Why Not?

The Democratic Dodo by Jackson
November 6, 2009, 5:43 pm
Filed under: Analytical, Jackson

Chapter 3, “A Caucus-Race and a Long Tale,” is positively littered with references to politics and political campaigns, especially in the scene consisting of the caucus-race itself.

When the dodo suggests the caucus-race to help the group of creatures recover from the soaking effects of the cataclysm, Alice poses the question “What is a caucus-race?” The Dodo is befuddled by this question, but recovers nicely by simply providing the casually indifferent response of someone who doesn’t know what they’re talking about, but for the life of them cannot be forced to admit it. “The best way to explain it,” says the Dodo, “is to do it.” The Dodo then proceeds to diagram out a set of minimalistic plans for organization. The race-course is crooked, and “the exact shape doesn’t matter.” The contestants are inconsistent, with people starting when they want, and stopping for rest wherever they please. The race finishes when the Dodo says it does.

As I look at this passage, I can’t help but think that this is a quite literal commentary on the American system of politics. From the start, there is chaos, as people attempt to shout, wave their hands, and dominate the conversation. All this gesturing, however, doesn’t really matter, as no one gets anywhere. The only determining factor is when someone finally cries for a halt, and the madness can wind down. And, after all is said and done, no one, or maybe perhaps everyone has won.

And, of course, prizes must be awarded.

In true Democratic fashion, the Dodo declares that “Everybody has won, and all must have prizes.” When the other creatures ask who is to supply the awards, the Dodo motions to Alice. In this situation, Alice represents the American taxpayer. Alice is swept up in all the commotion and hubbub, and runs the race alongside the other animals. When the noise dies down, those who had nothing to gain must now give something away. Alice, the voter and taxpayer, must now elect all the people who have run in the race, as at the end of a political campaign, almost everyone has benefited, albeit some more than others. When the prizes are given away, in the form of comfits (hard sweetmeats), those who recieved them complain that they are tasteless, showing that they don’t appreciate (and cannot savor) the power in political office that they have been given. Others can’t swallow the comfits, demonstrating the inablility of a weaker individual to handle the massive responsibility of a position of power.

So why does Alice go to the trouble of giving the prizes away in the first place?

The reasons are twofold. First, the Dodo pressures her to give something away, symbolizing the crushing power of higher authority. Second, she gives something away so that she will get a fraction in return. This fraction is the thimble. The thimble is given away in the form of taxes, and returned in the form of a hopefully benevolent political leader. The caucus-race in Chapter 3 is much more than an activity to get dry – it is a metaphor for the fallacies of American (and let’s be honest – all kinds of) government and politics.

2 Comments so far
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This relates much to my own post that you commented on, Wonderland Issues vs. Goverment. You commented that you disagree that the government accounts for its people being dissatisfied. Well I cn see where you are coming from, but who do we always blame? The government, for sure. Why? I think because everyone needs somone to blame for their own problems. However, we all know the government does need to take blame for parts of its people being dissatisfied.

Comment by Katherine H.

I think it is safe to say that I would never have found that metaphor in a hundred years. I cannot say that I agree with your attitude towards our government, but I can definitely praise you for the work you put into this metaphor. I especially like your reasoning behind why some of the winners complain that the comfits are tasteless and others cannot swallow them. However, I think it is important to note that Lewis Carroll lived in England. I think that it is very unlikely that he would write a metaphor for the American government. I know you also said all kinds of government, but I still find it unlikely.

Comment by Susie C.

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