Alice’s Sister

At the beginning and end of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, the reader is led to wonder what the role of Alice’s sister is in the novel. This nameless character is simply described at the story’s beginning as reading a book with “no pictures or conversations.” We can infer that Alice’s sister is older and that she doesn’t keep a very close eye on her younger sibling, whom she allows to disappear down a rabbit hole with no noticeable reaction.

At the end of the story, Alice seamlessly transitions from Wonderland back to reality, finding “herself lying on the bank, with her head in the lap of her sister, who was gently brushing away some dead leaves that had fluttered down from the trees upon her face.” Alice’s sister remarks on how long Alice has been asleep, revealing that she hasn’t actually been negligent; Alice has been beside her the whole time. Alice has no way of telling whether her sister is being genuine, but as her sister, she is inclined to believe her. After Alice’s sister imposes this convention upon her, Alice says, “Oh, I’ve had such a curious dream!” She very quickly admits that her incredible time in Wonderland was little more than a fantasy. Does Alice’s sister impose a convention upon her in order to make her more “normal?” Is she trying to contain Alice within socially accepted bounds, explaining away an occurrence for which there is no explanation? Or is she trying to comfort Alice, calm her down from a stressful situation that was exacerbated by her inability to distinguish fantasy from reality? Does she just reinforce the distinction between “reality” and Wonderland, combatting the notion that the boundaries can be fluid, as they are in Alice’s world?

The sister seems like a more “normal” person with clear conceptions of the divisions between conventional reality and the fantastical world of Wonderland. Carroll gives the sister a more significant role as the reader observes her watching the sunset. She “sat on, with closed eyes, and half believed herself in Wonderland, though she knew she had but to open them again, and all would change to dull reality.” Alice’s sister’s is envious of Alice’s ability to see the world in such perpetually interesting terms, within an augmented reality. This points to the larger phenomenon of jealousy and even hostility surrounding those who can see that which we can’t, particularly when what they see is fantastical or alluring.

This entire concept reminded me of a quote at the end of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Harry is questioning whether his experience encountering Dumbledore at King’s Cross Station after he is killed by Voldemort is real or just happening inside his head. Dumbledore responds, “Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?”

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