Read

Five life lessons from Alice in Wonderland

Scroll to content

Lewis Carroll’s Alice has been enchanting audiences across the world for over 150 years. Since first darting down the rabbit hole in 1865’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, the eponymous adventurer has appeared in more than 40 cinematic adaptations, with the last as recent as 2016.

It’s no wonder that Alice continues to inspire, with all versions of her story brimming with applicable, everyday wisdom and advice way before Instagram cornered the affirmation market. By tripping through all the twisty linguistics, amazing animation and iterations of Alice, we can learn important lessons to bring back from Wonderland. Here are our favourites.

Risk has rewards 

Sure, crawling down a rabbit hole might be too big a risk in the real world, but Alice’s decision to follow the White Rabbit leads to a magical journey. It’s not all smooth sailing, as she encounters obstacles, gets lost and the Queen of Hearts is obsessed with taking her head, but by the time Alice wakes from Wonderland she’s armed with new experiences to help navigate real life.

Though taking risks can be scary (like crawling down a rabbit hole), but standing still can be scarier. Without taking risks and challenging ourselves, we don’t grow.

We really shouldn’t be doing this, after all, we haven’t been invited, and curiosity often leads to trouble.

A woman dressed as alice looking into a wall

The more curious you are, the more you'll discover

Discover who you are

When the Caterpillar asks Alice, ‘Who are you?’, she can’t find a simple answer. Not just because she’s shifted sizes so much since falling down the rabbit hole, but because Alice is unsure just who she is.

While Alice’s adventure might seem mad on the surface, its main goal is answering the Caterpillar’s question and figuring out the greatest puzzle of all - 'who in the world am I?'. Life can also seem mad but by discovering who we are, and accepting ourselves, assures a much smoother ride through our own journey.

Also included in this idea is Alice’s own lesson on advice, 'She generally gave herself very good advice, though she very seldom followed it.' By learning to listen to our instincts and be a little more objective, we can apply the wisdom we give to others to ourselves.

A woman looking at the words who are you in acmi's wonderland exhibition

Original cells from the 1951 Disney version of Alice are on display in Wonderland

Accept the differences of others

'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.'

Learning to accept who we are is one of life’s great lessons, but so is learning to accept the differences in others. Even if we’re certain of who we are, the people around us aren’t always going to be who we want them to be – and that’s fine. Celebrating people’s differences makes life more interesting, exposes us to new perspectives and opens new worlds, just like Wonderland.

A woman dressed as Alice in ACMI's wonderland exhibition

Whether you're a Cheshire Cat or an adventurous Alice, you can come together in the activity room in Wonderland

Don’t get stuck in the past

‘It’s no use going back to yesterday, I was a different person then,’ Alice tells the Mock Turtle and Gryphon.

While this shows just how much has happened to Alice since her journey began, Lewis Carroll imbues the line with multiple meanings. Alice’s adventures are about personal evolution, and this lesson affirms that by reminding ourselves that we’ve grown since yesterday, a week ago, a year ago or decades ago. By closing past chapters, we can write our future without stewing on the regrets, mistakes and disappointments we all encounter.

Stand up for yourself

‘Hold your tongue!’ said the Queen, turning purple.

‘I won’t!’ said Alice.

Accepting other people is good, but sometimes people are just assholes. The Queen of Hearts, for example, gets her excitement from belittling, berating and beating her subjects, including her own husband. When precocious Alice enters her kingdom, the Queen gets guillotines and rolling heads in her eyes, just like bullies the world over. But one of the most important lessons for any young person to learn is not to let bullies get you down and always stand up for yourself.

By realising that the Queen of Hearts minions are just a pack-of-cards, Alice changes her perspective to see that the aggressive people in her life cannot hurt her if she changes her view.

Teach your kids Alice’s lessons in Wonderland during school holidays.

A little boy in bunny ears watching the red roses

Kids can see themselves projected into the Red Queen's rose garden.