The traces of Alice in Wonderland in Encounter

episode 14

In this scene, our main characters are reading the favorite book from the other. While CSH has The Little Prince in her hands, KJH is holding Alice in Wonderland. One is a philosophical tale, while the other is more or less a fairy tale. What does it say about Cha Soo Hyun? Unlike The Little Prince that was indirectly mentioned in the earlier episodes (through the painting and his first love confession), so far, the work of Lewis Carroll was never implied before. Yet both works have many things in common. Besides both deal about childhood and they look like children books on the surface, nonetheless there is a deep message behind these stories. A deeper analysis reveals that Alice in Wonderland is about becoming an adult and Alice’s journey in that strange land correspond to her growth from a child into adulthood through adolescence. As you can see, childhood has a huge place in these two stories, nevertheless their perspective about childhood and memories contrasts, moreover their approach is different. While in The Little Prince the author wants adults to remember their inner child in order to live differently and enjoy life to the fullest, Lewis Carroll wrote in the preface this following verses:

Alice! A childish story take,
And with a gentle hand,
Lay it where Childhood’s dreams are twined
In Memory’s mystic band,
Like pilgrim’s withered wreath of flowers
Plucked in far-off land.

Striking is that the fairy tale and childhood dreams are compared to withered wreath of flowers. Sure, they represent memories too, yet these suffer from time as they are described as “withered”. So the author is referring to the fact as older the person becomes, the more childhood memories seem to disintegrate… they lose their intensity. Time has an impact on them. Sure, people tend to held onto these memories hence they are compared to “pilgrims” but time has an impact on these childhood dreams. Furthermore, at the end of the story, Alice’s sister tries to remember Alice’s “journey” and “dream”. She is well aware that this was just a dream. Her eyes are closed and she attempts to imagine this Wonderland. Yet, she can not live the same experience as she is not asleep. While “dreaming”, she is still awake and her mind recognizes each image and sound from Alice’s story to the image and sound of the real world. The older sister starts imagining Alice as an adult who will keep the simple and loving heart of her childhood. She will tell this story to her own children and  remember this story and her childhood as something good. As you can see, childhood is linked in both works to purity and innocence and one author think that the person from the childhood won’t change that much (Alice’s image doesn’t change much in the future in the sister’s eyes), whereas Antoine de Saint-Exupéry thinks that otherwise. Adults change so much that they forget that they were once children. Time is quite important in Alice in Wonderland it is very often mentioned or implied (White Rabbit with the clock, her fall seems to be endless and during the fall, she can take things from the walls etc). Besides, Alice is even wondering if she should grow old or remain young. She decides, it is better to grow up as she doesn’t want to get lessons all her life. On the other hand, in The Little Prince, there was no time indication, the only thing related to time was the “death” of The Little Prince.  

But let us take a closer look at Alice in Wonderland. Since CSH chose this book, this implies that she feels some connection with the main character. What have Alice, the main character, and Cha Soo Hyun in common? First, both are female characters, while The Little Prince was a boy… the same gender than KJH. Secondly, the story begins with a dream. Alice is sitting next to her sister, while the latter is reading a book. Alice feels bored and fell asleep. Striking is that transition between dream and reality is not visible. And this is interesting because the more we read, the more confused it becomes. The distinction between dream and reality is not clear at all, especially when it is written: (First chapter) “the sleep began to win Alice”, she is even described in her dream as “half-asleep” giving the impression that she was awake before. Yet, this is not possible as she had already made different strange experiences: meeting the White Rabbit with his clock, the endless fall where time seems to have changed. So she was already dreaming, however it looks like there is a “second sleep” indicating that she is falling deeper and deeper asleep. So the borders between reality and dream are not clear at all. Strangely is that Cha Soo Hyun is in a similar situation in the beginning. She has been in a coma for so long so that she has some problems to discern what is reality from dream. In the episode 11, while she is drunk, she confides to KJH her biggest fear. She is so happy to have him by her side that she is worried.

episode 11

These words underline her confusion. For her, it is too good to be true. This must be a dream because reality is so different. Her vegetable state has affected her. She can no longer distinguish what is dream and reality. Well, in “Alice in Wonderland”, there were still allusions to the real world: her cat Dinah, her friends Ada and Mabel, her lessons etc.” so that this story is a mixture of dream and reality. A certain confusion exists in the story too. Yet, the way Alice wakes up at the end marks a turning point. She rejects “Wonderland” claiming that they are just a deck of cards. She refuses to acknowledge The Queen of Heart and her minions, she regains consciousness and can discern their true nature. At the end, there is no more confusion. CSH has a similar experience at the end. She is able to discern that this “dream” is not too good to be true… the photos of her happiness are the proof. This is reality and not a dream. So their journey are quite similar. At the end, both can distinguish dream from reality.

Another parallel between the drama and this tale is that Alice’s personality resembles Cha Soo Hyun’s character a lot. Both are curious, eager to help and both make mistakes. CSH’s curiosity is visible as she keeps trying new things with KJH (eating ramyeon at a stop area, chicken gizzards aso). Moreover, her new experiences are often linked food… just like Alice who keeps trying drinks, cookies and mushrooms in order to know what the effects will be. Another aspect is their loneliness. Alice is either talking to herself or talking about her cat Dinah which she seems to be missing a lot or she can’t stop talking to others (the duchess, aso). She feels lonely in this world. But the main common denominator is the loss of identity and their quest to discover who they really are. CSH’s loss of identity is palpable in the episode 7. She mentions

episode 7

So it means for the first time, she is living as Cha Soo Hyun. Notice in her next words, she uses her own name, like f. ex. “I’m no longer the Cha Soo Hyun who is crazy about the hotel”. She has already found a part of herself the moment she uses her own name. Alice is put in a similar situation. In the chapter II, she wonders about her own identity. Then she remembers her friend Ada and Mabel and realizes that she can not be Ada and Mabel. Later, the White Rabbit calls her Marianne, the pigeon confuses her to a snake. The Cater pillar is the one who asks Alice: WHO ARE YOU? Alice had already questioned her own identity before, yet the caterpillar is the one who confronts her with that question openly. As you can see, Alice and CSH use both names in order to find their own identity. However, there is a huge difference between these two characters. While in the tale Alice in Wonderland, the focus is on growth and becoming an adult, CSH has a different journey. For her, it is to discover her own inner child. The more episodes aired, the more CSH became cheerful, even her secretary JMJ pointed out that CSH was behaving like in the past. So their journey is quite the opposite. CSH has lived for a long time as an adult and could never enjoy being an adolescent and child. Alice goes through the adolescence in the book, just like our heroine. CSH takes her distance from her mother and at the end, she is able to reconcile with her as she has found her own identity and her own life. Sure, when she talked to her mother, she hadn’t gone back to her KJH’s side, yet CSH had changed.

Finally, the Queen of heart and the King remind us a lot of Chairman Kim and her son JWS. The latter acts behind his mother’s back, just like in Alice. The Chairman Kim owns a chessboard which is quite similar to the deck of cards. Both queens are threatening a lot and even trying to give death sentences. Their world is quite violent and brutal so that both Alice and CSH are rejecting it at the end.

To sum up, the drama Encounter and Alice in Wonderland have a lot of points in common:

  • The journey of a heroine
  • The importance of time and childhood
  • Loss of identity and search for identity
  • The visible growth of the main character 
  • Confusion between dream and reality
  • Some characters are quite similar

At the end of her journey, CSH found her true identity and personality. She has found her inner child, although she is still an adult. That’s why we see this painting at the end of Encounter.

episode 16

Since KJH has always been the more mature one (f. ex. enduring hard times with good memories, his letter at the end, his bet in the episode 16), the man embodies KJH’s personality: full of wisdom and knowledge and the little girl resembles CSH because of her childish side… she likes teasing KJH. 

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