In Between*

*This is a response to Benedikt K.’s “Size Does Matter

“You’re too old to trick or treat.” “You’re too young to go to that party.”

These are the things that teenagers hear almost every day. We are in the “in between” phase of our lives, not children, but not yet adults either. We are encouraged to embrace both our playful, childlike side as well as our sophisticated, adult personality. Yet when we act childish we are scorned and when we try to act grown-up we are seen as foolish. We always seem to be the wrong size. It is an awkward time in our lives that is necessary to the growth of our bodies and minds. We long for the freedoms of adult life, but at the same time they terrify us. We will have to be self-sufficient and responsible. We also pine for the innocence of childhood when our mistakes were cute and we didn’t have to do anything for ourselves.

Humans are complicated beings and Alice is beginning to find that out. Alice Liddell is a twelve year old girl which means that soon she too will venture into the unknown land of puberty and all the changes it brings. Carroll must recognize this, for he portrays Alice as never being the proper size. When she is small she needs to be big, but once she grows she realizes that she needs to be small. This would make her feel constantly awkward as so many teenage girls do. To Carroll this make signify the end of Alice’s childhood and innocence that he loved, yet also the beginning of her voyage into being an adult and accepting the burdens that come with it.

For the fictional Alice this is simply a terrible inconvenience, but for Alice Liddell this was her life. She must be able to retain some of her child-like self even as she makes this transition to adulthood. Otherwise she woudl lose it forever. Perhaps Carroll wanted Alice to be able to read this story that way she would never grow old. So that her inner child could live on even after her body gets older.

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Published in: on November 21, 2009 at 17:09  Comments (4)  

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4 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Very insightful. I am 40, and I have 4 children ranging from 16-20. You have really nailed the essence of what it’s like to be a teenager, and the process of growing up- good job relating that back to Carroll, his writing, and the real-life Alice.

    Kudos!

  2. I believe it is possible to preserve your inner child. I’ve managed to do it for 15 years (and I plan to for the rest of my life). But I also believe that the inner child has to know when to come out. For example, you can’t be running around pretending you are a dinosaur during a business meeting or an interview (you can but you might be fired). The inner child has to take the backseat, but there is nothing wrong with a little backseat driving.

  3. Rachel,

    This is such an intense post and really hits home for this father of a “tween” who is just starting down this path of “too young/too old”.

    As I journey along with my daughter (from the sidelines, for sure), I try and remember what being 11 meant for me, and I must confess it is very hard to do. Is going through the “looking glass” is a cutting off of our childhood as we head to adult-world? If that was Carroll’s motive (to preserve Alice’s inner child for her), do you think it was successful? Can we preserve it?

    B

  4. I love how you finished this post, “So that her inner child could live on even after her body gets older.” Have you ever met that one person who seems like no matter what they are having fun? They are responsible and aware, yet they do not let this responsibilty limit their ability to enjoy themselves. When I read that last sentence I really thought about that and completely agree with the idea that most often we feel awkward when we are in this in-between stage. However, if we are able to utilize this in-between idea then the sky is limit. Actually, no it isn’t.


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