Alice's Adventures in Wonderland

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Alice's Adventures in Wonderland Chapter 12 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Alice forgets that she has been growing all this time, and as she hurriedly leaves her seat, she sends the jurors flying, which reminds her of an incident with some goldfish she once had, so she feels that the jurors must be replaced quickly before they run out of air. The King orders the jurors to be immediately replaced. In her panic, Alice has put the lizard juror in upside down. She puts him back and, though the jurors are in a great deal of shock, they rush to try to catch up with their slate writing.
Alice continues to play by the rules of the trial. Even though she knows that the jurors are useless as jurors—that they can't even remember their own names—it is important to her that they be in the right place (and right side up).
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The King begins by asking Alice what she knows of this affair. Alice says she knows nothing. The King thinks this is very important and the jurors scribble frantically. The White Rabbit intercedes, commenting that the King actually means “unimportant.” The King agrees, muttering the words “important” and “unimportant” to himself.
The King repeats the words “important” and “unimportant”, considering which to use, even though they are opposites, showing that he really has no concept of meaning as Alice understands it. To him, a word that it only two letters different must be very similar.
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The King has also scribbled something in a notebook – he calls for silence and announces that anybody more than a mile high must leave the court. He protests that Alice is a mile high but Alice refuses to leave. She says she will not abide by rules that people make up on the spot. The King tells the jurors to make a decision.
With the King's sudden new rule about height and the court, suddenly Alice is the subject of the arbitrary nature of the court. In response, she makes a major step: she refuses to obey the rules, having now recognized just how arbitrary the rules are, how much they are designed simply to maintain control and not to offer any kind of fairness.
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But the White Rabbit has further evidence to show, in the form of a letter, which he takes to have been written by the Knave. He opens the letter and finds that the paper holds a set of verses, not in the Knave’s handwriting. The King believes the knave must have imitated someone else’s hand. The Knave insists he did nothing of the sort, and anyway, he protests, there is no signature. The King takes this to be a sure sign of guilt, and the Queen agrees. The crowd at the trial applauds.
The way things appear and sound is far more important in Wonderland than the meaning behind them, for example when the King suggests that the Knave’s not signing the letter proves his guilt, because an honest man would have put his name to it, he receives applause from the court because it sounds like an intelligent comment even though it is actually illogical.
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Alice sticks up for the Knave – she thinks they must first read the verses to see what they are about. So the White Rabbit reads the verses. They seem to be entirely unrelated to the case, but the King thinks they sound very important so he asks the jurors again to consider their verdict. Alice is now big enough that she is not scared to interrupt the King and proclaims that the evidence is meaningless.
Alice has spent the novella trying to figure out and play by the rules of Wonderland in order to understand it. But now as the trial reveals the full illogic of those running the court even as a character's life hangs in the balance, Alice asserts that there is no meaning to the poem read at the trial. It is unclear if she feels emboldened to make such a proclamation because of her great size, or if her size is a function of her gaining the understanding that Wonderland is meaningless and that she, as its dreamer, can see that meaninglessness.
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The King ponders this idea, but senses that there is some meaning in it. He picks a phrase from the verses, about not being able to swim, and asks the Knave if this is true. The Knave, being a playing card, obviously cannot swim, and the King is satisfied. But then he picks out another phrase that seems to suggest that the Knave gave the tarts to someone. Alice finds another that suggests the tarts were returned. At this, the King spots the table of tarts in the center of the court and is convinced. He also finds another line about the “she” in the poem having a fit, which, he claims, doesn’t “fit” the Queen at all.
The way the King and Alice pick apart the piece of evidence, which on the face of it doesn’t seem to have anything to do with the Knave stealing the Queen’s tarts, is reminiscent of a kind of literary analysis of a poem or a difficult piece of text. Each phrase can be fit to the situation at hand. The King fits each “I” and “she” and “they” to characters in the court but this connection is entirely invented. Working in such a way, the King could connect any text to the circumstances of the trial, picking and choosing evidence that "fits."
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The King tells the jury to yet again consider their verdict. The Queen thinks the sentence should come before the verdict, to which Alice complains that she is talking nonsense. The Queen orders Alice’s head to be cut off, but Alice, now quite a giant, has no fear and shouts “You’re nothing but a pack of cards!” At this she tumbles into a fight with the cards and wakes up on the bank, as her sister brushes some fallen leaves from her face.
The Queens bloodlust comes out, wanting to perform the sentence before guilt or innocence is even decided upon. At this, Alice recognizes that the trial is a nonsensical sham. The Queen responds by trying to control Alice through threats, but Alice—now fully grown—responds to the threat by finally recognizing that all of Wonderland is a sham by telling the cards that they are just cards, refusing to play along any longer. She grows up above the nonsense of the King and Queen, both literally by continuing to grow and fill the court, and figuratively, as she realizes that she needn’t be scared and the illusion of the dream is broken.,
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Alice tries to tell her sister all about her adventures in Wonderland. Her sister listens kindly and then sends Alice off to tea, and is left thinking of Alice’s dream until she herself falls asleep, and her own dream is full of little Alice’s strange creatures. She keeps her eyes closed to keep the dream going because she knows that when she opens them, the familiar sounds of the countryside will return and the Mock-Turtle and the pig-baby will disappear. Lastly, she dreams of how Alice will grow into a woman and tell her stories to eager children just like her and perhaps remember fondly her Wonderland.
The novel ends with Alice's sister's perspective, someone not yet an adult but in a kind of in-between place between full adulthood and childhood such as Alice's. She represents the older version of Alice, she is motherly towards Alice, sending her off for her tea. She is young enough to enjoy Alice's dream, and yet while Alice was stuck in the dream and had to fight herself out, her older sister has to willfully hold on to it: she knows it will disappear when she opens her eyes. Further, Alice's sister's experience of the dream is suffused by a kind of nostalgia for childhood and not at all by the anxiety that Alice experienced in the dream. To Alice's sister the dream is a cute example of the pleasures of being a child. In this way, Alice's sister's thoughts confirm the concerns that Alice pondered through her adventures in Wonderland—that you really do change in life as you grow up, even as you stay the same person you also become another one, and this new person has only limited access to or understanding of who you were as a child.
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