The subversive dreams of Alice in Wonderland

  • Kelly Bulkeley (Author)
    The Graduate Theological Union Berkeley, California, USA

Identifiers (Article)


This article examines the specific features of dreaming found in Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass, using current dream research as a guide. These features include falling, magical animals, metamorphoses, wordplay, bizarreness, memory distortions, moral ambiguities, metacognition, curiosity, empathy, existential questioning, and freedom. When Carroll’s stories are viewed through the lens of the current dream research, it becomes clear that he has provided a surprisingly accurate and comprehensive accounting of human dream experience. Drawing on historical and biographical evidence, this article goes on to argue that Carroll intentionally made dreams a central part of the stories because he wanted to give his young readers a tool for resisting the oppressive normality of adulthood in Victorian England, at the peak of the British empire. By subtly teaching his young listeners about the true nature of dreaming, Carroll was cultivating their critical capacity to look beyond the status quo of supposedly “civilized” Imperial reality.




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dreams, children's literature, Wonderland, bizarreness
How to Cite
Bulkeley, K. (2019). The subversive dreams of Alice in Wonderland. International Journal of Dream Research, 12(2), 49–59.