Alice in Wonderland

Subversion in Carroll and Dahl: How Humor in British Children’s Literature Derails the Classic Conduct Book. College

British Children’s Literature traditionally tells a story whilst instilling a moral message for the intended children readership – commonplace in genres such as the conduct book and the cautionary tale. In fact, critic Peter Hunt believes that ‘it is virtually impossible for a children’s book… not to be educational[1]’ as the texts ‘cannot help but reflect an ideology and, by extension, didacticism[2].’ However, in some cases throughout history it is apparent that the author plays with the features of these traditional genres by using aspects of humour, in doing so then generates a satirical view of the classic conduct book. Two examples that support this argument are Lewis Carroll’s ‘Alice in Wonderland’ and Roald Dahl’s ‘Charlie and the Chocolate Factory’. Within this essay, these texts will be examined in order to study the way in which both texts use humour in order to disrupt and differentiate against the Conduct book genre. The way in which Carroll uses humorous nonsense and intertextual referencing in order to create satire against not only the conduct book but factors such as education and romanticism will be explored. Similarly, this essay will explore how Dahl’s use of satire of classic texts such as cautionary tales...

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