotations of words. This is evident in his correspondence, for example, when he explicitly wonders whether a word is likely to cause misunderstanding (see e.g. Carroll 1979b: 876). Fantasy, then, enabled the author to free his mind to express emotions, at least in the subtext, without fear of social reproof.

8. Conclusion

As we saw in the examples discussed in this paper, the deeper emotions in Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland are mainly felt by their absence from the surface level. But their presence between the lines is all the more impressive. The subtext of emotions in the story is tied to the thematic opposition between the wonderful childhood and the cruel adulthood.  Carroll is saddened by the course of nature that turns sweet children into sour adults.  

In Alice’s dream, the author can return to his own childhood and, under the safety of imagination, deal with the issues of maturation together with her. But the discrepancy between the two stages in life can only be mended temporarily. As Gilead (1991: 283) notes, it is through the realm of the dream that children and adults can come closest again by dreaming about each other. Otherwise true emotional contact between the two phases is forever broken.


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