Alice's Adventures in Wonderland

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The Mock-Turtle Character Analysis

is a sorrowful figure, who sits reminiscing by the sea. With his friend, the Gryphon, he remembers his old school teachers and his youth, when he would joyfully dance the Lobster Quadrille. He indulges in telling his story to Alice, and when she leaves, goes on sighing and crying as before.

The Mock-Turtle Quotes in Alice's Adventures in Wonderland

The Alice's Adventures in Wonderland quotes below are all either spoken by The Mock-Turtle or refer to The Mock-Turtle. 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 9 Quotes

'Why did you call him Tortoise, if he wasn't one?' Alice asked.
'We called him Tortoise because he taught us,' said the Mock Turtle angrily: 'really you are very dull!'

Related Characters: Alice (speaker), The Mock-Turtle (speaker)
Page Number: 78
Explanation and Analysis:

The Mock Turtle chastises Alice, here, for interrupting his story and for not understanding his pun on “Tortoise.” The interruption is caused by the Mock Turtle noting that that his teacher was a Turtle but was called Tortoise—i.e. “taught us” when spoken aloud (with an English accent).

Despite her improved ability to navigate Wonderland, Alice struggles here to stay up-to-speed on the language games played by the other characters. And as before, her earnest questions induce a sharp reprimand: “dull” for having halted the Turtle’s explanation to clarify how a turtle could also be a tortoise. Throughout this chapter and the next, the Mock Turtle and the Gryphon continue to make a dizzying number of similar puns. Some like “porpoise” and “purpose” Alice can grasp and clarify, while many others flit by without time for her to interrupt.

Carroll had actually used this pun once before, in a piece of philosophy called “What the Tortoise said to Achilles.” This may seem like a small connection, but it also reiterates the deep thought that Carroll placed in the Wonderland world. Though Alice may experience her life through bizarre puns and confusing interrogations, each of these moments is built upon the philosophical and logical rigor Carroll was pursuing elsewhere in his studies.

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Chapter 10 Quotes

'It all came different!' the Mock Turtle repeated thoughtfully. 'I should like to hear her try and repeat something now. Tell her to begin.' He looked at the Gryphon as if he thought it had some kind of authority over Alice.

Related Characters: The Mock-Turtle (speaker), Alice, The Gryphon
Page Number: 86
Explanation and Analysis:

In these lines, the Mock Turtle confronts Alice on the quality of her storytelling, specifically on the form in which she recounts her previous Wonderland adventures. It is notable that the text does not give any of the direct speech from Alice, so the reader has no access to whether her words were actually inaccurate or badly composed.

The Mock Turtle’s interjection is almost identical to Alice’s own interruption of his story just one chapter earlier. We could very well charge him with the same “dullness” Alice was accused of earlier, in particular because the Turtle wants Alice to “repeat” instead of produce new information. That repetition causes Alice to compare this experience with her lessons in school, a further irony since the Mock Turtle had before said he wanted to move from lessons into games. And when Alice does try to repeat what she said, the game-song of the Lobster Quadrille instead fills her mind, causing her to recite a bizarre poem.

It is also worth examining what line of Alice’s story causes the Turtle so much irritation: the moment when the Caterpillar corrects her citation of “You are old, Father William”—which is the first part of Robert Southey’s 1799 poem “The Old Man’s Comforts and How He Gained Them.” The poem is an example of the more traditional moralizing literature Carroll pokes fun at throughout the text. As with the Caterpillar, the Mock Turtle explicitly denies the line in favor of the more playful and nonsensical Lobster Quadrille. But at the same time he also corrects Alice and looks to the Gryphon for authority, so he simultaneously plays both the adult figure and the silly disruptor of tradition.

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The Mock-Turtle Character Timeline in Alice's Adventures in Wonderland

The timeline below shows where the character The Mock-Turtle appears in Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 9 - The Mock-Turtle's Story
Childhood and Adulthood Theme Icon
Dreams and Reality Theme Icon
The Nature of Being and Not Being Theme Icon
...there are neither players nor arches left. The Queen asks Alice if she knows the Mock-Turtle (the thing Mock-Turtle soup is made from, she explains). Alice says she doesn’t, so the... (full context)
Childhood and Adulthood Theme Icon
The Nature of Being and Not Being Theme Icon
They find the Mock Turtle sitting on a rock, singing very sorrowfully. The Gryphon says that the Mock-Turtle isn’t really... (full context)
Childhood and Adulthood Theme Icon
Words, Meaning and Meaninglessness Theme Icon
This beginning is followed again by a long silence, filled only by the Mock Turtle’s sobbing and strange noises from the Gryphon. The Turtle continues eventually, telling them that at... (full context)
Childhood and Adulthood Theme Icon
Dreams and Reality Theme Icon
Words, Meaning and Meaninglessness Theme Icon
The Mock Turtle continues to list his classes and their masters. The Gryphon joins in – his Classics... (full context)
Chapter 10 - The Lobster Quadrille
Childhood and Adulthood Theme Icon
The Nature of Being and Not Being Theme Icon
The Mock Turtle is all choked up from sobbing, and the Gryphon shows Alice how he beats the... (full context)
Childhood and Adulthood Theme Icon
Words, Meaning and Meaninglessness Theme Icon
At this point the Gryphon and the Mock-Turtle get very excited and propose to show Alice the dance. The Gryphon nominates the Turtle... (full context)
Childhood and Adulthood Theme Icon
Words, Meaning and Meaninglessness Theme Icon
...to the song, in which a porpoise is always treading on the whiting’s tail. The Mock-Turtle tells her wisely that no whiting ever travels without a porpoise. Alice thinks this is... (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
...her about but she tries it. It comes out all mixed up. “Uncommon nonsense”, the Turtle calls it. (full context)
Childhood and Adulthood Theme Icon
Words, Meaning and Meaninglessness Theme Icon
The Nature of Being and Not Being Theme Icon
...feels miserable again. She wishes things could be as before. But the Gryphon and the Turtle keep interrogating her about the rhyme and ask her for the next verse. She goes... (full context)
Dreams and Reality Theme Icon
The Nature of Being and Not Being Theme Icon
The Turtle sighs and begins, in a mournful tone, singing a song about soup. They enjoy themselves... (full context)
Chapter 12 - Alice's Evidence
Childhood and Adulthood Theme Icon
Dreams and Reality Theme Icon
The Nature of Being and Not Being Theme Icon
...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... (full context)