ALICE IN MOHICANLAND.... An Essay
Through the Looking Glass.... Alice in Wonderland.... The Leatherstocking Tales.... The Last of the Mohicans.... No matter how hard you try, you can not escape the striking similarities between these tales. We realize that many readers have probably failed to identify the connection, but that's simply ignorance. We will, in this essay, explore the many unavoidable parallels to be found in the writings of James Fenimore Cooper and Lewis Carroll, clever men both. Hopefully, by the the time you've read the conclusion, you will have gained such insight and clarity that you will say, "Of course! Why did I not see that before?" Who knows? Maybe we'll even convince ourselves....
Our literary comparison should begin with that which is most obvious... Alice. There you have it! For the few geniuses among you, this is, of course, a self-evident truth, needing no further clarification. On this one point we can rest our case. However, further examination of the "Alice Factor" is in order for the benefit of the multitudes. Let's look at Alice then.
In LOTM, we have a young, curious, adventure seeking, schoolgirl named Alice. In her zeal for adventure, Alice, who is too curious for her own good, runs into terrible danger and is confronted with the reality around her. Does she respond with a level head? No, she escapes into her Wonderland. In AIW, we have a young, curious, adventure seeking, schoolgirl named Alice. In her zeal for adventure, Alice, who is too curious for her own good, runs into terrible danger and is confronted with the reality around her. Does she respond with a level head? No, she escapes into her Wonderland. Now, we ask you, is this merely a coincidence? Of course not. Both Cooper and Carroll employed this "Alice Factor" in their tales with clever twists designed to catch the reader off guard. This particular literary device is called "What An Adventure." It's brilliant, is it not?
The next point is the White Rabbit. Think about its hidden meaning. White Rabbit?...... White Rabbit? Remember, AIW's Alice began her adventure when she went off chasing a White Rabbit. Now take a look at LOTM's Alice; when does her adventure begin? "Have you seen the Red Man? What an adventure!" That's right! LOTM's Alice is set on her adventure through the introduction of the "Red Man" whom Alice wants to chase. What our clever authors are doing here with the "White Rabbit Factor" is introducing a subtle literary device called "Topsy-turvy." Very effective. There is a subtle race thing going on, you see. White, Red, Rabbit, Man...... We are led to believe that there is nothing more here, but that's a ploy. Even Michael Mann used the "Topsy- turvy" literary device when he reversed Alice and Cora, once again pretending up was down and Cora was Alice. It appears that Mr. Mann may be very clever indeed. And Cooper mastered the "Topsy-turvy" literary device by penning his "Leatherstocking Tales" chronologically in reverse. That was a stroke of genius! (We'll encounter this "White Rabbit Factor" again later when the Queen of Hearts has deadly mood swings over that centuries old conflict, red roses or white? And in LOTM, it is represented by Hawkeye. Is he a red man or a white man?) Subtle...... but profound!
Digging a bit deeper, we come to the "Looking Glass Factor." Now, what exactly does this mean? At first glance (intentional pun), it would appear that the looking glass is merely an optical aid. Don't be fooled. There's much more than meets the eye here (intentional pun). The "Looking Glass Factor" is a literary device called "Do You See What I See?" and the thing a reader must remember whenever he encounters this device is that the answer is always 'no' at first, but later, it is unequivocally 'yes.' Be on your guard here. This is a tricky tool of mischievous writers. What does it really mean? Well, think of AIW..... is anything really what it seems to be? No. Up is down, down is up. In is out. Out is in. And LOTM? When Munro tells Montcalm to peer into his "Looking Glass" so he can see General Webb and his mighty army on the Hudson, what is really there? Nothing. To see or not to see.... clear it up any?
If we now take a look at our "Alice Factor" and the antagonist each author introduces, whom do we find to be the common enemy? The French. That's right, French. In AIW, Alice is running from FRENCH lessons. In LOTM, Alice is running from FRENCH allies! The literary device employed here is called the "French Connection." Through the introduction of this "French Connection," it becomes apparent, not at first of course, but sometime after that, that AIW and LOTM are politically subversive. Again, Michael Mann cleverly introduced this device by casting FRENCH actor Patrice Chereau in LOTM. This "French Connection" is so obvious it borders on madness. That brings us to the next clue.
Madness. In a way, Cooper and Carroll are using the "Alice Factor" to develop the mutual theme that madness is simply maddening. What does Cora say to Hawkeye in LOTM? "You are right, Mr. Poe. We DO NOT UNDERSTAND what is happening here. It is not as I IMAGINED it would be...." Let's look at that a moment. " We do not understand"...." I imagine" .... She's obviously hallucinating. Now consider Mr. Poe's reply; "They are a breed apart and make NO SENSE." We are definitely touching upon an underlying madness in this exchange. Here Cooper is using his characters to further develop the madness theme. Michael Mann brilliantly continued the madness theme when he cast MADeleine Stowe as Cora, who really was Alice! And if you ponder MADeleine's nickname, Mad Maddy, it becomes even more obvious. Mad Maddy.... Michael Mann.... if you fuse the two you will come up with 'Mad Mann.' See? Very clever. And who does AIW's Alice meet in her quest for the "White Rabbit?" Mad characters, every one. Here a mad man, there a mad man, everywhere a mad, mad man. This is a literary device called "The Mad Hatter." It is highly sophisticated, often undetected by the uninitiated, but it's there. The intent is to confuse the reader so he does not discover the plot he is plotting through until he has already plotted it. Very, very tricky.... watch out for this "Mad Hatter" device. In AIW, the "Mad Hatter" is found in three primary antagonists; the Cheshire Cat, the Mad Hatter (confusing, isn't it?), and of course, the hallucinating 'who are u?' pre-metamorphical caterpillar. All of these bizarre characters appear, at first, to be rambling fools, but in reality, which is always disguised, they are simply mad. And they are trying to spin poor Alice in the wrong direction. In LOTM, the "Mad Hatter Factor" is also found in three primary antagonists; Magua, General Webb, and King George. Wrong Directions.... Mad Generals.... Tyrant Kings. Of course, many readers will easily recognize Magua as a "Mad Hatter," but General Webb? King George? You may be fooled at first. Webb appears to be on Alice's side, but is he? Does he send reinforcements? Does he offer Major Heyward tea? Did the Mad Hatter offer Alice tea? King Georgie has Alice and company thinking that France is their enemy, but in reality, he is. While they were busied fighting the French, he snuck in a TEA tax! And let's not overlook "The Madness of King George!" (That's why there was a TEA Party in Boston a bit later. We'll explore the real meaning of the revolution and its relation to the Clever Cooper/Carroll Connection another time.) Think about that.....
Another clever subtlety is the "melts before your eyes" device. It is employed by both authors through the introduction of the "M & M Factor." The intent of the authors is to have the reader searching for clues in all the wrong places. Just when one thinks they've figured the thing out, it simply disappears. An example of this "M & M Factor" is the Cheshire Cat, who was a highly functional character for Lewis Carroll. When Alice thinks he is one place, he disappears and is really, or seemingly, in another place. And in LOTM; Cooper created the Magua character as a means to employ this device. When Major Heyward thinks they are going one place, they are really, or seemingly, going to another place. Again, when Hawkeye sights Magua with Killdeer, he appears to be in one place, but really, or seemingly, he's somewhere else. Now let's take a look at the "M & M Factor" and how both authors developed it; Magua, MontcalM, Munro, Major Heyward, Mohicans, Massacre, Mohawk, Miss Alice, Miss Cora, Mr. Phelps, Mr. Poe (note that Cora does not simply say "Phelps" or "Poe", she says "Mr. Phelps" and "Mr. Poe"); and then there is Miss Alice, MushrooMs, MetaMorphosis, Mad Hatter, Miss School MarM. Now also consider these; Madeleine, Maurice, Michael Mann, Means, Meany, May, Mike, and if you turn the 'W' in Webb and Walrus upside down, you have the final topsy-turvy "M & M." This was magnificently cunning; Cooper supplied one part and Carroll supplied the other, together we have a conspiracy of "M & M".
There are many, many, many, many, many more examples we can examine to further prove the Clever Cooper/Carroll Connection.... Walrus-Magua... Rabbit's House-Cameron's Cabin... Garden-Glade... King of Hearts-King George... Oysters-Ambush... Alice-Alice, and so on. But the key to the riddle is in the riddle itself. "Why is a raven like a writing desk?" That's the question! And the Mad Hatter himself puts it to poor Alice at the unbirthday party! (The "Topsy -turvy" device again.) Why is a raven like a writing desk? That IS the answer. Cooper used this 'Riddle' device when he had Montcalm put the question to Magua; "Why does Magua hate the Grey Hair?" It's ALL about riddles. In both tales, Alice had only to guess the answer to the riddle and all would have been well. The answer, incidentally, is this; There is a 'B' in Both, and Neither has an 'N.'
Many of you are, doubtless and with no doubt, thoroughly and through and through, convinced of the Clever Cooper/Carroll Connection by now. It all makes perfectly perfect sense, doesn't it? There are still a few annoying academic purists, however, who WANT to believe but are nagged by a teeny question that has yet to be answered. That is; How could James Fenimore Cooper have been in league with Lewis Carroll? Cooper wrote the "Leatherstocking Tales" years before Carroll penned "Alice in Wonderland." True. But therein lies Cooper's brilliance. He was actually able to anticipate Lewis Carroll's wit, and therefore wrote his companion tales, using the "Alice Factor," to set the stage. And of course, this entire essay is as nonsensical as a trip to Wonderland, or MohicanLand, or ... is it? It gets curiouser and curiouser!
Note: There has been speculation among some scholars that Edgar Allan Poe was a third man in the Alice Conspiracy. According to the experts, Nathaniel Poe was a hidden alias for Edgar Allan Poe and the raven riddle was a hidden reference to Poe's poem "The Raven." Furthermore, claim the experts, Poe's poem "Annabelle Lee" is a hidden reference to "Alice." It has all the letters of Alice's name, except 'i' and 'c', and as a subtle reference to the "Raven Riddle," it has the 'B' of Both and Neither's 'N.' The verdict is still out on this Poe Connection, but it is an interesting theory. If this is true, the authors were employing a literary device called "The Alfred Hitchcock Cameo Appearance"...................
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