The Croquet Scene in Alice in Wonderland

          Though many differences persist in the three versions of Alice in Wonderland we’ve discussed this week, one of the most poignant examples lies in the croquet scene. In the book, it serves as an example of the overall theme of de-familiarization. Alice is supposed to recognize the game, but it features very different materials and customs than the above-ground version. Carroll notes that Alice “had never seen such a curious croquet-ground in her life: it was all ridges and furrows: the croquet balls were live hedgehogs and the mallets live flamingoes, and the soldiers had to double themselves up and stand on their hands and feet, to make the arches” (Carroll 73). Alice has a difficult time breaking from her preconceived notions and adjusting to life in Wonderland, for example this different way of croquet. In this game, players fight and do not take turns, which would have been very different from the upper-class version that Alice is probably accustomed to. Furthermore, the presence of this absurd game of croquet echoes Carroll’s sentiment that everything in Wonderland is absurd and feels like some sort of cruel game.

          The 1951 film, however, feels much less dark. The actress cast as Alice has a voice that feels even more innocent than her literary one. This voice and music makes the scene much less absurd. It feels fun and whimsical. The Queen of Hearts isn’t so much scary as she is funny and ridiculous. The way she screams “off with their heads” doesn’t seem as intense. The flamingoes are colorful and bright, and the whole narrative seems much more childlike. The lighthearted music playing in the background removes the sense of depth that is present in the book version. The hedgehog yawns, and the scene takes a humorous turn when the Queen misses the hedgehog and the Joker pushes it and the cards move to accommodate it.

          In stark contrast to this interpretation of the croquet scene is Tim Burton’s in his 2010 film. Although this scene plays a much smaller role (only a few seconds), like the rest of the film, it is significantly darker. We only see the Queen hit one ball, and Alice doesn’t even play. There aren’t the rhymes and childlike color scheme and music of the 1951 film. These light sentiments are replaced with a look of sheer terror on the hedgehog’s face, and the fact that the flamingo apologizes to the hedgehog before the swing. Unlike the animals in the book or 1951 film, these ones feel much more real. It’s harder to de-familiarize them from their association as real, living beings. Rather than being interpretations of a flamingo and a hedgehog, they are incredibly realistic.

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