Parallel Universes

Many children's books start out with their young main characters being suddenly and inexplicably transported to alternate realities. In books like Alice in Wonderland and The Phantom Tollbooth, these alternate realities are used as metaphors for the adult world, in which these children will soon have to learn to function.

In "Alice" and "The Phantom Tollbooth", words operate in a different way, on a different dimensional level, than the children are used to. For Alice, puns and poems become the common language within which her discourse with the Wonderland creatures tak es place. (By the way, here's a chance to see some of the amazing Tenniel illustrations of the "Alice" books.) For Milo in "The Phantom Tollbooth," all the expressions he has e ver heard adults use come to physical life in his magical kingdom, so that he finds himself literally jumping to conclusions, and eating his words.

Language itself thus becomes the main ingredient in magic, and it is language which separates the enchanted worlds these children discover from the normal universes of their day-to-day existence. Words and puns serve a similar function to the geometric al metaphors of Edwin A. Abbott's Flatland. In fourth-dimensional literature, both words and shapes can serve to demonstrate the alien nature of the literary landscape.

Please click your heels three times to be transported to the "Children's Literature" section of this project.