Philosophy in Alice in Wonderland Movie Essay

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Alice in Wonderland: A Philosophical Examination

Alice in Wonderland is a story that takes place in an altered reality, a dreamscape. This reality is something that Alice wonders through throughout the story while meeting all sorts of characters and people. These people are representative of larger ideas and thoughts, and the story itself can be read as a philosophical allegory of sorts. While viewing the movie, it is easy to see the myriad philosophical connections and allusions that are significant to both the viewer and Alice as she stumbles through her self created world. Each character represents an opportunity for both interaction and personal reflection, as they all selfishly carry on with their own set of rules and virtues. Within the story lies an allegory for life itself, and as the viewer experiences his or her own unique set of interactions and circumstances, it is easy to transpose the philosophic and moral arguments that the movie is uncovering onto a person's personal life.

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Within the story, as Alice makes her way through the dreamscape, it is interesting to note that her experiences are indicative of a person who has been able to create their dream world from the bits and pieces of her conscious world, no matter how thinly veiled her dream experiences are. According to philosopher David Hume, it is impossible for someone to experience something new and unique within his or her own mind (Penelhum, 166). That is to say that outside sources of information and interaction are needed in order to build the world of the person's dreams. Alice in Wonderland is an example of the questioning of the reality of a girl named Alice as her trip through the dreamscape of Wonderland is filled with interesting interactions and conversations. For instance, the Red Queen and her army on the chessboard as not something that Alice would have experienced in waking life.

TOPIC: Essay on Philosophy in Alice in Wonderland Movie Assignment

However, these symbols are reinterpreted in the dream to symbolize all that is against her intentions. Perhaps, from a rationalist standpoint, Alice is acting on her knowledge that her own senses within her waking life were unreliable, and that in order to solve her problems in the real world, she had to venture into an alternative, self-created reality. In this way, she is able to work through her problems, concerns, and emotions, as they are manifested through the characters within the story, each representing a specific point of personal contention within her reality. Upon waking from the world of the looking glass, Alice realizes that in her dream, as she was shaking the Red Queen, it had been her cat all along that she was holding. This is but one example of how in the dream world within the human mind; the creation of new characters from previous experiences and knowledge is typical. Lewis Carol may have wanted the Red Queen to specifically symbolize the struggles that Alice was to overcome in her own mind, yet Alice's own reality was defined by characters such as this in her dream state. Her fears and concerns were symbolized or personified within the altered state of reality in her dream.

Plato's concern for each man and woman finding his or her own path and true happiness is also an influence within the story of Alice. Her own interactions with the many characters within her dream, both good and bad, help to define her own path. She is able to help to define her own reality and choose an existence, at least in her alternate reality that is sandwiched between the two extremes that she encounters. Another way that Plato's philosophy surfaces within the story line is the fact that Plato believed that people, like Alice, start out as unshaped, unlearned beings (Hare, 74). From birth people are products of their environments and the interactions they participate int. They go through life and decide, based upon their own experiences of good and evil, what to make of their world. This is to say that Alice may not have known about good and evil, as they existed in her waking life, had she not experienced them symbolically in the world of the looking glass. The looking glass here could be a metaphor for the examined life.

Socratic methods of inquiry are also present in the story, as Alice makes her way down the rabbit hole. As previously mentioned, Alice has to find her way through the world of the looking glass by figuratively feeling out each situation and interaction. In this way, she is gaining the required experiential knowledge necessary to some to her own conclusions relative to good and evil, just as Socrates posits is important for each person to do in life (Guthrie, 188). This is important, as the looking glass is a literal metaphor for self-realization and examination, which occurs in the movie through, altered states of consciousness (dream world). Perhaps Alice is coming to a crossroads in her own life where she becomes aware of her own existence, and her travels through her dream world help to actualize her reality in the waking world. Perhaps this is another way in which Alice's experiences could be transposed onto the viewer's reality in a way that asks each person to live the examined life and to explore their own thoughts and fears just as Alice does.

Virtue, according to Socrates, is something that is loosely definable, but different for every person and every situation (Guthrie, 50). Within the story of Alice in Wonderland, each character is acting upon their own virtues. Though it is clear that Alice is creating this story within her own mind, using pieces from her reality to construct the dream world, she is also constructing each character as an actualization of themselves, working toward virtuous goals that may seem selfish to Alice alone. In this way, each character represents a potential path of virtue, yet these very subjective and specific paths are flawed according to Alice's own experiences in the waking world. Even in related philosophies, like that of Aristotle, Alice is subject to the inclinations and variations of her own ultimate reality as a product of trying to find and understand her own self-centered virtue. In this way, through character creation within the story, she is manifesting the extremes that she will fall between in her waking life.

It could also be argued that Alice's experiences through the looking glass were the culmination of her trying to find her own happiness, and helping to solidify the Aristotlean assertion that pleasure, as a function of happiness in reality, is not necessarily a bad or evil thing (Aristotle, 123). Alice is witness to many extremely self-centered characters. In fact, each character in the movie, whether it is the Red Queen, the Mad Hatter, the Cheshire cat, or others, all fall victim to their own set of personal limitations and desires. This is to say that each of these characters are all following their own specific agendas, some self-defeating.

Dundon's philosophic arguments are also contained within the movie, as he posits that, "The goal of the common good cannot be articulated a priori, without the active participation of those who are affected by decisions." (Class Notes). This is something that he discusses relative to politicians and democracies, yet Alice, in her own experiences, is asked time and time again, through myriad different literary devices, to make her own decisions and come to her own conclusions relative to life in her alternate reality. The sort of questioning and thought provoking experiences she goes through make her more sure of herself in her asking world, and they serve to illustrate the two or more extremes that people often fall subject to.

Looking even more closely at the story of Alice in Wonderland, the philosophy of St. Thomas Aquinas also becomes apparent. Aquinas believed in a set of causal arguments for the existence of God and the interaction of humans relative to this existence (Stump, 68). Since Alice is the architect of her our dreamscape, she could be viewed, metaphorically at least, as God of her own world. She created the dream world through a patchwork of her own experiences in her waking life, and therefore could be seem as the God of her surroundings with the ability to create and destroy within this dream world. Even in using Aquinas's proofs that God exists, it is possible to arrive at the conclusion that Alice created her entire dream experience from the fabric of her waking life (Stump, 176). She is the first mover, the creator and person experiencing her own dreams. This is something that is rarely apparent to people when they are dreaming, and most people feel that dreams are real when they are in them, but upon waking, Alice realizes the dream world she has constructed was part of her own set of thoughts and experiences. In this way, Alice created an entire world, played God through her own experiences and desire to express emotional truths through… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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APA Style

Philosophy in Alice in Wonderland Movie.  (2010, November 22).  Retrieved November 30, 2021, from

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"Philosophy in Alice in Wonderland Movie."  22 November 2010.  Web.  30 November 2021. <>.

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"Philosophy in Alice in Wonderland Movie."  November 22, 2010.  Accessed November 30, 2021.