Carroll’s Alice was published during the Victorian period and during this period the expectation was for women to stay and happily serve in the domestic sphere. These gender roles were clearly defined in Victorian England with Queen Victoria being the supreme example of how women should behave. In the BBC article linked in the Week One Initial Post by Professor DeSpain, Lynn Abrams defines the Victorian Era as “epitomized by Queen Victoria, who came to represent a kind of femininity which was centered on the family, motherhood and respectability”. Very early on in the novel Alice is upending this expectation of womanhood. She goes on an adventure that takes her away from reality and into a world of fantasy, she is also curious and very outspoken, and she isn’t afraid to take up space in the public sphere that is reserved for men. The perfect example of this is at the end of the novel when Alice is at the trail for the Queen of Heart’s stolen tarts. At the beginning of the trial, Alice experiences a “very curious sensation” and begins to grow back to her normal height. In response to her increasing size, the Dormouse tells her that she has “no right to grow here” (Carroll 98). This is important because this is taking place in a court room, a place that is in the public sphere and where women were kept out. Alice is growing and literally taking up space in a setting that is typically male dominated. Not only that, but she is also extremely outspoken and even argumentative (I don’t mean this negatively) while she’s testifying as witness. First, the Queen of Hearts tells Alice to “hold [her] tongue!” to which Alice responds, “I wo’n’t!” (Carroll 107). Then after this, the Queen of Hearts yells “off with her head!” and Alice, back to her full size, yells back “who cares for you…you’re nothing but a pack of cards!” (Carroll 108). I think the setting of this scene is so important when thinking about gender in this novel. A court room is like one of the most masculine arenas a woman, or in this case a young girl, could be in. The combination of Alice growing to her full size and Alice’s outspokenness really highlight her differentness (is that the word I’m looking for?) from the traditional expectations of women during this period.
Abrams, Lynn. “Ideals of Womanhood in Victorian Britain.” BBC History Talks. 9 Aug. 2001. Web. 29 May 2015. <http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/trail/victorian_britain/women_home/ideals_womanhood_01.shtml>.
Carroll, Lewis. Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass. London, The Penguin Group, 1998.