Alice's Adventures in Wonderland

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is a very ugly relation of the Queen. One minute furious, the next affectionate, the Duchess is a chaotic character and keeps a chaotic household, with a violent cook and a baby that looks very much like a pig, all presided over by the Cheshire Cat. The Duchess is sentenced to death by the Queen and is herself very fond of moralizing and justice, but always manages to escape with her head intact.

The Duchess Quotes in Alice's Adventures in Wonderland

The Alice's Adventures in Wonderland quotes below are all either spoken by The Duchess or refer to The Duchess. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Childhood and Adulthood Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Bantam Classics edition of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland published in 1984.
Chapter 6 Quotes

'If everybody minded their own business,' the Duchess said in a hoarse growl, 'the world would go round a deal faster than it does.'

Related Characters: The Duchess (speaker)
Page Number: 46
Explanation and Analysis:

The Duchess delivers this piece of nonsensical advice amidst a chaotic scene. Plates fly around her kitchen, hitting the Duchess and her pig-baby, and an overly-peppery soup causes all the inhabitants to sneeze excessively.

It’s worth looking at the logic of the sentence, for Carroll, as we know by now, pays a lot of attention to differences between effective and ineffective language. First, the world can neither “go round” faster nor slower, for it maintains a constant speed despite what people do; second, everyone dealing with their own affairs is precisely and ironically what has caused the scene of mayhem; third, what the characters require at this moment is not increased speed, but a slower, less chaotic pace.

The meaningless of the Duchess’ statement here conflicts with her presentation as an adult figure of authority. She gives Alice a great deal of advice and herself has a child, yet here she shows herself to be an entirely inept maternal figure. Thus Carroll further undermines the authority of Wonderland’s adult figures, presenting them as obscuring the world’s insanity with meaningless adages instead of pragmatically confronting situations.

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Chapter 9 Quotes

'Tut, tut, child!' said the Duchess. 'Everything's got a moral, if only you can find it.' And she squeezed herself up closer to Alice's side as she spoke.

Related Characters: The Duchess (speaker), Alice
Page Number: 72
Explanation and Analysis:

The Duchess speaks to Alice after being fetched to offer the King and Queen counsel on the state of the Cheshire Cat. As the two walk together, the Duchess grows fond of Alice, but also chastises her and offers gratuitous advice when she does not pay attention.

Carroll here presents the Duchess as a parody of the moralizing adult, a character with which children like Alice would certainly be familiar. Yet by this point in the tale, Alice and the reader have both grown skeptical of the Duchess’ character—as well as with any Wonderland figure who tends to deal in adages and empty platitudes. More often than not, the "morals" presented thus far have been devoid of real meaning, even if they can be extracted from any situation, as the Duchess has implied. That anyone can “find” a “moral” in anything implies, after all, that morals are haphazardly discovered by individuals. They can be uncovered in or forced out from a given situation, but they do not emerge naturally.

Here, Alice continues to grow distant from the empty words of the adult figures in Wonderland. She recognizes that the Duchess is only interested in moralizing, rather than listening to any input from Alice’s end. The Duchess only wants to find her own conclusions instead of actually communicating, and she even physically invades Alice’s space, drawing ever closer like an over-protective mother. Nineteenth-century English children’s literature was known to take a similar sermonizing tone, so Carroll uses this scene to show both character development in Alice and to parody a literary tradition.

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The Duchess Character Timeline in Alice's Adventures in Wonderland

The timeline below shows where the character The Duchess appears in Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 2 - The Pool of Tears
Childhood and Adulthood Theme Icon
Dreams and Reality Theme Icon
The Nature of Being and Not Being Theme Icon
...of white gloves. The rabbit is still worrying about being late – he says the Duchess will be very mad to be kept waiting. (full context)
Chapter 4 - The Rabbit Sends in a Little Bill
Childhood and Adulthood Theme Icon
Dreams and Reality Theme Icon
...looking for his fan and gloves. He is very worried about being late, thinking the Duchess will have him executed. Alice tries to find his things but the room has changed... (full context)
Chapter 6 - Pig and Pepper
Dreams and Reality Theme Icon
...are exchanging invitations. The Fish footman hands the Frog one from the Queen to the Duchess to play croquet and the Frog delivers the same invitation in reverse. Then the footmen... (full context)
Dreams and Reality Theme Icon
...coming straight away into a kitchen, where a cook is stirring a cauldron and the Duchess is sitting, nursing a baby. (full context)
Childhood and Adulthood Theme Icon
Dreams and Reality Theme Icon
Words, Meaning and Meaninglessness Theme Icon
...the hearth, smiling. Alice asks the group nervously why the cat is smiling, and the Duchess merely explains that it is a “Cheshire” cat and then shouts “Pig!” at her baby.... (full context)
Childhood and Adulthood Theme Icon
Dreams and Reality Theme Icon
Alice shouts at the cook to stop and the Duchess says angrily that the world would go round faster if people stopped interfering. The Duchess... (full context)
Childhood and Adulthood Theme Icon
Dreams and Reality Theme Icon
Words, Meaning and Meaninglessness Theme Icon
The Nature of Being and Not Being Theme Icon
Then the Duchess throws the baby to Alice to nurse while she gets ready for the croquet match.... (full context)
Chapter 8 - The Queen's Croquet-Ground
Childhood and Adulthood Theme Icon
The Nature of Being and Not Being Theme Icon
...procession. Alice walks beside the White Rabbit and asks him if he has seen the Duchess. The Rabbit swiftly shushes Alice – the Duchess has been sentenced to execution for boxing... (full context)
Childhood and Adulthood Theme Icon
Words, Meaning and Meaninglessness Theme Icon
The Nature of Being and Not Being Theme Icon
...need a head. The Queen, meanwhile, would like to behead everybody. Alice suggests getting the Duchess, since she owns the Cheshire Cat, but by the time the Duchess is fetched, the... (full context)
Chapter 9 - The Mock-Turtle's Story
Childhood and Adulthood Theme Icon
Words, Meaning and Meaninglessness Theme Icon
The Duchess is very happy to see Alice – her mood is quite changed from earlier –... (full context)
Childhood and Adulthood Theme Icon
Words, Meaning and Meaninglessness Theme Icon
The Nature of Being and Not Being Theme Icon
The Duchess says that is weary of putting her arm around Alice’s waist because of her flamingo’s... (full context)
Childhood and Adulthood Theme Icon
Dreams and Reality Theme Icon
The Nature of Being and Not Being Theme Icon
The Duchess runs off and they continue with the game, but there is so much cause for... (full context)