Mad Hatter’s Day; An Underappreciated Trope

There is always time for some craziness and fun. Sometimes it goes over our head and we get engulfed by it. There are a few who wear it well. Mad Hatter is one such person and he has led on many more.

Book Culture On This Day Opinions Recommendations

Top Hats is a fashion statement that creeps up during this Halloween period. Put on a top hat, bright eye makeup and do silly things, you would have made Lewis Carroll proud. The Mad Hatter was first seen in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and then soon became a trope of his own. His overly unique presence is very rightly celebrated nationwide. October 6th is Mad Hatter Day, so to tip our hats to this icon lets explore his prominent trope.

From the first appearance of the Mad Hatter in Carroll’s Wonderland, readers knew that he was different. This instance, the guy was actually different. Based on an eccentric Oxford Cabinet Maker named Theophilus Carter, Carrol also used the phrase “mad as a hatter” to make his character. Theophilus would be seen standing outside his shop wearing a full top hat on any day. He was a loud and jovial man who would often be commented on having lost his mind. From there the germ of this character was born.

“Mad as a hatter” leads to the eccentric nature of the character. Hatters in the early 19th century used toxic substances to turn the hair of small animals into felt-for hats. The use of such chemicals caused a variety of physical and mental ailments which included hallucinations, speech problems and tremors. Such ailments were then attributed to them being mad. This was how the Mad Hatter of Wonderland was made. His madness and uniqueness stuck with readers which led to many storytellers incorporating such a character in their own work.
That is how the Mad Hatter Trope came to be.

Image Via Mad Hatters UK

The Mad Hatter Trope

Creators and writers perceived mental illness to be an inability to judge if one is acting oddly. They are quirky and a sociopath. In stories, they have a story arc of comic relief or of a deranged antagonist. Their reasons for being so are often credited to a sorrowful back story and origins.

With such characters, there always exists controversy. If done right, the sociopathic attributes do not sit awkwardly in a story but if done wrong it is harmful to the consumers. Many feel that poor presentation of Mad Hatter characters can be hurtful to people who are/know mentally ill individuals. At the same time, the Mad Hatter trope, written well, provides for respectful representation and also how to cope with it. Apart from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland that had a beautifully written Mad Hatter, there are many stories that have such characters. From book to movies and even in Manga and Anime, all have prominent Mad Hatter tropes.

In the third book of The Hitchhikers Guide to The Galaxy, titled Life The Universe and Everything, characters Arthur Dent and Ford Prefect talk about their slip into insanity. They talked about going mad and feeling as if nothing changed while their entire lives swirled around them. While being in this state they said how they came to terms with it and detailed on the fun they were having.

Image Via Open Library

Another iconic picturization of the trope is in Moby Dick where Ahab says,” They call me mad, but I’m demoniac: I am madness maddened.”

Other books where the Mad Hatter Trope can be seen are:

  1. The Windrose Chronicles by Barbara Hambly
  2. The Worms of Kukumlima by Daniel Pinkwater
  3. I Never Promised You A Rose Garden by Joanne Greenberg
  4. A Mask for the General by Lisa Goldstein

To summarize the brilliance of Mad Hatter Characters, there is no other line as perfect as that of the Cheshire Cat.
“Alice: “But I don’t want to Go Among Mad People!
Cat: “Oh, you can’t help that, we’re all mad here.”

Feature Image Via PuzzleLiet