Posted by: Rachel M. | November 12, 2009

A Game of Cat and Mouse

In Alice, cats and mice are frequently mentioned. So far we have heard of Dinah, and we have been acquainted with the Cheshire Cat, as well as the Mouse in the Pool of Tears, and the Door-mouse.

Interestingly, the cat is  an ancient symbolic animal that was considered the guardian of the Other-world. Similarly, cats embody mystery and it is said that cats are symbolic of magic, reincarnation, and independence as well as sensuality and detachment.

Some big lights start flashing there. These implications are very appropriate considering the cat’s role in wonderland, giving Alice a sort of friendship as well as direction (in a roundabout way) and acting as an improvised sort of guardian to her and to Wonderland. This seems dually fitting considering the Cheshire cat is a generally significant character that also sheds light upon the workings of the world Alice has entered through it’s perplexing actions. I assume you can make the inferences regarding the above-mentioned symbolism. In addition, the cat in itself embodies the characteristics of Wonderland being a creature displaying the traits of both the playful and loved Dinah, and the perplexing and evasive Cheshire cat. This being so in the way that Wonderland appears to be a a curious and harmless land, but is more complex, containing the transcendental and potentially dangerous.
On another note, we have also met some mice: the Mouse in the Pool of Tears, as well as the Door-mouse at the mad tea party. The mouse is typically a meek little creature, perhaps sleepy like the tea-time mouse. Maybe trying to find a way to survive in a pool of something much larger’s tears.
These connections lead me to wonder:

  • Is Alice the timid mouse, lost and afraid of the mystifying, cat-like labyrinth that is Wonderland?
  • Is it a game or a dream, or is it a struggle with something much greater?

Responses

  1. A cat labyrinth is a very interesting concept, techinically she is a mouse in a labyrinth, that experiences many adventrues. I can see why Carroll used the cheshire cat. The chesire cat represents Alice’s cat Dinah, and if the cheshire cat is truly the gate-keeper of wonderland, then Caroll needed to use something that Alice liked. She loved her cat Dinah, and ironically the cat is a symbolic guardian. In this case Alice’s guardian.

  2. This was a thrill to read! I have been considering all the connections within the story and some of Carroll and Alice’s day to day lives, but I have not even thought to look for things that relate to the story outside of that. this is fantastic, “Some big lights start flashing there. These implications are very appropriate considering the cat’s role in wonderland, giving Alice a sort of friendship as well as direction (in a roundabout way) and acting as an improvised sort of guardian to her and to Wonderland.” I absolutely agree and admire your ability to have noticed such a thing.

  3. I should have made it more clear. I was pointing out the duality of the cat’s guardianship. It is first and foremost the mysterious gate-keeper of wonderland but also a voice in the shadows hanging over Alice guiding her.

    What I was also suggesting was that perhaps the Cheshire Cat represents the allure to Alice of detachment and sensuality (for which it is symbolic) and how she finds friendship in this sort of creature.

    Making more sense?

  4. The connections you made in this blog are really well thought out. But there are a few things that confuse me.

    First of all, you assumed I would be able to make the connections between the symbolism of cats and the role of the Cheshire cat but I think you may have overestimated my inferring skills. I mean first you said that cats symbolized mystery, independence, and magic then you said that the Cheshire played the role of friend, guardian, and director. To me, it seems the role of the Cheshire does NOT reflect the symbolism of the a cat. But maybe things aren’t clicking in my head like they are for you.

    That aside I do see how Alice could be the timid mouse lost and afraid of the cat-like Wonderland. And if you think of the famous game of cat and mouse between Tom and Jerry, we all know who wins. (:


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