Alice suddenly feels herself starting to grow. She can see her feet disappear beneath her as she gets taller and taller. She begins to worry that her feet will have no one to dress them and tries to work out how she can send parcels of shoes to her right foot at one address and her left foot at another. She berates herself for talking nonsense, but soon enough, she has in fact filled the large hall and her head has hit the ceiling.
Alice grows so much and so quickly that she soon views her body as a foreign entity, with a life of its own. This is very upsetting for her – she has no control over her own growth and even her limbs don’t seem to be connected to her. This is a magnification of the problem of not feeling in control of one’s body during the strange transformations of adolescence.
Alice looks down at the tiny door. She can now only peer through the doorway with one eye. She starts to cry again. She tells herself off but she can’t stop – giant tears come pouring into the hall until she is standing in a pool of her own tears. Just then the white rabbit appears and scampers through the hall, beautifully dressed in a pair of white gloves. The rabbit is still worrying about being late – he says the Duchess will be very mad to be kept waiting.
As Alice grows and the garden becomes smaller so she can hardly see it, she gets very upset – her ideal place, her hope is being lost, reminding her of her uncomfortable situation and her loneliness in this strange world. Her inconsistent size frustrates and saddens her as she can’t reconcile her identity as a sensitive young child and as a giant, independent and alone.
Alice, in quite a state, thinks she must take her chance and ask the rabbit for help so she calls out to him. The rabbit is startled and drops his gloves and fan, so Alice picks them up and fans herself with them – it has become very warm in the hall. The Rabbit runs off and hides. Alice starts talking to herself again, trying to solve the puzzle of who she has become. She thinks of all the children she knows, but doesn’t think she has become any of them.
Alice’s self-consciousness about her size and her self comes out here. She fills the hall and scares off the rabbit, who had initially provoked her curiosity. Feeling like a scary beast is not a nice feeling for a young girl and causes Alice to question whether she is even Alice anymore. This can be seen as a metaphor for how adulthood looms ahead of Alice.
Then Alice thinks of all the things she knows. She tries to remember a particular rhyme about a crocodile, but the words sound wrong and she starts to cry again, and imagines that if she got the rhyme wrong, she must be Mabel after all, and considers that if she is Mabel, she will stay in the rabbit hole forever, but then she wishes her family would put their heads to the hole because she’s feeling very lonely. She cries even harder.
Alice’s changing body has made her question her identity. She looks for reassurance to her mind, to what she knows. But what she knows has also somehow been modified in such a way that she recognizes the shift. Now she wonders if really may have become a different person. It does not occur to her that she could change and remain herself.
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 sure enough, she stops shrinking. She rushes for the tiny door, being even smaller now than before, but the door is locked again. Alice despairs. Then she slips and finds she has fallen into a pool of salt water that she cried when she was a giant.
Now the growing and shrinking phenomenon isn’t reserved for edible and drinkable things. Just by holding the rabbit’s fan, Alice starts herself shrinking. The rules of Wonderland constantly change, leaving Alice at its mercy and having to adapt, and that she is even affected by the things she did herself when she was different.
Alice spots another creature in the pool, swimming far off. She sees that it is a mouse, who has also slipped into the pool of tears. Alice thinks she might as well try speaking to the mouse but he doesn’t seem to understand English, so she tries addressing him in French. The first phrase she thinks of is “Ou est ma chatte?” which means “Where is my cat?” The mouse is suitably unnerved. Alice protests that the mouse would like her cat, Dinah, and proceeds to list her virtues. The mouse is very offended.
Language is one of the things Alice is supposed to have mastery over. She loves riddles and songs and is a witty child, so when she finds these animals not just talking fluently but talking a language that she hasn’t learned, Alice is made to feel silly and offensive. Yet she is also learning about having empathy for other people—that she loves a cat is not enough to make a mouse love a cat.
So Alice tries to talk about dogs instead, and recalls a particularly good specimen belonging to her neighbor. But the mouse has had enough and starts to swim away. Alice calls to him and he turns sympathetically back and suggests that Alice listen to his “history”, and then she’ll understand the mouse’s feelings about cats and dogs. The pool is now full of other animals, and they all collectively swim to shore.
Throughout her adventures in Wonderland, Alice learns many lessons – one of them is sympathizing with others, including strange creatures with strange stories. Alice puts her affection for her cat aside and tries to imagine what the Mouse would like to talk about.