America, or Henderson’s Adventures in Wonderland
Henderson Dores, the main character of William Boyd’s Stars and Bars is of course not an ingenuous little Victorian girl like Lewis Carroll’s Alice. But in the same manner, he seems dumbfounded by the odd world in which the twists and turns of the plot take place. Is America in Stars and Bars similar to Alice’s Wonderland? Or is Henderson Doresinteracting with his American environment in like manner as Alice in her Wonderland. First of all one should define the main features and characteristics of the “Wonderland” in The Adventures of Alice in Wonderland in order to affirm if Henderson’s travel through America is comparable. In Alice in Wonderland, the Wonderland is vacillating over an enchanted surrealistic world and a dreadfulnightmarish place. Secondly Carroll’s Wonderland is highly illogical and contradictory, a place where the time is affected and where the strange protagonists are never what they seem to be. Thirdly this world is disorientating for Alice, and leads her to an identity crisis. One should also keep in mind that the Wonderland is displayed in Carroll’s novel to criticize the real world: Britain’s 19thcentury Victorian society. With these basic principles about Alice’s adventures in Wonderland, we are able to compare the notion of wonderland and see if it may apply to Henderson’s eventful moments in America. We shall see that America in William Boyd’s novel like Carroll’s wonderland is hesitating between an enchanted surrealistic place and a dreadful nightmarish one. America like Alice’s Wonderlandis incomprehensible to the main character, which seems lead him to an identity crisis. But contrarily to Carroll’s Wonderland, Boyd’s America is not a utopian place (in the truest meaning of the word) used to criticize the society of the main character. On the contrary, the author depicts satirically America as an uncanny wonderland, the British society being implicitly the home and the source ofthe criticism.
1. America in Stars and Bars like the Wonderland in The Adventure of Alice in Wonderland is constantly balancing between the nightmare and the fantastical dream. The description of the ‘Monopark 5000 hotel’ in Atlanta were Henderson is supposed to meet Irene is a good example of this hesitation between fantastical dream and nightmare. In the lobby Henderson “approached withdue reverence and awe. The experience was, he thought akin to appearing at Heaven’s gate with the sin-virtue equation still in balance.” (p. 221) The word “awe” expresses this ambiguity: awe designates a religious fear mixed with admiration. The metaphors of the judgment-day and of the Heaven’s gate develop the same impression: “awe”. Henderson is between an awesome and an awful feeling in thishotel. America is always uncanny for Henderson. America and especially Dixieland is as illogical as Alice’s Wonderland in Stars and Bars. For example the dinner party at Gage’s house is very much akin to the Mad Tea Party in Alice in Wonderland. The conversations are absurd, the people are not lessoning to each other, and the speeches are nonsensical. The global impression that we grasp duringthis scene is grotesque and irrational. A single sample of the conversations during the dinner is sufficient to understand it: “‘-Wasting slopes in Dac Tro–‘‘- God’s abiding love-‘‘-someone who’d been to Egypt?-‘” Furthermore people in America seem also hostile to him without any understandable reason. A taxi driver says “fuck England” when Henderson is talking about the weather. (p.16) The firstencounter between Freeborn and Henderson is also eloquent. Freeborn very politely and smiling tells him: “if you don”t get your fuckin’ ass out of this house by noon tomorrow I’m gonna bust yo’ fuckin’ head with it.” America like Alice’s wonderland inspires awe is fantastical, illogical, and hostile.
2. The major part of the novel takes place in the South were everybody seems to lie or to...
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