Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll is not only a fantasy for children; it is also a classic coming-of-age novel. The main character, Alice, dreams of a mad, magical journey through a world that is both wildly different from and peculiarly similar to the real world. Alice approaches adulthood during her adventures in Wonderland. For Lewis Carroll, maturity is defined in part as the ability to adapt to change and to recognize and accept reality. .
Alice's immaturity at the beginning of the novel is revealed through her dialogue with the caterpillar. At a mere 3 inches, Alice is confused by the ridiculous and extreme shifting of her size. When the caterpillar asks her "who are you?" she replies "I hardly know being so many different sizes in a day is very confusing one doesn't like changing so often, you know."(Carroll 61-67) The caterpillar responds "I don't know you"ll get used to it in time."(Carroll 67). The caterpillar symbolizes change because he will inevitably change into a chrysalis and butterfly. While change makes Alice feel uncomfortable and confused about her identity, the caterpillar is cool and undisturbed by the idea of it. The caterpillar provides Alice with a positive example of the maturity she needs to acquire.
By the end of the novel, Alice is no longer this confused little girl. When put on trial by the Queen of Hearts, Alice shows a clear understanding of the world around her .
and enough strength to stand up for herself even when facing the most unsavory of characters. Confronted with the illogical proceedings of the court, Alice exclaims .
"Stuff and nonsense!" said Alice loudly. "The idea of having the sentence first!".
"Hold your tongue!" said the Queen, turning purple.
"I won't!" said Alice.
"Off with her head!" the Queen shouted at the top of her voice. Nobody moved.
"Who cares for you?" said Alice (she had grown to her full size by this time).