Posted by: Angela W. | October 28, 2009

Labeling Temptation

Would you drink this?

In chapter one, Alice comes across a bottle that has a label on it that says drink me. At first, she does not drink it, she looks to see if there is a label stating that it is a poison. She does not find any label of such, so she drinks it and shrinks to ten inches. In this world, we are so familar with labels.

We come across them everyday of our lives without noticing sometimes. Human instinct makes us do what we are told. For example, if you see a sign saying turn around, would you turn around?

Lewis Carroll, or Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, is telling us that we, as humans, are so attracted to labels throughout this scene. Mostly, we are more attracted to warning labels. If a label says do not open this box, wouldn’t you be tempted to?

This all leads to temptation as well. Temptation is also something we humans deal with everyday of our lives. We are curious. We want to know what is in the box and what is behind the door. Labels, signs and warnings leads to temptation.

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  1. So, I’m wondering, is it the label or the person? I’m a “rule follower”, so when you ask, “If a label says do not open this box, wouldn’t you be tempted to?”, I can categorically tell you I would not open the box because I’m a rule follower. However, I know plenty of people who would defy that order and open it. Is the need to follow rules or not follow rules something we learn or is it something we’re born with? Is Alice a bad person for not following the rules? What do you think Lewis Carroll would say?

  2. I’m glad you drew attention to the “drink me” label. What does happen when we are told to do something? Are we sheep? Does Alice think for herself or do you think that she is a sheep, or something in between?

  3. Before I go into temptation and resisting it, I want everyone to think about the situation Alice is in and how she is reacting to it. She has fallen down a rabbit hole and has no clue where she is. The normal reaction of a little girl would be to be panicking and calling for help, right? It would seem like a random bottle on the table in front of her would be the last thing she would deal with. Not Alice, she sees the bottle and decides if she should and follow the directions on the outside.

    When I see a bottle that is labeled Drink me, the first thing I would think is, its a trap. The last thing that I would do would be to drink the contents of that bottle. Even if it looked safe I would not drink that bottle.

    Although we are not talking about me, we are talking about a much younger Alice. Alice is most likely curious about this strange bottle, considering she has already followed a talking rabbit all the way down a hole. Now a bottle is blatantly presented to her and she can not do anything but drink the it.

  4. The idea of temptation is always been interesting to me. I believe that it is found most everywhere in “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland”. Why? Because as Jenna so eloquently explained the problem isn’t temptation, it’s curiosity. Through out the entirety of the novel, why does she keep moving forward? It was never because she knew the only way out was by going forward. It was because she was curious, curious as to why the rabbit was late and where it was late to. The idea of curiosity is spread throughout “Alice’s adventures in wonderland”. However, you asked why drink the creepy bottle? My answer is why not? If you look in the text it said she checked the label to see if it said poison, and once it didn’t she drank it. Through the minds eye of a child she had just confirmed that it was safe to drink. So I both agree and disagree with you. While I agree the idea of temptation and curiosity play a heavy role in Alice, and her decisions, I believe that her common sense truly does prevail, over temptation. But in the end she is a child, and she does silly things because of it. the reason we would probably not drink the vial is because, society has made us cynical, we believe that anything given out for free is part of something deeper, that the giver is trying to get us to do something, that we ordinarily wouldn’t have done (this is true for nearly all things, poison, drugs, or even free samples are trying to get you to buy the entire package). So is it only out of fear of another human that would make you not drink that vial? Because it was obviously been handled by a sentient being, there was even a label on it. I say to you that temptation isn’t the problem, the problem is paranoia. The problem was never Alice drinking the glass; it was us being weary of it. Temptation isn’t the issue here, fear is.

    • Ryan,

      There’s a fine line between not succumbing to paranoia and being gullible. You seem to be presenting the argument (If this is a straw man, please correct me) that the only reason to mistrust another “sentient being” is out of fear and cynicism. Though I’m a little unclear on this next point (since you first conceded that Alice’s drinking of the bottle was “childish and silly”, yet went on to state that our weariness to do so was a “problem”), it wouldn’t take a stretch to conclude (Given the negative connotations of the words “fear” and “cynicism”) that you feel that mistrust is inherently detrimental.

      All I can ask is:

      Where would the world be today without mistrust and skepticism?

      These words are key ingredients in the recipe of progress; innovation is often born from either A. Mistrust of the status quo or B. Mistrust of your fellow man’s ability to change the world to the same capacity that you can. If skepticism was nonexistent, we’d still believe that the world was flat and riding in horse-drawn carriages. Being leery of your fellow man can certainly lead to paranoia; but is the extreme alternative of believing everything one hears any better?

      There’s an equilibrium that one must reach in order to lead a healthy life, and I feel that the logical approach to the “creepy bottle” would be to not drink it. I fail to see the “paranoia” in doing so; the consequences of it actually being hazardous far outweigh the likelihood of it being beneficial (Yes, it did end up helping Alice, but the odds of such an event occurring in the real world are, well, close to zero).

      Would my decision to not drink it be partially influenced by cynicism? Absolutely; but is boundless optimism preferable?

  5. If you saw a box that was labeled “Do not open this box” more than likely you would open it because you would be sucked in by temptation. If the box was labeled “Open this box” you most definitely would open the box because you were told to. No matter how the box is labled, it is going to get opened sooner or later. It’s not about the box’s label but about the curiosity of the person the box is presented to. It would seem that labels, signs, and warnings encourage our curiosity, and then our curiosity gives in to temptation.

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