“I think you might do something better with the time,” she said, “than waste it in asking riddles that have no answers.”

Alice starts her journeys in Wonderland exasperated at the ridiculous logic and the strange questions of the creatures there, but her tea party with the March Hare and the Mad Hatter causes quite a change in her behavior. She begins the party annoyed with the Hatter’s unsolvable riddle about the raven and the writing desk, but by the time she leaves, she’s started to sound a little more illogical and mad herself. If the novel is a coming-of-age story, and Wonderland a symbol of our own world, Alice’s change makes sense: part of adulthood is coming to the realization that life is, essentially, a riddle. There are no clear answers and no greater meaning, just madness, which one must accept in order to survive in this absurd universe.

“Tut, tut, child!” said the Duchess. “Everything’s got a moral, if only you can find it.”

While this quote appears to suggest that all stories or life experiences come with morals and lessons, the following conversation between Alice and the Duchess depicts the Duchess coming up with nonsensical morals for every single remark Alice makes. The Duchess is foolish, and the morals she’s trying to glean from their discussion are obviously ridiculous. So, her hypothesis about everything having a moral is proven quite wrong. Wonderland is entirely without lessons or morals – nothing that Alice experiences teaches her anything concrete. Instead, life simply happens, with no rhyme or reason.

“Have you guessed the riddle yet?” the Hatter said, turning to Alice again. “No, I give it up,” Alice replied: “what’s the answer?” “I haven’t the slightest idea,” said the Hatter.

When the Mad Hatter asks Alice why a raven is like a writing desk, she immediately assumes that he’s asking her a riddle to which she can find the answer through wit or smarts. However, in Wonderland, nothing is so simple or logical. The Mad Hatter did not mean to imply that his query was a solvable riddle – it was simply a question for which he had no answer, and he asked Alice wondering if she might have one for him. The themes of the novel include existentialism and coming-of-age, and the Mad Hatter’s answerless question may represent how the human experience is often marked by questions about our lives and purposes that have no concrete answers.

“But I don’t want to go among mad people,” Alice remarked. “Oh, you can’t help that,” said the Cat.

In Wonderland, and perhaps in the world in general, it’s impossible to live without encountering mad people. Everyone has a little bit of madness in them, whether it be in the form of nonsensical thoughts, wild imaginations, or existential conundrums. Alice, like all people, needs to come to terms with the fact that the world is not a sane place. However, the Cheshire Cat doesn’t seem to think there’s anything particularly wrong with that – he just takes the madness as it comes.

Alice said nothing: she had sat down again with her face in her hands, wondering if anything would ever happen in a natural way again.

As children and young adults grow and learn more about the world, it can often be difficult to transition from the simplicity of childhood reasoning into the more complex, often uncomfortable realizations of adulthood. Children like Alice are used to a life that is structured: she follows rules set by adults, she goes to school to learn things that have been proven over time, and she’s used to receiving an answer when she asks a question. Wonderland, like the adult world, does not provide these comforts. For Alice, as for many young adults, coming to accept that life is not always orderly, and that things often happen without a reason, is a confusing and frightening process.