-4

In the Alice narratives, particularly in Through the Looking-Glass, Alice encounters some sentient and talking flowers who “mistake” her for one of their own:

Alice was so astonished that she could not speak for a minute: it quite seemed to take her breath away. At length, as the Tiger-lily only went on waving about, she spoke again, in a timid voice—almost in a whisper. ‘And can all the flowers talk?’
‘As well as you can,’ said the Tiger-lily. ‘And a great deal louder.’ ‘It isn’t manners for us to begin, you know,’ said the Rose, ‘and I really was wondering when you’d speak! Said I to myself, “Her face has got some sense in it, though it’s not a clever one!” Still, you’re the right colour, and that goes a long way.’
‘I don’t care about the colour,’ the Tiger-lily remarked. ‘If only her petals curled up a little more, she’d be all right.’

Therefore, does Lewis Carroll have linguistic reasons for the other flowers, who should be able to recognize one of their own, to identify Alice as a flower?

3

In fact, the flowers identify every human as a flower - note later on in the text:

“Are there any more people in the garden besides me?” Alice said, not choosing to notice the Rose’s last remark.

“There’s one other flower in the garden that can move about like you,” said the Rose. “I wonder how you do it—” (“You’re always wondering,” said the Tiger-lily), “but she’s more bushy than you are.”

From their point of view, then, people are just flowers "that can move about". There doesn't seem to be anything particularly special about Alice or her name - the other movable flower they've noticed in their garden turns out to be the Red Queen.

1
  • I tend to think you may be missing the point here. This seems to be a theme of the book: the interchangeability of certain people’s names with flowers. Notice that Alice replaces Lily in the chess game, and some of the flowers are taken from a Tennyson’s ‘Maud,’ a poem which has a person talking to flowers. – ferjsoto42yahoocom Apr 19 at 14:35
0

First, Carroll writes in his Diary that he is studying botany (for Carroll’s botanical training, see Carroll’s Diaries, Volume 2, p. 89), and he continually resorts to using British and Irish dialects in his works. In the English Dialect Dictionary we find some of the linguistic reasons for Carroll to “confuse” his Alice with a flower:

ALICE, sb. Nrf. Dev....In plant names (1) Saucy Alice, Poligonum persicaria (Nrf. Yarmouth); Sweet Alice, Arabis alpina, Alyssum maritanum (Dev.).

7
  • 2
    Is it not more likely that all the other flowers (besides larkspur) had female names, and the flowers assumes that Alice was a flower name as well? Especially as Lewis Carroll is not associated with Devon in particular? – AncientSwordRage Apr 19 at 1:09
  • 2
    Carroll often used dialects from all over Britain and Ireland in his works, and he tells us in his diaries that he was studying Botany, so i doubt that what you suggest is “more likely.” My whole point above is that “Alice” is a flower name, and that’s why Carroll has the other flowers adress her as one. – ferjsoto42yahoocom Apr 19 at 2:34
  • Carroll studying botany makes your answer more plausible. I'd edit that in. – AncientSwordRage Apr 19 at 2:35
  • 4
    I took a look at the dialect dictionary that you referenced, and as expected, most female names seem to be associated with one or more flowers, such as Margaret (ox-tail lily), Mary (too many to count), and so forth. I think you probably are reading too much into the specific name "Alice"; there is no reason this scene could not "work" with Margaret, for instance. If anything, I would say this scene simply bespeaks a general association of women with flowers. – Adamant Apr 19 at 3:12
  • 4
    Or, you know, he called her Alice because he named her after Alice Liddell, and a discussion about madness and sanity was natural in the context? – Adamant Apr 19 at 3:49

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.