Given the fact that Lewis Carroll’s novel Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and C. S. Lewis’s novel The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe had been written in time, before the very notion of rationale started to be criticized on the account of its ‘euro-centric’ soundness, as it is often the case nowadays, it comes as not a particular surprise that in both novels, authors strived to endorse the concept of rational thinking as the only appropriate instrument of dealing with life’s challenges.
In its turn, this partially explains the manner in which Lewis and Carroll went about exposing what they thought accounted for existential inadequateness in those who are expected to act as authority figures – namely: perceptional irrationality, revengefulness, whimsiness, selfishness and sheer greed for power. Thus, the fact that in both novels authors had made a point in representing women (in position of power) as villains (The Queen of Hearts and White Witch) does not appear to be simply an accident.
Apparently, on subconscious level, Carroll and Lewis were aware of women’s lessened ability to think in terms of rationale – hence, their rather grotesque depiction of earlier mentioned characters as authority figures. In our paper, we will aim to explore this thesis to a further extent.
The foremost theme that is being explored throughout Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland is sanity vs. insanity. And, given the fact that Lewis strived to represent the character of Queen of Hearts in negative light, he deliberately juxtaposed her first appearance in the novel with this particular theme. Even before meeting the Queen of Hearts, Alice had gotten a very good idea as to the fact that Queen paid little too much attention to the details of an environment – a psychological trait of schizophrenic.
The validity of this statement can be best illustrated in the scene where she encounters Queen’s gardeners in the middle of repainting white roses into red ones: “Why, the fact is, you see, Miss, this here ought to have been a red rose-tree, and we put a white one in by mistake; and, if the Queen was to find it out, we should all have our heads cut off” (68).
The fact that gardeners appeared truly terrified of a prospect of Queen of Hearts finding out about what had happened, leaves very little doubt as to the fact that, just as it is being the case with many women, the outbreaks of Queen’s anger were mostly irrational.
The same can be said about the semantic significance of a scene, in Lewis’s novel, where Edmund meets the White Witch (Queen). At first, the Witch gets appalled by rather down-to-earth manner, in which Edmund addressed her: “The Lady frowned, “Is that how you address a Queen?” she asked, looking sterner than ever” (15).
Then, after having provided Edmund with Turkish Delight, and after having been asked for some more, the Witch becomes suddenly enraged: “No, no,” said the Queen angrily, “you must wait till next time” (19). In other words, just as it is being the case with Carroll’s Queen of Hearts, Witch’s first mentioning in the novel provides readers with the insight into highly irrational workings of her psyche – after their first encounter with the Witch, readers get to realize that her anger could be set off with utter ease.
Psychologists are well aware of the fact that one’s perceptional irrationality often extrapolates itself into such individual’s tendency to treat others particularly cruelly. Therefore, there is nothing utterly odd with the scene in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland where the Queen of Hearts plays cricket, while using flamingoes as clubs and guards as arches: “The croquet balls were live hedge- hogs, and the mallets live flamingoes, and the soldiers had to double themselves up and stand on their hands and feet, to make the arches” (71).
Apparently, it never even occurred to the Queen that flamingoes might have not enjoyed having their heads being hit against cricket balls. But, even if such an idea did occur to her, she would not have given it much of a thought – as we know from the history, after being elevated to the position of authority figures, irrationally minded individuals often prove themselves cruel despots.
This is exactly the reason why, besides playing cricket with flamingos, Queen’s another major hobby was ordering executions by beheading right and left: “Off with their heads!” (70). For the Queen of Hearts, such notions as the sanctity of life mattered very little.
In Lewis’s The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe, the White Witch also acts in a manner as if she could not care less about the suffering of others, while intentionally subjecting them to a variety of different abuses, and while even going as far as petrifying those she did not like into stone: “And she (White Witch) can turn people into stone and do all kinds of horrible things.
And she has made a magic so that it is always winter in Narnia – always winter, but it never gets to Christmas” (20). The last remark in this quotation is unmistakably allegorical. Apparently, while referring to Narnia’s never-ending winter, author thought of it as an allegory to female sexual frigidity – after all, it is a well-known fact that, despite frigid women’s dislike of sex, they nevertheless never cease radiating a strong sexual tension around them.
Another important aspect of how Carroll and Lewis represent women as authority figures, is that they expose them being endowed with rather hypertrophied sense of ‘morality’.
For example, the character of Duchess in Carroll’s novel never skips the chance of providing Alice with advices on how she should act. These advices, however, represent little practical value, as they are being nothing but the by-product of Duchess’s irrational self-righteousness: “Never imagine yourself not to be otherwise than what it might appear to others that what you were or might have been” (78).
In Lewis’s novel, White Witch goes about justifying her evil deeds by accusing her opponents of immorality: “What is the meaning of all this gluttony, this waste, this self-indulgence? Where did you get all these things?” (60). In all probability, Lewis had read the works of founder of Positive Criminology Cesare Lombroso, according to which, people’s unhealthy preoccupation with imposing ‘morality’ upon others indicates their endowment with criminal mindedness.
Nevertheless, despite the apparent similarity in how both authors’ depicted the actual effects of women being put in position of authority figures, there is a difference between two novels in terms of what represents an anti-thesis to irrational ruling. In Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Carroll depicts the sheer futility of such ruling at novel’s very end, when it dawns upon Alice that, under no circumstances should Queen’s arguments be taken seriously: “Who cares for you?” said Alice (she had grown to her full size by this time).
“You’re nothing but a pack of cards!” (106). Lewis, on the other hand, does not simply reject women’s authoritative power out of hand, but provides an alternative to it by the mean of incorporating the character of Aslan into the novel, as its most integral element.
Just as it is being the case with the White Witch, Aslan represents the figure of authority in the story. Nevertheless, unlike White Witch, his authority derives out of his existential noblessness. For Aslan, greed for power cannot possibly account for his foremost priority in life, simply because he is already being aware of his superiority.
In its turn, this explains why, unlike White Witch, Aslan never sought to prove the strength of its powers to himself and to others. He radiated authority naturally, just as Sun radiates light. This is exactly the reason why, without even having seen him, Pevensie children had immediately felt that the very name ‘Aslan’ emanates both: power and emotional comfort: “None of the children knew who Aslan was any more than you do; but the moment the Beaver had spoken these words (of Aslan) everyone felt quite different…
At the name of Aslan each one of the children felt something jump in its inside” (36). It goes without saying, of course, that the qualitative subtleties of Lewis’s depiction of Aslan are best explained within the context of author’s intention to popularize Christianity.
Nevertheless, there is more to it – by representing the character of Aslan as natural-born-ruler, Lewis provided readers with the insight onto the fact that the concept of authority cannot be thought of as ‘thing in itself’, quite unrelated to the psychological qualities of a person who act as an authority figure.
The earlier provided line of argumentation, in defense of paper thesis’s overall validity, may result in readers concluding that Carroll and Lewis were male chauvinists. Such conclusion, however, could not be further from the truth. Even though some clearly defined misogynist sentiments can indeed be found in both novels, authors’ depiction of women’s lessened ability to act as responsible authority figures was not maliciously motivated.
Authors simply wanted to show that some psychological traits, usually associated with women’s stance in life, are being quite inconsistent with essentially masculine concept of authority, as something rather evolutionary predetermined. Nevertheless, as practice shows, perceptional femininity can also be found in men who hold governmental offices.
Once, this appears to be the case, it will only be the matter of time before these men prove themselves as ineffective rulers – irrational, cruel and self-indulgent. The example of Libya’s leader colonel Kaddafi, known for his appearances in public with excessive amounts of makeup and lipstick applied to his face, and for his willingness to send military planes to bomb peaceful protesters, confirms the validity of this statement.
Thus, it would only be logical, on our part, to conclude that novels Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe do not only represent literary, but also a high philosophical value, as the reading of these novels allows people to adopt a fresh perspective onto the issue of gender-based relationships and also onto how one’s affiliation with psychological traits of a particular gender might affect his or her ability to be considered a legitimate authority figure.
Carroll, Lewis. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. (1865) 2001. Gals.Org. 28 Feb. 2011. http://www.gasl.org/refbib/Carroll__Wonderland.pdf
Lewis, C. S. The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe. (1950) 2006. Files Tube. Web.