Alice in Wonderland is a classical fairytale that combines adventure with fantasy. Lewis Carol wrote the story during the 19th century. The storyline features a young girl named Alice who travels in a world populated by anthropomorphic creatures. Throughout her encounter with the animals in Wonderland, Alice demonstrates that disability is a significant problem in society. The story of Alice promotes the stigmatization of disabled people and the effect it has on the American culture regarding the concept of disability.
The Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) defines disabled persons as individuals with a physical and mental impairment that undermines their ability to carry out normal activities. The first encounter of disability in the story arises when Alice follows a rabbit and falls a long way through a hole, eventually landing in Wonderland. She eats a particular substance that makes her shrink in body size in an attempt to enter through the small entrance into the greater section of Wonderland (Deems 68). Her shrinking body size disables her from accessing a key intended to open the door. She then eats a second substance that makes her body swell so large that she hits the ceiling.
The initial experience in Wonderland shows Alice as a disabled person. Her physical disability does not allow her to function correctly. She requires an overhaul of her body to perform ordinary functions, such as opening a door. This scene paints disabled people as persons who cannot accomplish what normal, physically abled persons do (Deems 68). However, this assumption is misleading since many physically disabled persons have demonstrated their adaptation to the physical world, allowing them to perform ordinary tasks against which Alice appears to struggle.
The reinforcement of stigma against disabled persons manifests in the behavior of Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum. The mischievous twins suffer from limited intelligence and short attention span. This trend is an indication of mental disability (Deems 65). Furthermore, the two have stout bodies and are abnormally built with curious facial expressions that occur in unison. The story paints the twins as individuals who cannot control their actions and have to rely on each other to complete any communication with other characters in the story. Although the twins appear normal and harmless at first, Alice begins to question their behavior as the story unfolds. Mental disability emerges as a challenge and an abnormality in Wonderland (Kirkpatrick). Alice begins to question whether the actions of the twins are appropriate in a ‘normal’ society.
The interaction between Alice and the Cheshire Cat reveals a negative perception of disability. The cat appears in several scenes where he stands in for the mental state of Alice. He alternates between existence and non-existence, issuing several instructions that appear to meaningless and confusing to Alice. Significantly, the cat seems unreal, and Alice wonders whether it is a figment of her imagination (Deems 66). Alice questions her sanity and wonders whether she is abnormal. These behavior casts Alice as an outcast because she is different from the rest of society. Disabled persons should not be portrayed as outcasts for appearing or behaving differently from people that society considers normal.
Alice in Wonderland is a fictional story that reinforces negative attitudes that society has towards people living with disabilities. The story affects American society because of how characters with disabilities are discriminated against. Millions of Americans suffer from different forms of disability. It is essential to treat them with respect. The positive attitude towards disability allows everyone in society to realize their potential.
Deems, Kasey. “We’re All Mad Here”: Mental Illness as Social Disruption in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.” SUURJ: Seattle University Undergraduate Research Journal 1.1 (2017): 13: 62-74.
Kirkpatrick, Stephanie Renee. The Disney-Fication of Disability: The Perpetuation of Hollywood Stereotypes of Disability in Disney’s Animated Films. Diss. University of Akron, 2009.