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Cheshire Cat as Trickster

I've been thinking about one of my favorite literary characters, the Cheshire Cat.

It is the marginal character who is an insider and an outsider at the same time. It understands how Wonderland works which makes it seem highly likely to be the alter ego of the writer. It makes predictions like a clairvoyant or an omniscient author who knows where the story is going. It speaks like a logician which, Lewis Carroll was, and also really listens to Alice unlike other characters. It gives her answers but not really the ones she seeks and appears to think that its job is to humor Alice a little without really giving her the answers so that she will learn to think for herself.

Coming and going as it pleases, it can disappear and reappear like a magician. It can make its body disappear and its head can float mid-air like a sun or a moon.  Like the author, it is above the law and cannot be beheaded by the characters who otherwise hold and exercise power.

It seems to have a sense of humor in the way it disappears gradually until only the grin remains like a sliver of a moon or  a peapod.  Like an escape artist who astonishes the audience with stunts and the clown with sad knowing eyes who pulls the strings and make people gasp or laugh, it knows exactly what it is doing.

It says it is mad and knows it is a part of a mad world, which also suggests a certain awareness lacking in other characters. Maybe it seems to be indifferent to Alice's situation most of the time but it takes an interest in her, turning out to be the moral agent who helps prevent a catastrophe and allows Alice to turn the table on her aggressors.

Along with Alice and the White Rabbit, the Cheshire Cat seems to be the motif that appears repetitively throughout the narrative and keeps the story from becoming fragmented.

Wheras Alice is the archetypal child and the White Rabbit, the temptor (whose appearance provides Alice with an adventure marked by cofusion and frustrations,) the Cheshire Cat is the trickster who ultimately shifts the balance in Alice's favor.







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What an interesting

What an interesting article.

You might enjoy reading Ashen Venema's post on Alice.  Ashen also writes for the Red Room but this piece is on WordPress.

I have never been able to relate to the Alice stories.  However, I love trickster figures in the Commedia dell'Arte, such as Arlecchino, Truffaldino, etc.