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Why Alice in Wonderland Was Banned Throughout the 20th Century

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at UPRM chapter.

We’ve all read the book, we’ve all seen the movies, we’ve shared quotes from the stories, and we’ve even bought merchandise from it. So, why was Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland banned three times during the 20th Century? The answer is simple: the illustrations and storyline of this book were unusual and extravagant, leaving readers to question and over analyze every detail in the story.



Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland was written by Charles Dodgson, better known by his pseudonym Lewis Carroll, and was published in 1865. The story was inspired by a little girl named Alice, who was the daughter of the dean of the university Dodgson studied in. Alice spent a lot of hours with Dodgson, and in this time, he would tell her amazing stories of fantasies and tales of dream worlds.


One day during a picnic that Dodgson had with Alice and her two sisters, he told them the story that would later become Alice in Wonderland. He later wrote the story down and gave it to Alice as a gift, and this is how Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland came to be.  


After the book was published, it received many mixed reviews from parents, teachers, and churches. Here are 3 odd reasons why Alice in Wonderland was banned in the 20th Century:


1. References to Sexual Fantasies


In 1900, New Hampshire banned Alice In Wonderland from all public schools, accusing the novel of promoting masturbation and sexual fantasies. These accusations were based more on the life of the author and not on the novel’s content itself.


This was an unfair decision made by this state because they’re banning a book without an actual reason. The assumption that this book would have sexual references based on the author’s life is wrong, and it just deprives people from reading a good story.


2. Attribution of Human Traits to Animals



In 1931, a government censor in the Chinese province of Hunan, General Ho Chien banned the book because of “its portrayal of anthropomorphized animals acting on the same level of complexity as human beings.” Ho Chien believed that portraying animals and humans in the same level was “disastrous” for the children and extremely insulting to humans overall.


As this is a fiction novel in the genre of literary nonsense, it is completely normal to exaggerate the attributes of certain characters, in this case, animals. With this being said, the statement made of being called “an insult” to humans is completely irrelevant and not a sufficient reason to ban this book, in my opinion.


3. Promoting the Use of Drugs


In 1960, because of the cultural changes happening in America, parents believed the book along with the movies encouraged the use of drugs by showing characters who were openly using them and hallucinating scenarios. Parents also argued that the “trippy” backgrounds used in the illustrations also promoted the use of psychedelic drugs like LSD and Mushrooms.


I do agree that the character of the caterpillar Absolem is openly using a hookah in the story and the backgrounds used in the illustrations and the movie itself do fit the description of a psychedelic experience, but I don’t believe it encourages this type of behaviour. Alice in Wonderland is a fantasy/dreamland story, so normally, it would possess these types of scenarios and illustrations. When children see this movie, they are not conscious enough to notice these things; they just see the action and go with what’s happening in the moment, so I don’t believe this is something to be worried about as a parent.  


Overall, Alice in Wonderland is one of the many stories that were integral to our childhoods, and even though it was banned throughout different points in time, the novel has survived and passed the test of time. I believe this is a story of thrill and excitement that has you hooked from beginning to end, and it’ll be present in different adaptations for years to come.

Marketing undergrad with a minor in human resources, and writing & communication with a passion for the arts, fashion, and self-growth. 
Fabiola del Valle is 22 y/o English Lit. major studying at UPRM. She currently holds the position of Campus Correspondent and karaoke queen.