Alice's Adventures in Wonderland

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Eating and Drinking, Growing and Shrinking Symbol Analysis

Eating and Drinking, Growing and Shrinking Symbol Icon
Alice is on the verge of growing up and, in Wonderland, she experiences many bizarre physical changes. Being in Wonderland is unpredictable and disturbing at times, much like transforming from a child into an adult. In the hall of doors, mysterious potions and cakes give her the ability to grow and shrink, but she always misses out on the size she needs to be. When she is at her smallest, she is swept away by the pool of tears and when she finally manages to grow, thanks to the edible pebbles in the White Rabbit’s house, she grows too much and gets stuck. This endless uncertainty is a visual way that Carroll plots Alice’s spiritual journey as she comes to terms with both the physical and psychological changes that are part of growing up.

Eating and Drinking, Growing and Shrinking Quotes in Alice's Adventures in Wonderland

The Alice's Adventures in Wonderland quotes below all refer to the symbol of Eating and Drinking, Growing and Shrinking. 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 1 Quotes

'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.

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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.

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.

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Eating and Drinking, Growing and Shrinking Symbol Timeline in Alice's Adventures in Wonderland

The timeline below shows where the symbol Eating and Drinking, Growing and Shrinking appears in Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 1 - Down the Rabbit-Hole
Childhood and Adulthood Theme Icon
Words, Meaning and Meaninglessness Theme Icon
...is possible). Something has appeared on the table that was not there before – a bottle of liquid , labeled “DRINK ME”. Alice is a clever child, and will not drink it until... (full context)
Childhood and Adulthood Theme Icon
Dreams and Reality Theme Icon
Alice feels very strange, like she is shrinking, and in fact she is. She has become the perfect size for the tiny door.... (full context)
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Dreams and Reality Theme Icon
...cake, hoping she will get bigger, and waits anxiously to see which way she will grow, but she appears not to be growing any way at all, so she finishes the... (full context)
Chapter 2 - The Pool of Tears
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Alice suddenly feels herself starting to grow. She can see her feet disappear beneath her as she gets taller and taller. She... (full context)
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Alice realizes that she is now wearing one of the white rabbit’s gloves. She is shrinking again. It must be the fan she’s carrying, she thinks, and tosses it away and... (full context)
Chapter 4 - The Rabbit Sends in a Little Bill
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...to make something interesting happen so she drinks it down. She hopes it’ll make her larger again. It certainly does, but she soon regrets drinking so much at once, because in... (full context)
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...pebbles in through the windows. To Alice’s surprise, some of the pebbles start turning into cakes. She thinks that eating one would surely make her smaller. She is delighted when she... (full context)
Chapter 5 - Advice from a Caterpillar
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The Nature of Being and Not Being Theme Icon
...to fade, and he tells Alice that one side of the mushroom will make her taller and one side will make her smaller. Then he mysteriously crawls away. (full context)
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Dreams and Reality Theme Icon
The Nature of Being and Not Being Theme Icon
...feels her head become free of her feet. But it is her neck that is growing rather than the whole of her, and soon she is looming like a giraffe over... (full context)
Chapter 6 - Pig and Pepper
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...which has a roof thatched with fur. She eats a little of the mushroom to grow bigger and nervously approaches the house. (full context)
Chapter 11 - Who Stole the Tarts?
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The Nature of Being and Not Being Theme Icon
Alice feels a strange sensation and realizes that she’s growing again. The Dormouse notices the bench becoming tighter and tells her to stop. She retorts... (full context)
Chapter 12 - Alice's Evidence
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Alice forgets that she has been growing all this time, and as she hurriedly leaves her seat, she sends the jurors flying,... (full context)
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...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... (full context)
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The Nature of Being and Not Being Theme Icon
...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... (full context)
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The Nature of Being and Not Being Theme Icon
...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... (full context)