This week, we present to you a long overdue post by the DC, Emily the founder and Simona Georgieva, writer for the DC. We talked over on our Instagram a few weeks back about how we would be following up with our Alice findings after the release of the sequel to Alice in Wonderland: Alice Through the Looking Glass. The movie adaptations by Tim Burton from the famous literary works by Lewis Carroll.
If you were eagerly awaiting the post with baited breath…wait no longer…
Alice’s adventures in Wonderland are some of our founder Emily’s favourite childhood stories. What we notice from the films/stories is the frequent reference to “madness” and we’ll be considering these in this post.
`But I don’t want to go among mad people,’ Alice remarked. `Oh, you can’t help that,’ said the Cat: `we’re all mad here. I’m mad. You’re mad.’ `How do you know I’m mad?’ said Alice. `You must be,’ said the Cat, `or you wouldn’t have come here.’ Alice didn’t think that proved it at all…
The theme of madness in both stories (Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass) are set around the twists of the imagination and juxtaposition of sanity and ‘madness’. Most who are familiar with Carroll’s text know this. We even see a syndrome named after the first book:
Alice in Wonderland Sydrome concerning hallucinations and distortions.
What we’re considering rather, is the beauty in the imaginary and the concept of madness altogether.
Many of us know of the horrors of ‘madhouses’ of the eighteenth century Britain and perhaps know of the unhealthy obsession that the Victorians had with mental illness.
In Through the Looking Glass we see Alice being told she has a ‘treatable’ case of ‘female hysteria’ as she lies in a hospital bed. ‘There’s nothing wrong with me’ she replies.
We talk to Emily the founder and Simona writer for the DC, here…
What then has Alice or Wonderland to do with Dementia? (-asked the DC HQ to our founder Emily, since it was her idea to write of Wonderland as a post topic):
So much! Where to even begin.
Perhaps the most befitting example from Alice Through the Looking Glass is the glass itself. The reflection in the mirror is the reflection of the world itself but somehow Alice passes through this and into a world which is seemingly a reflection of her own thoughts. She speaks of the adventure being a dream that she’s in. Whether Wonderland is a dream or a parallel world it offers great insight to us…into the corners of the mind.
The story loosely follows the topic of isolation, this we can see could relate to dementia. Can you tell us more about that?
Well, in the movie we can see how Alice is isolated from her family, and at the hospital by people who thought that she had gone mad. This assumption came from them seeing Alice talking about wonderland. This made Alice feel upset and different. We can relate that to people with Dementia. Some people may feel isolated from society or their own family, by not being able to express themselves as they once would. We also see how ‘The Mad Hatter’ felt isolated. No one believed him or understood him when he mentioned that his family was still alive. It is very important to give people with Dementia the feeling of reassurance, and to just accept what they say, listen to them and be there for them.
What of the lesson of growing up in both stories, Simona? when Alice a seven year old child argues with an adult in the first book logic always seems to come undone. In the second she is portrayed as a grown woman, though still rarely listened to or respected as such.
Just like in the movie, when Alice’s mother does not understand her attitude and why she needs to get back to wonderland, we see that Alice is very sad. We can also compare this to real life and those with Dementia, in the early stages of the disease. One may understand what is going on around them and that they are not healthy. This alone would make one feel bad. If we do not listen to loved ones, it can cause them the same feelings of sadness and loneliness as the ‘The mad hatter’ felt. Although in the beginning she tried to correct him by saying that his parents are dead, but when she saw how upset he became she decided to change her perspective.
“You can’t change the past. But I daresay, you can learn from it.” This quote can also be related to the fact that we cannot change the past and the condition of our loved ones who were diagnosed with Dementia, but what we can do moving forward is be there for them, listen to them and make them comfortable. Just like Alice did with the mad hatter.
It’s very difficult to consider one story without the other then. What integral themes to the tales evoke a comparative to dementia?
I suppose because the audience has to have an understanding and compassion towards the ‘madness’ of the tales. It doesn’t necessarily follow that madness is insanity, it’s a viewpoint. If only people looked at dementia in such a way, I think we’d be more progressive than we are. Compassion and understanding is everything.
The ‘madness’ depicted in the stories is an eccentricity, a freedom really. The tables turn within the tale. Once in Wonderland, it’s no longer about logic as we know it but rather illogical pattern that makes perfect sense. I would liken it to a phrase my Mother constantly told me as a child “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder Emily.” Which really is a concept which applies to life in its entirety. If you believe you can, then you will. Much as the Mad Hatter says in the first novel:
The Mad Hatter: Have I gone mad?
[Alice checks Hatter’s temperature]
Alice Kingsley: I’m afraid so. You’re entirely bonkers. But I’ll tell you a secret. All the best people are. We’re all mad here.
I think it seems an oblivious link to me. Some may refer to it as simply: The Law of Attraction. Perhaps it helps that my Mother always was very eccentric and I grew up in the shadows of that with a fortunate background of literature coupled with a CSM education. Self belief and perception creates your world. I am a bit of a dreamer myself truth be told!
“Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.” -The Queen.
I think if everyone could consider dementia as a new chapter, a Wonderland, rather than as a negative arrival then we’d all be a lot better off.
I certainly couldn’t grasp this myself initially but once I had come to the realization I think I felt a lot happier and so too in turn did my Mother. Sometimes she tells me stories about how she came to buy her house which are completely ‘wrong’ historically but I listen every time as though it’s the first time she has told me. Why discourage her from telling stories? And what does it matter what order information is told in? It would only be my error to correct her, then we’d both be sad.
Additionally, what might we learn from the film regarding dementia then Emily?
I think to reinforce the point of belief, we see the Mad Hatter dying because contrary to previous understanding of his family being dead which is common knowledge, they are alive he believes. The fact that no one else believes him causes him to fade. His loneliness is illustrated in his predicament. He needs to feel supported but because those around him refuse to believe him, he doesn’t have that support.
Time is the greatest concurrent theme throughout. How we choose to spend time, one moral perhaps being not to waste it. In the film, time is both friend and foe. Time himself says in the movie:
“You can’t change the past. But I daresay, you can learn from it.”
The importance of family is reinforced in the movie, I think this is paramount in dementia.
If there are morals within the storyline, what would you take away from the film Simona as ‘life lessons’ (if any)?
I think there are a few “Life Lessons” in the movie. As Emily mentioned, the importance of family. First we can see the strong message of how important it is to love your family and spend time with them, we need to appreciate every second we have with them. One of my favourite quotes is: “Time gives before it takes… Every day is a gift, every hour, every second.” We tend to be constantly overly concerned about our future plans and life that we forget to enjoy the moment, enjoy the present and I think we can take our time with our loved ones for granted sometimes.
Another quote I really love is:
“The only way to achieve the impossible is to believe it is possible”, many times we tend to be afraid to follow our dreams, to dare a bit more and step out of our “Comfort zone”, because we are afraid of failure or the unknown and different. The fear of failure prevents us from trying new things. In ‘Alice through The Looking Glass’ we can see how Alice followed in her father’s footsteps and sailed the high seas as a captain of her own ship. Showing us that if you’re ambitious that if you’re ambitious enough you can be successful.
What else would you add Emily, to conclude?
I think, as most aptly put by Lewis Caroll himself,
“One of the deep secrets of life is that all that is really worth doing is what we do for others” would be a good starting point.
If dementia is to be trapped between one world and another, much like Alice, or even if it’s a perfectly lucid dream, then either way, at this very moment we cannot change it.
“When the day becomes the night and the sky becomes the sea, then the clock strikes heavy and there’s no time for tea and in our darkest hour, before my final rhyme, she will come back home to Wonderland and turn back the hands of time.”
Attempting to wake a person from it will not work. If we fail to see the beauty in what our loved ones with dementia can see themselves or say, then we fail to see the world through their eyes and that to me is a great shame. It is not only our loved ones who then miss out but ourselves as well. Embrace what you cannot change I would say, enjoy the time that you do have and really enjoy your time. If you’re in Wonderland, then it must be time for a cup of tea, surely?