Lewis in Wonderland: The Looking Glass World of Sylvie and Bruno

Lewis in Wonderland: The Looking Glass World of Sylvie and Bruno
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  Lewis in Wonderland: The Looking-Glass World of Sylvie and BrunoAuthor(s): Marah GubarSource: Texas Studies in Literature and Language, Vol. 48, No. 4 (WINTER 2006), pp. 372-394Published by: University of Texas Press Stable URL: . Accessed: 03/12/2013 11:11 Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates your acceptance of the Terms & Conditions of Use, available at  .  . JSTOR is a not-for-profit service that helps scholars, researchers, and students discover, use, and build upon a wide range of content in a trusted digital archive. We use information technology and tools to increase productivity and facilitate new formsof scholarship. For more information about JSTOR, please contact  . University of Texas Press  is collaborating with JSTOR to digitize, preserve and extend access to Texas Studiesin Literature and Language. This content downloaded from on Tue, 3 Dec 2013 11:11:00 AMAll use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions  Lewis in Wonderland: he Looking-Glass World of Sylvie and Bruno Marah Gubar Since their ublication n 1889 and 1893, ewis Carroll's wo Sylvie nd Bruno ooks have perplexed nd disappointed oth ritics nd casual read- ers, who have faulted hem or earing nly slight esemblance o their famous redecessors, he wo Alice ooks. Walter rane, who declined o illustrate ylvie nd Bruno, rticulated hat uickly ecame common t- titude oward he books when he noted hat arroll's ew project was of a very ifferent haracter rom lice a story ith eligious nd moral ur- pose, with nly n occasional ouch f he ngenuity nd humor f Alice, o that t was not nearly o inspiring r amusing" qtd. n Green, 48). Many Carroll ritics oncur, udging Sylvie nd Bruno nd Sylvie nd Bruno oncluded "disastrous" f interesting" ailures Hudson, 87). Even critics ho ad- mire he novels nsist hat hey hould e viewed not s successors o Alice, but "in their] roper ontext" s Victorian omances Miller), Menippean satire Miller gain), proto-Modernist xperiments Gattégno, therton, Wilson, urdy), r post-structuralist editations n textuality Gordon, e- leuze).2 hus, o ustify is laim hat ylvie nd Bruno s an underappreciated "masterpiece," eleuze notes hat in comparison ith Alice nd Through the ooking-Glass, it] isplays set of ntirely ew techniques" 43). The claim hat ylvie nd Bruno's dventures ear only minor imi- larities" o Alice's eems t first nassailable, iven he many tylistic nd structural ifferences etween he two projects Gattégno, 68). Eschew- ing he brilliantly ccentric conomy f he Alice ooks, Carroll onstructs a convoluted ouble plot n Sylvie nd Bruno. ne strand hronicles po- litical prising n an imaginary ountry alled Outland, which s aimed at depriving he fairy hildren ylvie nd Bruno of their ightful ule. The other nvolves romance etween wo real-life esidents f England, Arthur orrester nd Lady Muriel Orme. The books re narrated y an el- derly achelor ho falls n and out of reveries hat nable him o hift rom one world o the ther. ubject matter, ize, nd tone ll suggest hat hese novels do not constitute nother ontribution o the genre f children's fantasy. ot only does Carroll hoose to focus n political nd romantic Texas tudies n Literature nd Language, ol. 48, No. 4, Winter 006 © 2006 by the University f Texas Press, P.O. Box 7819, Austin, TX 78713-7819 This content downloaded from on Tue, 3 Dec 2013 11:11:00 AMAll use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions  Carroll's ylvie nd Bruno 373 maneuverings, e also has his dult haracters ngage n endless ialogues about erious eligious nd philosophical ssues, which loat he ooks ut to twice he ength f Alice. Moreover, he accharine entimentality hat hovers round he dges of Alice nvades he main ext f Sylvie nd Bruno; the novels eature any cenes ike he reacly ne n which runo estows a kiss n his ister, isping, 'I ca'n't give oo nuffín ut thisV" 282).3 Despite ll this vidence, owever, will argue hat he wo projects are ntimately onnected, nd that arroll imself as aware of he many parallels etween hem nd determined o downplay hem. His second two-volume antasy n effect onstitutes looking-glass eversal f his first: nstead f sending child nto dream world n which he suffers various ndignities, e inflicts he disorienting ision f n alternative e- ality n himself. he narrator f Sylvie nd Bruno, ho baldly nnounces "My name's Lewis Carroll" n his first ictional ppearance, upplies us with first-person ccount f he trange rdeal f raveling hrough Won- derland "Bruno's Revenge," 8). Carroll uts himself n place of Alice, suggest, ecause he was aware of the ggression nherent n the kinds f games he wanted o play with hildren, nd anxious o make mends or it. Sylvie nd Bruno nd Sylvie nd Bruno Concluded epeatedly ttest o his concern hat dult nd child annot e partners n play, ecause their n- easy alliance nevitably egenerates nto cruel ame of at nd mouse. Critics ike Jacqueline ose, Carolyn teedman, ames incaid, nd Catherine obson have evinced nxiety bout he ways n which uthors like Carroll nd J. M. Barrie se the figure f the hild for heir wn psy- chic purposes, whether o reclaim past self r to revel n the pleasure of the hild's erotic therness" Kincaid, 75). Such "child-loving," hey argue, onstitutes n aggressive orm f colonization, n which he dult projects is desires n to and thereby bjectifies the hild. But none of these ccounts ecognize he xtent o which Victorian riters ere hem- selves concerned bout nvesting o much motional apital n children. The engine hat rives he narrative f Sylvie nd Bruno s the Carrollian narrator's onsuming assion for is "Dream-Children," nd particularly his onging o possess Sylvie 473). Against obson' claim hat ylvie nd Bruno presents he pairing f the old man and the ittle irl s the most natural hing n the world," argue hat Carroll ortrays hild-loving s a pathological nd destructive ct 129). As punishment or his in, he adult swain s rendered oubly bject: e suffers he "pierc[ing]" angs of unrequited ove, s well as the very ame kind of verbal nd physical punishment reviously nflicted n Alice, arroll's riginal dream-child" (624, I).4 Concerned hat he power mbalance nherent n the dult-child relationship recludes eciprocity, arroll everses he position f he wo parties recisely ecause he fears hat o such witch s possible: dult nd child re ocked nto he oles f ravenous unter nd unwilling rey. This content downloaded from on Tue, 3 Dec 2013 11:11:00 AMAll use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions  374 Marah Gubar Adherents o the view that he Sylvie nd Bruno ooks bear ittle e- semblance o Alice nvariably uote Carroll's reface o the first olume, in which he insists hat his goal has been to write omething ompletely unlike Alice. Noting hat ozens of other uthors ave already e-trod he road to Wonderland, e declares, [I]t would be courting isaster or me to attempt hat tyle gain. Hence t is that, n Sylvie nd Bruno, have striven with know not what success to strike ut yet another ew path" 257). But s his uncertainty ere ndicates, arroll's eclaration f difference as motivated ot by a conviction hat he two projects ad nothing n common, ut rather y his concern hat hey hared oo much. His srcinal oal had not een o write "new," graver" ind f book as he claims n the preface but o produce nother ntertaining fairy-tale" for hildren, a book of the ame general haracter s Alice's dventures," as he put t n an 1877 etter Cohen nd Wakeling, 21, 38). Thus, when Punch rtist arry urniss greed o illustrate ylvie nd Bruno n 1885, Carroll xultantly nformed im, Now that ou are found, shall go back to my Alice n Wonderland tyle f work with very ope of making suc- cess" qtd. n Green, 49).5 Writing o Furniss ust three months efore he publication f Sylvie and Bruno, arroll eveals his real motivation or istinguishing etween the two projects n the preface: amely, is concern hat ritics will say "this writer an only lay one tune: he ook s a réchauffé f Alice" Cohen and Wakeling, 71). Explaining is decision o postpone he nclusion f comic oem until he econd volume, arroll nformed urniss hat any- thing hich would have the ffect f onnecting he ook with Alice would be absolutely isastrous. . .] I'm trying y very est o get out f the ld groove" 171). Carroll's ear hat e has continued o produce Alice-esque fiction lso emerges n the ext f Sylvie nd Bruno. an . Gordon dentifies numerous assages hat ttest o Carroll's neasy ense f the mpossibil- ity f aying nything ew," ncluding ne n which ady Muriel bserves that 'there re no new melodies, ow-a-days. What eople talk f s "the last new song" always recalls o me ome tune 've known s a child '" (Gordon, 86; ylvie nd Bruno, 37). As Richard elly notes, uch moments ignal Carroll's anxiety bout writing he ame book over gain" 136). But given he many ifferences between ylvie nd Bruno nd the Alice ooks, why would he have worried about his? Kelly ists few onnections etween he wo projects, oting that the peculiar rand of nonsense hat haracterized he Alice books reasserts tself" n the passages of Sylvie nd Bruno hat eal with ccentric characters ike he mad gardener nd the bsent-minded rofessor. e also points ut hat oth rojects oncern hemselves ith he ontrast etween "dreaming nd waking tates" nd conclude with iolent ransformation scenes 137). But hese disparate inks o not eem ubstantial nough o This content downloaded from on Tue, 3 Dec 2013 11:11:00 AMAll use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions  Carroll's ylvie nd Bruno 375 justify uthorial nxiety bout elf repetition. o understand arroll's on- cern, we must ake nto ccount he genesis f he ylvie nd Bruno ooks. The novels grew out of a short tory ntitled Bruno's Revenge" hat Carroll wrote or children's agazine n 1867, n between writing lice's Adventures n Wonderland 1865) and Through he ooking-Glass 1872). This story, hich ppears n virtually naltered orm s chapters ourteen nd fifteen f Sylvie nd Bruno, s such n obvious ewrite f Alice hat t would not be out of place n Alternative lices, arolyn igler's nthology f the kind f mitative exts hat arroll riticizes n his preface. "Bruno's evenge" uts n adult haracter n place of Alice; he tory chronicles ow n unexpected eeting ith creature rom airyland raws "Lewis Carroll" nto new realm f xistence. he narrator egins is tale by describing he day on which is adventure ccurred: It was a very ot afternoon too hot to go for walk or do anything or else it wouldn't have happened, believe" 75). Feeling sleepy," e "lazily" wanders own "by he ake, artly ecause had nothing o do, . ] and partly as I said at first) ecause t was too hot o be comfortable nywhere, xcept nder he trees" 76). The tmosphere f his pening losely matches hat f he irst Alice ook. [T]ired f itting y her ister n the bank nd of having oth- ing o do," Alice nevertheless eels oo ethargic o make daisy hain, for the hot day made her feel ery leepy nd stupid" 15). The reason or his similarity s revealed when he narrator f Bruno's evenge" xplains hat these re he erfect onditions or potting antastic reatures. nd ndeed, both Alice nd the narrator re olted ut of heir anguid tate y the ight of n otherworldly isitor; ust s the White Rabbit iques Alice's nterest, a little airy amed ylvie ntrigues he narrator. In both ases, moreover, he mysterious reature uickly isappears, leaving he protagonists o comfort hemselves n much he ame way. Af- ter osing ight f ylvie, he narrator eports, I walked n sadly nough, you may be sure. However, comforted yself ith hinking: It's been a very wonderful fternoon, o far I'll ust go quietly n and ook about me, and I shouldn't wonder f come across nother airy omewhere'" (77). Similarly, fter osing ight f the Rabbit nd finding erself nable to fit hrough he iny oor that eads to the beautiful arden, lice feels hopeful hat he might e able to "shut herself] p like telescope" nd pass through he doorway: For you see, so many ut-of-the-way hings had happened ately, hat Alice had begun to think hat ery ew hings indeed were eally mpossible" 19). n both ases, he protagonist's onfi- dence hat more nusual vents will occur s confirmed: lice does ndeed "shu[t] p like telescope" nd the narrator's esire o meet nother airy is fulfilled hen he runs nto ylvie's younger rother, runo 21). Like the nhabitants f Wonderland, owever, he residents f this fairy ealm rove oth ifficult o engage n conversation nd to borrow This content downloaded from on Tue, 3 Dec 2013 11:11:00 AMAll use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions
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