Alice's Adventures in Wonderland

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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 1 Quotes

Alice opened the door and found that it led into a small passage, not much larger than a rat-hole: she knelt down and looked along the passage into the loveliest garden you ever saw. How she longed to get out of that dark hall, and wander about among those beds of bright flowers and those cool fountains, but she could not even get her head though the doorway.

Related Characters: Alice
Related Symbols: The Garden
Page Number: 5
Explanation and Analysis:

At this point in the text, Alice has just followed the White Rabbit down the rabbit hole and has met her first Wonderland obstacle: she is too big to fit through the “rat-hole” doorway.

This moment is crucial because it establishes the absurd world of Wonderland, in which normal physical and spatial logic does not apply. Further, the portrayal of Alice as desperate, but unable, to get outside captures profound aspects of childhood: the desire to play and the restraint placed on that desire by society, whether parental rules in the “real” world or a too-small door here. (It’s also worth noting that these images are reminiscent of the romantic gardens of which Carroll’s contemporaries wrote, as well as the environments he may have been accustomed to seeing around Oxford College, where he taught—gardens where children often weren’t allowed to play.)

The fact that Alice can’t even get her head through the doorway also indicates that she tries to get through the doorway, implying a child’s wishful belief that wanting something enough can make the impossible become possible. While the tiny door is itself an absurd and illogical thing to find in a big dark hall, Alice’s inability to get through it here creates a sense that there is some logic to this world that makes sense: big things can’t pass through small openings. But moments later Alice will shrink. Thus this image of Alice beside the small door creates a sense of logical stability that the novel then immediately subverts—Alice is able to get through, and so her childish effort to get through an absurdly small door is rewarded rather than proved to be silly, as it would in the “real” world. Wonderland is a world where rules can get broken precisely in the way that a child might wish real world rules could be broken.

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'What a curious feeling!' said Alice; 'I must be shutting up like a telescope .'

Related Characters: Alice (speaker)
Related Symbols: Eating and Drinking, Growing and Shrinking
Page Number: 6
Explanation and Analysis:

Alice says this line immediately after drinking the “DRINK ME” vial that causes her to shrink down to a small enough size to pass through the rat-hole sized passage. The shrinking and growing Alice experiences in this scene (and throughout the book) bring up Carroll's themes of growing up and moving from childhood to adulthood—a disorienting change of size and even identity.

The choice of the telescope image is also interesting for several reasons. Carroll could have chosen a more traditional sentence about shrinking, but instead we have a reference to a specific scientific device. The mechanical telescope can collapse to become larger or smaller, and its main use as an instrument is to change visual scale. It takes an object far away and hardly visible and expands it so the viewer can see more clearly. So while Alice may shut up like a telescope, the telescope itself actually expands things: another experiment with scale in the illogical rules of Wonderland.

This is actually the second time the telescope image is used in this scene. When Alice is looking around for a way to enter the door, she imagines a “book of rules for shutting people up like telescopes,” Her wish then directly leads to this moment in which she actually is shutting up like a telescope—further emphasizing the dream-like reality of Wonderland, in which some wishes or desires manifest themselves in fantastical ways.

Chapter 2 Quotes

'But if I'm not the same, the next question is, Who in the world am I? Ah, THAT'S the great puzzle!' And she began thinking over all the children she knew that were of the same age as herself, to see if she could have been changed for any of them.

Related Characters: Alice (speaker)
Page Number: 10
Explanation and Analysis:

Alice is moved to this existential question after she has grown very large from eating the “EAT ME” cake. She is confused about how the same self can be both so small and so large in quick succession, as well as how her current adventures are compatible with her normal life the day before. She wonders if she has perhaps taken on someone else’s identity and tries to reassure herself by listing why she has not become a different young girl. She then tries (and fails) to do arithmetic and to list geographic capitols.

This quote gets to the heart of one of the book’s preoccupations: how do we define identity? Here, Alice asks herself whether she can reasonably consider herself the same person if she has undergone such a dramatic physical change. That Alice would ask herself these questions suggests the instability of childhood identity (though one could also argue that she only grows and shrinks as she does, or is in Wonderland at all, because her unformed childhood identity makes it possible for her to do so). Yet Alice also attempts to use logic to answer the question for herself, eliminating possibilities and trying to assert her selfhood by showing that her mind remains unchanged through the display of knowledge. That she fails to display any such knowledge is humorous and another indicator of being a child, but her instinct to even attempt such methods suggests the adult she will inevitably grow up to become. 

Alice's childish question is also, on deeper reflection, a profound one: Is the idea of a stable, continuous identity even a realistic one? Is there a point of change at which a person becomes someone else? A person who changes his behavior might refer to himself as becoming a "new man," after all. Alice's question, spurred by her physical change, can be seen as a penetrating question about the human condition in the face of other sorts of change: intellectual, emotional, or any kind of maturation.

Chapter 3 Quotes

'But who is to give the prizes?' quite a chorus of voices asked.
'Why, SHE, of course,' said the Dodo, pointing to Alice with one finger; and the whole party at once crowded round her, calling out in a confused way, 'Prizes! Prizes!'

Related Characters: The Dodo (speaker)
Page Number: 19
Explanation and Analysis:

These lines come just after the Dodo has led the other animals in a “Caucus-Race”: a nonsensical competition in which the group runs aimlessly and without rules until they are suddenly instructed to stop. After ruminating for a while, the Dodo decides that all the animals have won and that they will all receive prizes from Alice.

The passage underscores the illogical nature of Wonderland, offers a political parody, and shows increased maturation in Alice’s character. Carroll implies that politicians, like these animals, race in caucuses without sensible rules and without logical reward systems. The political stand-ins here receive prizes based not on aptitude or success, but on the whims of a Dodo and a child. It is notable that a Dodo decides who has won the race, as Dodo birds are considered symbols of stupidity and irrelevance, due to their rapid seventeenth-century extinction. Thus the leader and arbiter of the pack would seem the least qualified to make any decisions on who had won the race.

By asking Alice to apportion the gifts, the Dodo further inverts the authority structure one might expect from the scene. Alice plays, here, the role of the more mature adult, responding to the “confused” crowd. As she gives away sweets to the other animals, she is left only with a thimble, which the Dodo ceremoniously presents to her. Not only does this underscore the illogical nature of Wonderland and its allegorical political system, but it also points to Alice’s development into a more empathetic and adult figure, in which she sacrifices of herself to provide for the animals around her.

Chapter 4 Quotes

“It was much pleasanter at home,' thought poor Alice, 'when one wasn't always growing larger and smaller, and being ordered about by mice and rabbits. I almost wish I hadn't gone down that rabbit-hole--and yet--and yet--it's rather curious, you know, this sort of life!”

Related Characters: Alice (speaker)
Related Symbols: Eating and Drinking, Growing and Shrinking
Page Number: 26
Explanation and Analysis:

After finding another growth-inducing liquid in the White Rabbit’s house, Alice becomes trapped in the building. And, as often happens in the tale, a negative experience in Wonderland makes her yearn for her previous, simpler life.

The aspects of Wonderland that frustrate Alice are notable here: The first is “growing larger and smaller,” a process that continues to undermine her sense of identity and which brings into question her relative age and maturity level. Simply changing her physical shape does not allow her to escape the rabbit-hole or to become any mentally older or younger, reiterating that physical shifts do not correlate to mental ones. The second is “being ordered around by mice and rabbits,” an experience that inverts the authority structure of humans over animals to which she is accustomed in her “pleasanter” life. Yet even as Alice yearns for that more idyllic, more stable home, she recognizes how interesting and exciting this “rather curious” life in Wonderland can be.

These lines clarify some of the challenging but valuable lessons Alice must take from Wonderland. She must learn to interact with the animals, to be empathetic but also firm, and she must accept the uncertainty of the world and rapid changes in identity, particularly those associated with life beyond childhood.

She stretched herself up on tiptoe, and peeped over the edge of the mushroom, and her eyes immediately met those of a large caterpillar, that was sitting on the top with its arms folded, quietly smoking a long hookah, and taking not the smallest notice of her or of anything else.

Related Characters: Alice, The Caterpillar
Page Number: 32
Explanation and Analysis:

This passage closes the fourth chapter and serves as the transition between Alice’s encounter with an oversized puppy and her pivotal conversation with the Caterpillar. Her decision to explore the mushroom only comes after she looks around for something else to eat or drink. This plotting demonstrates, first, how Alice is gradually learning the symbolic logic of Wonderland. She knows, by now, that her dreamworld is organized around digestible objects.

By connecting the idea of a magical food with the following meeting with the Caterpillar, Carroll also seems to imply that the conversation with the Caterpillar will offer a different, non-physical form of transformation. And this preference for psychological exploration comes into focus when the Caterpillar is introduced with the “long hookah,” a symbol with several interlocking meanings. It can be interpreted as an image of Eastern cultures (about which Europeans like Carroll often fantasized), as an indication of mind-altering substances, as a sign of laziness—or as a combination of all three. The Caterpillar’s uninterested response to Alice highlights his apathetic or addled state, setting the stage for the dreamlike quality of their ensuing conversation about identity.

It is important to note, however, that no convincing evidence has surfaced regarding Carroll himself ever using mind-altering substances, despite the fact that his interest in dreams and fantastical worlds, which is clearly on display in Alice in Wonderland, is often misread as a sign that he himself was a proponent or user of psychedelics. While it may be tempting to interpret the hookah-smoking caterpillar as a symbol for drugs, it is unlikely that Carroll intended such a meaning.

Chapter 5 Quotes

'Who are YOU?' said the Caterpillar.
This was not an encouraging opening for a conversation. Alice replied, rather shyly, 'I--I hardly know, sir, just at present-- at least I know who I WAS when I got up this morning, but I think I must have been changed several times since then.'

Related Characters: Alice (speaker), The Caterpillar (speaker)
Page Number: 34
Explanation and Analysis:

The Caterpillar’s question builds on Alice’s continued anxiety about her identity. Alice has previously ruminated internally on the issue, wondering how she can be the same person when she changes size so rapidly. So when the Caterpillar voices a similar inquiry, what should be a perfunctory question—asking a new person who they are—instead becomes a deep philosophical quandary.

Alice tries to reassure herself with a set of logical assertions. When she says she knew who she “WAS” previously, she points out that identity can only be known in retrospect. And she implies that understanding a past self does not guarantee comprehension of the present. Furthermore, she cannot pinpoint the exact moments of personal development, but rather notices the incongruity between the past self and the present one. From these two ideas, she arrives at the conclusion that she “must have been changed.” The verb “must” is important here, as it shows that Alice demands that her conclusions be based on rigorous logic, not only on observation or emotion.

From this conversation, we see how Wonderland teaches Alice to find new depths in simple actions and words—and how she has begin to search for ways, both logical and illogical, to make sense of those depths.

'I HAVE tasted eggs, certainly,' said Alice, who was a very truthful child; 'but little girls eat eggs quite as much as serpents do, you know.'
'I don't believe it,' said the Pigeon; 'but if they do, why then they're a kind of serpent, that's all I can say.'

Related Characters: Alice (speaker)
Page Number: 41
Explanation and Analysis:

Alice’s conversation with the Pigeon comes just after the one with the Caterpillar, and the bird challenges Alice's identity even more assertively. Whereas the insect was simply blasé, the pigeon interrogates Alice about her very humanity. He claims that because Alice eats eggs and has a long neck, she must be a serpent—because serpents have long necks and eat eggs. That is to say, because she has certain characteristics that resemble a serpent, she must be a serpent.

This quote builds on two main themes developing in Wonderland: the wish and failure to define identity through logical statements, and Alice’s quest to empathize with the perspectives of others. In the first theme, we see how two observations—eating eggs and having a long neck—cannot equate to having a fixed identity, for they alone do not guarantee that Alice is a serpent. Existence, Carroll, implies, cannot simply be built up from a series of behaviors, for those behaviors may be shared by two very different beings.

Second, Alice must reckon with the fact that another being would receive the same information as her and arrive at a completely different conclusion. For the pigeon, egg-eating and long-necked creatures are equivalent to being a serpent, whereas for Alice these same qualities are simply markers of being human. This interaction, then, teaches Alice that different beings experience reality from different perspectives: a key lesson she takes away from her adventures in the text.

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.

'Oh, you can't help that,' said the Cat: 'we're all mad here. I'm mad. You're mad.'
'How do you know I'm mad?' said Alice.
'You must be,' said the Cat, 'or you wouldn't have come here.'

Related Characters: Alice (speaker), The Cheshire Cat (speaker)
Page Number: 50
Explanation and Analysis:

This passage, one of the most quoted from Carroll’s work, comes during Alice’s interaction with Wonderland’s perplexing Cheshire Cat: a character who seems wise, yet who never conveys any real knowledge to Alice or to the reader. He functions, then, almost as a parody of the truth-teller figure we might expect at this point in a childhood adventure tale. The Cat is prompted to make his comment on universal insanity when Alice asks advice on where to go and the Cat observes that both of her options—one leads to a Hatter, one to a March Hare—will bring her into contact with mad characters.

Once again, Carroll makes a mockery of supposedly logical statements: The Cheshire Cat constructs a quick proof of Alice’s madness based on 1) All inhabitants of Wonderland are mad 2) Alice is in Wonderland 3) Therefore Alice is mad. This type of thinking recalls Alice’s own failed attempts to define identity, but here the Cheshire Cat does not cite details concerning her personal characteristics. Instead he focuses on the environment in which Alice has found herself, implying that identity is more a factor of who and what surrounds Alice, not something internal to her character.

Furthermore, the claim of universal insanity makes a broader statement on Wonderland—and on the adult world that a maturing Alice is learning how to navigate. Though she might expect it to be firmly grounded in rules and ordered systems, it is in fact highly chaotic and fundamentally unhinged. Accepting this lesson becomes another component of her emotional growth as she progresses in Wonderland.

Chapter 7 Quotes

'Your hair wants cutting,' said the Hatter. He had been looking at Alice for some time with great curiosity, and this was his first speech.
'You should learn not to make personal remarks,' Alice said with some severity; 'it's very rude.'

Related Characters: Alice (speaker), The Mad Hatter (speaker)
Page Number: 53
Explanation and Analysis:

This conversation comes just as Alice arrives at the Hare’s house and sits down with him, the Hatter, and the Dormouse. Their rude behavior toward Alice causes her to first question and then challenge their personal etiquette.

Carroll stresses their rudeness even before Alice articulates it by noting that the comment on Alice’s hair is the Hatter’s “first speech.” The Hatter, then, does not pay attention to the social norms of introducing oneself or behaving cordially, but rather jumps directly into criticism. His next comment will be to challenge Alice with a riddle, once more eschewing proper conduct for an overly aggressive statement.

Alice’s response is a striking example of her growing confidence in Wonderland. Instead of accepting the Hatter’s criticism or finding herself intimidated by him, she ripostes with her own “personal remark.” (This is a bit ironic since she is guilty of precisely what she accuses the Hatter of doing.) Consider the difference between the Hatter’s verb “want” and Alice’s “should”: both carry a normative weight, but Alice’s choice is far stronger. She does not simply hope for a consistent ethical framework but actually believes that she knows one. Though she presents herself to be less mad than the others around her—and thus more of an adult figure—the irony of Alice’s statement also slightly undermines her authority. Carroll leaves it open whether we should pay heed to Alice’s rigid rules or to the madness around her: both perhaps have some merit for the reader.

'If you knew Time as well as I do,' said the Hatter, 'you wouldn't talk about wasting IT. It's HIM.'

Related Characters: The Mad Hatter (speaker)
Page Number: 56
Explanation and Analysis:

The conversation here strays into even more existentially murky territory as the Hatter and Hare dispute Alice’s belief in one of the most basic elements of existence: time.

More specifically, the Hatter complicates the notion of time by giving it a gender and personal identity: it is possible for him to “know” Time and to claim that Time’s gender is masculine. When himself challenged by Alice, the Hatter justifies his outlandish claim by recounting how the Queen of Hearts accused him of “murdering time.” If the phrase is taken literally rather than figuratively—as phrases often are in Wonderland—this accusation would imply that for the Hatter, Time had to be a person. As a result it can be murdered, deceived, and warped, such as is the case at the tea party, where the time is always six o’clock.

Like the earlier questions posed on identity, this discussion takes a common term and renders it far more complex than Alice’s previously fixed world view had considered it to be. Again, Carroll archives this end by relying on the deep philosophy inherent in simple adages, demanding that both Alice and the reader to think more critically about just what the concept of time means.

Chapter 8 Quotes

The players all played at once without waiting for turns, quarrelling all the while, and fighting for the hedgehogs; and in a very short time the Queen was in a furious passion, and went stamping about, and shouting 'Off with his head!' or 'Off with her head!' about once in a minute.

Related Characters: The Queen of Hearts
Related Symbols: The Garden
Page Number: 67
Explanation and Analysis:

The Queen of Hearts enters this fury during a game of croquet, in which the flamingos and hedgehogs function as mallets and balls and which Alice is expected to pick up without having been informed of any rules.

Much like the “Caucus-Race” of Chapter 3, the game entirely lacks order—with the merit of the players dependent on changing rules that are ultimately assured only by the autocratic Queen. Yet if the caucus race offered a lighthearted critique of politics with prizes for all, this scene is a cruel counterpoint, in which no player can correctly follow the shifting rules and thus all can easily lose the right to their heads. “Off with her head” is likely an allusion to Shakespeare’s Richard III (a play about a famously murderous king), which Carroll would cite explicitly in a 1889 letter.

It is notable that the symbols and roles here should all be indicators of gentility: croquet is a slow game played on stately fields, cards are a similarly calming pastime, and royalty like a Queen and a Duchess ought to be stately in their behaviors. Thus Carroll has taken the stereotypical symbols of good English society, placed them in a romantic, Oxford-esque garden, and yet he has rendered them bloodthirsty and unordered. This furthers the presentation of Wonderland as a place where Alice uncovers the scruples in adult society. Reality is not nearly as ordered as it purports to be, and Alice continues to struggle to orient and reassure herself amidst the madness.

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.

'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.

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.

Chapter 11 Quotes

'Give your evidence,' said the King; 'and don't be nervous, or I'll have you executed on the spot.'

Related Characters: The King of Hearts (speaker)
Page Number: 92
Explanation and Analysis:

The King gives this harsh pronouncement to the Hatter during a dystopian trial on the Knave of Hearts for having stolen the Queen’s tarts. Having already satirized politics and the monarchy, Carroll here takes aim at the judicial system, presenting it as a ridiculous, unorganized, and unfair game in which the King can play the judge in a trial for which the Queen is the accuser.

Previously, the King has been the more kind counterpoint to the Queen, for instance acquitting all the croquet players the Queen had wished to kill. But here, as the judge, he adopts a more violent position, promising to kill witnesses not based on any crime they have committed but simply on how they behave in the court. Of course, this is a self-defeating proposition, since threatening to execute someone will only make them more nervous. Just a few lines later, he will revise this statement to threaten execution regardless of whether the Hatter is nervous or not.

The remarkable shift the King's character indicates how his personality changes based on the context of his actions. Placed in this position of power and authority, his disposition changes entirely. This rapid change connects to the text’s earlier preoccupation with how Alice’s identity alters in different contexts. Here, however, the question is less an abstract philosophical one and more connected to a specific political situation.

Here one of the guinea-pigs cheered, and was immediately suppressed by the officers of the court. (As that is rather a hard word, I will just explain to you how it was done. They had a large canvas bag, which tied up at the mouth with strings: into this they slipped the guinea-pig, head first, and then sat upon it.)

Page Number: 94
Explanation and Analysis:

These lines reveal a startling and perplexing break in the perspective and voice of the text. Previously Alice’s adventures are recounted from an omniscient third-person perspective, but here a specific storyteller emerges to clarify the meaning of the word “suppressed.”

That storyteller is presented as a helpful figure to Alice. In contrast to the other Wonderland characters who define words badly, correct Alice’s speech, and generally only offer criticism, the “I” here is caring and attentive. He observes that the narration has included a word Alice (or the childhood reader) may not know, and then parses out its significance with a visual example that would be well-received by children. What is particularly notable about this disruption is that Alice herself responds to it, thanking the “I” (in her thoughts) for explaining the word. Then she shows off her new prowess when “suppressed” is repeated on the following page.

Beyond offering an alternative way of interacting with children to that of, say, the sermonizing Duchess or the enigmatic Cheshire cat, these lines call into question the entire narrative world of Wonderland. They seem to indicate that the story may be being told orally to a young Alice figure, or that her dream possesses some kind of internal narrator. But we should note that it is the character Alice who responds to the voice, not a separate listener, almost as if Carroll’s voice inhabits her dream.

Chapter 12 Quotes

'Who cares for you?' said Alice, (she had grown to her full size by this time.) 'You're nothing but a pack of cards!'

Related Characters: Alice (speaker)
Related Symbols: Eating and Drinking, Growing and Shrinking
Page Number: 102
Explanation and Analysis:

Alice responds, here, to the Queen's favorite exclamation of “Off with her head!” and her comment causes the cards to rise up and fly at her. The fight is provoked by Alice’s increased confidence about the irrational proceedings of the trial, in which she continues to reject the false evidence and malpractice, in particular the Queen’s wish for the sentence to come before the verdict.

Alice’s maturation comes to a conclusion in these lines in several ways. She has been growing physically larger throughout the court proceedings (not based on eating anything, but rather of her own accord), and this physical enlargement is mirrored by her increased confidence. That confidence comes across in her flat-out rejection of the Queen as “nothing but a pack of cards.” Whereas before Alice took issue with specific thoughts or speeches of the Queen, here she simply rejects her as an inanimate object. This is possible because of Alice’s new size, for whereas before the cards were equally large as Alice, here they have been restored to their proper dimensions. Thus they can be seen not as threats or characters, but simply as objects.

Carroll completes this idea by making the lines serve as the transition from Alice’s dreamworld back into her reality. As the cards fly at her, Alice awakens, indicating that, having learnt all she can from Wonderland, she can now depart. These details present the dream as a space for character and personal development, in which Alice must develop the maturation and self-confidence necessary to reject mad authoritarian figures like the Queen and acquire her own moral compass.

'Oh, I've had such a curious dream!' said Alice, and she told her sister, as well as she could remember them, all these strange Adventures of hers that you have just been reading about; and when she had finished, her sister kissed her, and said, 'It WAS a curious dream, dear, certainly: but now run in to your tea; it's getting late.'

Related Characters: Alice (speaker), Alice’s Sister (speaker)
Page Number: 102
Explanation and Analysis:

Alice and her sister converse just after Alice has awoken from her Wonderland experience. After recounting the dream, Alice will depart and her sister will enter a strange reverie where she too lives in the world of Wonderland images for a time—as if Alice’s storytelling gives her access to the world and its lessons.

It is notable that Alice has explained her adventures already once before to the Mock Turtle, who listened but rejected the way in which she told the story. Though Alice’s sister is more receptive, affirming the curiosity of the dream, she also quickly moves on from the tale, returning Alice to the normal rituals of waking life. This ritual, however, is “tea,” an experience that Alice has now come to see not as an ordinary, simple process, but rather one filled with the madness of Wonderland. Furthermore, Alice’s sister justices the ritual with an allusion to time—“it’s getting late”—which is the exact theme called into question by Alice’s tea with the Hatter, Hare, and Dormouse. (Remember, it was the Hatter who called time a "him," and the three had a broken timepiece stuck at six o’clock.)

Carroll’s text, then, ends on an ambiguous note. On the one hand, Alice seems to have been restored to the normal rituals of her childhood life, in which Wonderland would simply be a magical outing. The sister’s emphasis on the past tense of “WAS” highlights that interpretation. But on the other hand, the references to specific symbols in the dream imply that these symbols may have taken on new, more complicated meanings in Alice’s life. Considering Alice’s interest in how past identity defines the present self, perhaps the “WAS” should not be written off so quickly. That her sister can access Wonderland through Alice’s storytelling also implies that the tales hold the power to affect others and to apply to "real" life. Furthermore, we have the notable reintroduction of the narrative voice, here enacted through the “you” that explicitly addresses the reader. Whereas before the “I” explained the term “suppressed” to both Alice within the text and to the reader, here he refers directly to us.

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