When Alice delves through the rabbit hole into Wonderland, she does more than simply explore the land and recount the area to the audience at home: she imposes the rules of her home onto those of the creatures she encounters, much like British imperialism at the time. Just as the narrator of Ulysses claims “I am a part of all I have met,” so too does Alice impart her own culture onto the land she explores (Ulysses 18). She does this to such a degree, in fact, that her own self becomes lost. The story is not that of a young girl traveling through a new world, but is instead of a model British citizen “roaming with a hungry heart” through an unknown land (Ulysses 12).
The Mad Tea Party is a perfect example of Alice, or rather a model British citizen, imposing British custom on a foreign people. Her first comment when arriving at the table, in an aside to her British audience, is a critique of the treatment of the dormouse. When the hosts offer wine and then tell here there isn’t any, she replies that it “wasn’t very civil of [them] to offer it” (Carroll 60). This is not the independent judgments or rules of a young girl; rather these are British customs being enforced by a model citizen in a barbarian, “uncivilized” world. Rather than seeing, imitating, and surviving like the narrator of Cranford, Alice forces English custom on these foreigners. She doesn’t act like a child at all; in fact she seems to have lost her childhood altogether and has taken on a new role as a mother imposing her rule on her children, as a queen imposing her rule on her subjects, or as England ruling her colonies. She tells the March Hare and the Mad Hatter to learn to “not make personal remarks” because “it’s very rude” (60). The tea party continues, with young Alice singlehandedly upholding civility in the otherwise unrestrained Wonderland, at one point even remarking that their queen is “dreadfully savage” (Carroll 64). After several offenses, Alice eventually leaves the table and moves on. Just as Ulysses had “mete and dole Unequal laws unto a savage race” only to realize he “cannot rest from travel,” so too does Alice become tired of her uncivilized company and travel ever onward (Ulysses 3-6).
Somehow, in her journey down the rabbit hole, Alice outgrew herself and became a personification of British imperialism, similar to that of Ulysses. Instead of adapting and surviving in the land she encounters, she imposes the rules of her society onto the local “savages,” moving ever forward to discover new worlds and creatures.