Fine-tuning your shelf: a playlist for Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland

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Lewis Carroll, an author treasured by equally adults and children. The novel offers children an innocent view into the world of Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland, contrasting with adults as they see Wonderland through a more pessimistic lens. Carroll highlights two differing perspectives on life and what it offers: the naive mind versus the cynical. Therefore, it only seems right to see which music can emulate the same feeling that Carroll left me with as both an adult and a child. The music selected shows, I believe, the innocent yet underlying perverted side of society which so often is ignored.

The music selected shows, I believe, the innocent yet perverse side of society so often ignored

‘Golden Brown’ – The Stranglers 

This song perfectly encapsulates the references to drug use in Carroll’s novel, highlighting the ecstasy of such escape, whilst simultaneously showing its temporal nature. Incorporating the use of a harpsichord offers a false pretence to this song, that its content will be in light nature, only when the lyrics are listened to one realises this couldn’t be any further from the truth. The blind trust which Alice presents when drinking the height-altering potions is similarly mirrored throughout as it can be said for both the Stranglers and Alice there is certainly ‘never a frown with Golden Brown’. 

‘The Sweet Escape’ – Gwen Stefani 

Stefani describes an ideal world where she can escape her past, but ironically just highlights how little she has changed, and will change. Whilst Alice quite literally escapes through the Rabbit Hole, she cannot help but merge the two worlds of the fantastical and reality. Repeatedly bringing up her cat Dinah, she upsets and confuses the other animals as they see her pet as a predator. In this sense, the song highlights how escaping from one world to another does not resolve issues, but only resurfaces them. In essence, one person’s ‘Sweet Escape’ is another person’s nightmare. 

‘Pursuit of Happiness (Nightmare)’ – Kid Cudi

The clear paradox in this title sets up exactly what Lewis Carroll set out to do – to show the contrast between reality and fantastical and how the two can never co-exist. Alice is abruptly awoken at the end of the novel to realise it was all a dream. Like Kid Cudi, the ‘Pursuit of Happiness’ is about chasing something unobtainable. Throughout the song Kid Cudi reminisces on the past, something which Alice seems to do in Wonderland. In essence, both realise the bleak truth: the past cannot be reimagined. 

Both realise the bleak truth: the past cannot be re-imagined

Day ‘N’ Night (Nightmare)’ – Kid Cudi

Another song that sounds light-hearted in its tone, emulating the likes of any other number one hit. This song’s catchy tune directly contrasts its taboo content. This song manages to present the binary opposition of day and night, how ultimately when one ends, another begins. For Alice the same can be said; when one world ends the other begins. This temporal aspect of her life emphasises that everything that happens in Wonderland will ultimately end, whether she desires it to or not. As the ‘lonely stoner’ Kid Cudi portrays, the escape from reality ultimately cannot and will not stay. 

You Don’t Own Me’ – Lesley Gore 

The song has a rather eerie quality, representing the nightmarish reality that is a woman’s place in society. I cannot help but see clear parallels to the scene where Alice cannot reach the golden key due to consuming the shrinking potion, which is conveniently placed on a glass table. Here Carroll presents the glass ceiling which is the reality for women. The goals for women exist, but reaching the key is somewhat harder than just seeing it. In this sense, the song acts as a reminder to both Alice and wider society that women are owned by societies ideologies, which cannot even be escaped in the realm of the fantastical.

‘Survivor’ – Destiny’s Child

An absolute classic that simply could not be missed off the list. Alice can be seen as a survivor for two reasons, depending on how the reader views the end of the book: firstly, she is a survivor of her mind and its lucid qualities, or that she now has seen the life which she can never have, making her a survivor of the real world. Regardless of which view is taken, Alice remains a fighter and deals with the consequences of that both Wonderland and reality present. 

Image: Annie Spratt via Unsplash

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