Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (commonly shortened to Alice in Wonderland) is an 1865 novel written by English author Charles Lutwidge Dodgson under the pseudonym Lewis Carroll. It tells the story of a girl named Alice who falls down a rabbit hole into a fantasy world (the Wonderland of the title) populated by peculiar and anthropomorphic creatures. The tale plays with logic in ways that have given the story lasting popularity with adults as well as children. It is considered to be one of the best examples of the literary nonsense genre, and its narrative course and structure have been enormously influential, especially in the fantasy genre.

Summary

Alice is sitting with her sister outdoors when she spies a White Rabbit with a pocket watch. Fascinated by the sight, she follows the rabbit down the hole. She falls for a long time, and finds herself in a long hallway full of doors. There is also a key on the table, which unlocks a tiny door; through this door, she spies a beautiful garden. She longs to get there, but the door is too small. Soon, she finds a drink with a note that asks her to drink it. There is later a cake with a note that tells her to eat; Alice uses both, but she cannot seem to get a handle on things, and is always either too large to get through the door or too small to reach the key.

While she is tiny, she slips and falls into a pool of water. She realizes that this little sea is made of tears she cried while a giant. She swims to shore with a number of animals, most notably a sensitive mouse, but manages to offend everyone by talking about her cat’s ability to catch birds and mice. Left alone, she goes on through the wood and runs into the White Rabbit. He mistakes her for his maid and sends her to fetch some things from his house. While in the White Rabbit’s home, she drinks another potion and becomes too huge to get out through the door. She eventually finds a little cake which, when eaten, makes her small again.

In the wood again, she comes across a Caterpillar sitting on a mushroom. He gives her some valuable advice, as well as a valuable tool: the two sides of the mushroom, which can make Alice grow larger and smaller as she wishes. The first time she uses them, she stretches her body out tremendously. While stretched out, she pokes her head into the branches of a tree and meets a Pigeon. The Pigeon is convinced that Alice is a serpent, and though Alice tries to reason with her the Pigeon tells her to be off. Alice gets herself down to normal proportions and continues her trek through the woods. In a clearing she comes across a little house and shrinks herself down enough to get inside. It is the house of the Duchess; the Duchess and the Cook are battling fiercely, and they seem unconcerned about the safety of the baby that the Duchess is nursing. Alice takes the baby with her, but the child turns into a pig and trots off into the woods. Alice next meets the Cheshire cat (who was sitting in the Duchess’s house, but said nothing). The Cheshire cat helps her to find her way through the woods, but he warns her that everyone she meets will be mad.

Alice goes to the March Hare’s house, where she is treated to a Mad Tea Party. Present are the March Hare, the Hatter, and the Dormouse. Ever since Time stopped working for the Hatter, it has always been six o’clock; it is therefore always teatime. The creatures of the Mad Tea Party are some of the must argumentative in all of Wonderland. Alice leaves them and finds a tree with a door in it: when she looks through the door, she spies the door-lined hallway from the beginning of her adventures. This time, she is prepared, and she manages to get to the lovely garden that she saw earlier. She walks on through, and finds herself in the garden of the Queen of Hearts. There, three gardeners (with bodies shaped like playing cards) are painting the roses red. If the Queen finds out that they planted white roses, she’ll have them beheaded. The Queen herself soon arrives, and she does order their execution; Alice helps to hide them in a large flowerpot.

The Queen invites Alice to play croquet, which is a very difficult game in Wonderland, as the balls and mallets are live animals. The game is interrupted by the appearance of the Cheshire cat, whom the King of Hearts immediately dislikes.

The Queen takes Alice to the Gryphon, who in turn takes Alice to the Mock Turtle. The Gryphon and the Mock Turtle tell Alice bizarre stories about their school under the sea. The Mock Turtles sings a melancholy song about turtle soup, and soon afterward the Gryphon drags Alice off to see the trial of the Knave of Hearts.

The Knave of Hearts has been accused of stealing the tarts of the Queen of Hearts, but the evidence against him is very bad. Alice is appalled by the ridiculous proceedings. She also begins to grow larger. She is soon called to the witness stand; by this time she has grown to giant size. She refuses to be intimidated by the bad logic of the court and the bluster of the King and Queen of Hearts. Suddenly, the cards all rise up and attack her, at which point she wakes up. Her adventures in Wonderland have all been a fantastic dream.

Chapter 1 – Down the Rabbit Hole: Alice is bored sitting on the riverbank with her sister, when she notices a talking, clothed White Rabbit with a watch run past. She follows it down a rabbit hole when suddenly she falls a long way to a curious hall with many locked doors of all sizes. She finds a small key to a door too small for her to fit, but through which she sees an attractive garden. She then discovers a bottle labelled “DRINK ME”, the contents of which cause her to shrink too small to reach the key. A cake with “EAT ME” on it causes her to grow to such a tremendous size her head hits the ceiling.

Chapter 2 – The Pool of Tears: Alice is unhappy and cries and her tears flood the hallway. After shrinking down again due to a fan she had picked up, Alice swims through her own tears and meets a Mouse, who is swimming as well. She tries to make small talk with him but all she can think of talking about is her cat, which offends the mouse.

Chapter 3 – The Caucus Race and a Long Tale: The sea of tears becomes crowded with other animals and birds that have been swept away. Alice and the other animals convene on the bank and the question among them is how to get dry again. The mouse gives them a very dry lecture on William the Conqueror. A Dodo decides that the best thing to dry them off would be a Caucus-Race, which consists of everyone running in a circle with no clear winner. Alice eventually frightens all the animals away, unwittingly, by talking about her cat.

Chapter 4 – The Rabbit Sends a Little Bill: The White Rabbit appears again in search of the Duchess’s gloves and fan. Mistaking her for his maidservant, Mary Ann, he orders Alice to go into the house and retrieve them, but once she gets inside she starts growing. The horrified Rabbit orders his gardener, Bill the Lizard, to climb on the roof and go down the chimney. Outside, Alice hears the voices of animals that have gathered to gawk at her giant arm. The crowd hurls pebbles at her, which turn into little cakes. Alice eats them, and they reduce her again in size.

Chapter 5 – Advice from a Caterpillar: Alice comes upon a mushroom and sitting on it is a blue Caterpillar smoking a hookah. The Caterpillar questions Alice and she admits to her current identity crisis, compounded by her inability to remember a poem. Before crawling away, the caterpillar tells Alice that one side of the mushroom will make her taller and the other side will make her shorter. She breaks off two pieces from the mushroom. One side makes her shrink smaller than ever, while another causes her neck to grow high into the trees, where a pigeon mistakes her for a serpent. With some effort, Alice brings herself back to her usual height. She stumbles upon a small estate and uses the mushroom to reach a more appropriate height.

Chapter 6 – Pig and Pepper: A Fish-Footman has an invitation for the Duchess of the house, which he delivers to a Frog-Footman. Alice observes this transaction and, after a perplexing conversation with the frog, lets herself into the house. The Duchess’s Cook is throwing dishes and making a soup that has too much pepper, which causes Alice, the Duchess and her baby (but not the cook or her grinning Cheshire Cat) to sneeze violently. Alice is given the baby by the Duchess and to her surprise, the baby turns into a pig. The Cheshire Cat appears in a tree, directing her to the March Hare’s house. He disappears but his grin remains behind to float on its own in the air prompting Alice to remark that she has often seen a cat without a grin but never a grin without a cat.

Chapter 7 – A Mad Tea-Party: Alice becomes a guest at a “mad” tea party along with the Hatter, the March Hare, and a sleeping Dormouse who remains asleep for most of the chapter. The other characters give Alice many riddles and stories, including the famous ‘Why is a raven like a writing desk?’. The Hatter reveals that they have tea all day because time has punished him by eternally standing still at 6 pm (tea time). Alice becomes insulted and tired of being bombarded with riddles and she leaves claiming that it was the stupidest tea party that she had ever been to.

Chapter 8 – The Queen’s Croquet Ground: Alice leaves the tea party and enters the garden where she comes upon three living playing cards painting the white roses on a rose tree red because the Queen of Hearts hates white roses. A procession of more cards, kings and queens and even the White Rabbit enters the garden. Alice then meets the King and Queen. The Queen, a figure difficult to please, introduces her trademark phrase “Off with his head!” which she utters at the slightest dissatisfaction with a subject. Alice is invited (or some might say ordered) to play a game of croquet with the Queen and the rest of her subjects but the game quickly descends into chaos. Live flamingos are used as mallets and hedgehogs as balls and Alice once again meets the Cheshire Cat. The Queen of Hearts then orders the Cat to be beheaded, only to have her executioner complain that this is impossible since the head is all that can be seen of him. Because the cat belongs to the Duchess, the Queen is prompted to release the Duchess from prison to resolve the matter.

Chapter 9 – The Mock Turtle’s Story: The Duchess is brought to the croquet ground at Alice’s request. She ruminates on finding morals in everything around her. The Queen of Hearts dismisses her on the threat of execution and she introduces Alice to the Gryphon, who takes her to the Mock Turtle. The Mock Turtle is very sad, even though he has no sorrow. He tries to tell his story about how he used to be a real turtle in school, which The Gryphon interrupts so they can play a game.

Chapter 10 – Lobster Quadrille: The Mock Turtle and the Gryphon dance to the Lobster Quadrille, while Alice recites (rather incorrectly) “‘Tis the Voice of the Lobster”. The Mock Turtle sings them “Beautiful Soup” during which the Gryphon drags Alice away for an impending trial.

Chapter 11 – Who Stole the Tarts?: Alice attends a trial whereby the Knave of Hearts is accused of stealing the Queen’s tarts. The jury is composed of various animals, including Bill the Lizard, the White Rabbit is the court’s trumpeter, and the judge is the King of Hearts. During the proceedings, Alice finds that she is steadily growing larger. The dormouse scolds Alice and tells her she has no right to grow at such a rapid pace and take up all the air. Alice scoffs and calls the dormouse’s accusation ridiculous because everyone grows and she can’t help it. Meanwhile, witnesses at the trial include the Hatter, who displeases and frustrates the King through his indirect answers to the questioning, and the Duchess’s cook.

Chapter 12 – Alice’s Evidence: Alice is then called up as a witness. She accidentally knocks over the jury box with the animals inside them and the King orders the animals be placed back into their seats before the trial continues. The King and Queen order Alice to be gone, citing Rule 42 (“All persons more than a mile high to leave the court”), but Alice disputes their judgement and refuses to leave. She argues with the King and Queen of Hearts over the ridiculous proceedings, eventually refusing to hold her tongue. The Queen shouts her familiar “Off with her head!” but Alice is unafraid, calling them out as just a pack of cards; just as they start to swarm over her. Alice’s sister wakes her up for tea, brushing what turns out to be some leaves and not a shower of playing cards from Alice’s face. Alice leaves her sister on the bank to imagine all the curious happenings for herself.

The following is a list of prominent characters in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.

    • Alice
    • The White Rabbit
    • The Mouse
      The Dodo
    • The Lory
    • The Eaglet
    • The Duck
    • Pat
    • Bill the Lizard
    • The Caterpillar
    • The Duchess
    • The Cheshire Cat
    • The Hatter
    • The March Hare
    • The Dormouse
    • The Queen of Hearts
    • The Knave of Hearts
    • The King of Hearts
    • The Gryphon
    • The Mock Turtle

Alice

Alice is a fictional character in the booksAlice’s Adventures in Wonderland and its sequel Through the Looking-Glass, which were written by Lewis Carroll. She is a young girl from Victorian-era Britain. The character has been said to be based on Alice Liddell, a child friend of Dodgson’s. Dodgson said several times that his “little heroine” was not based on any real child, but was entirely fictional. Alice is portrayed as a quaintly logical girl, sometimes even pedantic, especially with Humpty Dumpty in the second book. According to Through the Looking-Glass she is seven and a half years old, but seems to conduct herself like a somewhat older child. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland takes place on 4 May, Alice Liddell’s birthday. Through the Looking-Glass takes place on 4 November, her half-birthday (and Alice states that she is “seven and a half exactly.”) In April 1887, Carroll wrote in “Alice on the Stage:” What wert thou, dream-Alice in thy foster-father’s eyes? How shall he picture thee? Loving first, loving and gentle: loving as a dog (forgive the prosaic simile, but I know no earthly love so pure and perfect) and gentle as a fawn: then courteous—courteous to all, high or low, grand or grotesque, King or Caterpillar, even as though she were herself a King’s daughter, and her clothing wrought of gold: then trustful, ready to accept the wildest impossibilities with all that utter trust that only dreamers know; and lastly, curious—wildly curious, and with the eager enjoyment of Life that comes only in the happy hours of childhood, when all is new and fair, and when Sin and Sorrow are but names — empty words signifying nothing!

Alice is popularly depicted wearing a pale blue knee-length dress with a white pinafore overtop, although the dress originally was yellow in The Nursery “Alice”, the first coloured version of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. In the illustrations for Through the Looking-Glass her hair is held back with a wide ribbon, and in honour of Alice, such hair bows are sometimes called Alice bands, particularly in the UK.

As Alice was first drawn in black and white her colours would vary from artist to artist; however, in the early coloured works by John Tenniel, her dress was blue, her white pinafore outlined in red, and she was blonde. This look has, perhaps, become the classic and most widely recognized Alice in Wonderland dress in later works, notably Disney’s. Tenniel drew Alice in two variants: for Through the Looking-Glass her pinafore is more ruffled and she is shown in striped stockings, an image which has remained in much of the later art.

Morton N. Cohen suggested that although Alice was physically modelled after Alice Liddell, Carroll drew Alice’s characteristics from himself. Alice’s journey through Wonderland is a “double-layered metaphor” of the problems faced by children in Victorian society and Carroll’s negative childhood experiences.

The Hatter

The Hatter is a fictional character in Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and the story’s sequel, Through the Looking-Glass. He is often referred to as the Mad Hatter, though this term was never used by Carroll. The phrase “mad as a hatter” pre-dates Carroll’s works and the characters the Hatter and the March Hare are initially referred to as “both mad” by the Cheshire Cat, with both first appearing in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, in the seventh chapter titled “A Mad Tea-Party”.

The Hatter explains to Alice that he and the March Hare are always having tea because, when he tried to sing for the Queen of Hearts at her celebration, she sentenced him to death for “murdering the time,” but he escapes decapitation. In retaliation, Time (referred to as a “Him”) halts himself in respect to the Hatter, keeping him and the March Hare stuck at 6:00 forever. As such, he exclaims “Tea Time!” at random occasions. The tea party, when Alice arrives, is characterized by switching places on the table at any given time, making short, personal remarks, asking unanswerable riddles and reciting nonsensical poetry, all of which eventually drive Alice away. He appears again as a witness at the Knave of Hearts’ trial, where the Queen appears to recognize him as the singer she sentenced to death, and the King also cautions him not to be nervous “or I’ll have you executed on the spot.” When the character makes his appearance as “Hatta” in Through the Looking-Glass, he is in trouble with the law once again. This time, however, he is not necessarily guilty: the White Queen explains that quite often subjects are punished before they commit a crime, rather than after, and sometimes they do not even commit it at all. He is also mentioned as being one of the White King’s messengers, and the March Hare appears as well as “Haigha”, since the King explains that he needs two messengers: “one to come, and one to go.” Sir John Tenniel’s illustration also depicts him as sipping from a teacup as he did in the original novel, adding weight to Carroll’s hint that the two characters are very much the same.

Although the name “Mad Hatter” was undoubtedly inspired by the phrase “as mad as a hatter”, there is some uncertainty as to the origins of this phrase. Mercury was used in the process of curing pelts used in some hats, making it impossible for hatters to avoid inhaling the mercury fumes given off during the hat making process; hatters and mill workers thus often suffered mercury poisoning, causing neurological damage, including confused speech and distorted vision. Hat making was the main trade in Stockport, near where Carroll grew up, and it was not unusual then for hatters to appear disturbed or confused; many died early as a result of mercury poisoning. However, the Hatter does not exhibit the symptoms of mercury poisoning, which include “excessive timidity, diffidence, increasing shyness, loss of self-confidence, anxiety, and a desire to remain unobserved and unobtrusive. “The Hatter and the March Hare are initially referred to as “both mad” by the Cheshire Cat, and both first appear in the seventh chapter of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, which is titled “A Mad Tea-Party”.

The Hatter’s character may have been inspired by Theophilus Carter, an eccentric furniture dealer. Carter was supposedly at one time a servitor at Christ Church, one of the University of Oxford’s colleges.

Queen of Hearts

The Queen of Hearts is a character from the book Alice in Wonderland by the writer and mathematician Lewis Carroll. She is a foul-tempered monarch, that Carroll himself pictured as “a blind fury”, and who is quick to decree death sentences at the slightest offense. Her most famous line, one which she repeats often, is “Off with their heads!”

The Queen is referred to as a card from a pack of playing cards by Alice, yet somehow she is able to talk and is the ruler of the lands in the story, alongside the King of Hearts. She is often confused with the Red Queen from the sequel, Through the Looking-Glass, although the two are very different.

Alice is recommended, by three gardening playing cards (who are painting roses so that they are the right color for the Queen), to drop down on the ground to avoid being confronted by her. She is confused, and having never met the Queen, ignores this advice. When the Queen arrives and asks Alice who is lying on the ground (since the backs of all playing cards look alike), Alice tells her that she does not know. The Queen then becomes frustrated and commands that her head be severed. She is deterred by her comparatively moderate husband by being reminded that Alice is only a child. Generally, however, as we are told by Carroll:

The Queen had only one way of settling all difficulties, great or small. ‘Off with his head!’ she said, without even looking round.

One of the Queen’s hobbies – besides ordering executions – is croquet, however it is Wonderland croquet, where the balls are live hedgehogs and the mallets are flamingoes. This is presumably with the aim that the birds’ blunt beaks should strike, but, as Alice observes, it is complicated by the fact that they keep looking back up at the players- as well as the hedgehogs’ tendency to scuttle away without waiting to be hit. The Queen’s soldiers act as the arches (or hoops) on the croquet grounds, but have to leave off being arches every time the Queen has an executioner drag away the victim, so that, by the end of the game in the story, the only players that remain are the Queen herself, the King, and Alice. Despite the frequency of death sentences, it would appear few people are actually beheaded. The King of Hearts quietly pardons many of his subjects when the Queen is not looking (although this did not seem to be the case with The Duchess), and her soldiers humor her but do not carry out her orders. The Gryphon tells Alice that “It’s all her fancy: she never executes nobody, you know.” Nevertheless, all creatures in Wonderland fear the Queen. In the final chapters, the Queen sentences Alice again (for defending the Knave of Hearts) and she offers an interesting approach towards justice: sentence before verdict. Modern portrayals in popular culture usually let her play the role of a villain because of the menace the character exemplifies, but in the book she does not fill that purpose. She is just one of the many obstacles that Alice has to encounter on the journey, but unlike other obstacles, she makes a higher potential threat.

The Queen is clearly a caricature of Queen Victoria, with elements of reality that Dodgson felt correctly would make her at once instantly recognisable to parents reading the story to children, and also fantastical enough to make her unrecognisable to children.

Her identity was hammered home for the purposes of popular culture in the 1966 live-action film, where she and the King of Hearts are portrayed without any attempt at fantasy, or disguise as to their true natures or personality.

She is commonly mistaken for the Red Queen in the story’s sequel, Through the Looking-Glass, but in reality shares none of her characteristics other than being a queen. Indeed, Carroll, in his lifetime, made the distinction of the two Queens by saying: “I pictured to myself the Queen of Hearts as a sort of embodiment of ungovernable passion – a blind and aimless Fury. The Red Queen I pictured as a Fury, but of another type; her passion must be cold and calm – she must be formal and strict, yet not unkindly; pedantic to the 10th degree, the concentrated essence of all governesses!”

The 1951 animated film Alice in Wonderland perpetuates the long-standing confusion between the Red Queen and the Queen of Hearts. In the film, the Queen of Hearts delivers several of the Red Queen’s statements, the most notable being based on her “all the ways about here belong to me”. Both characters say this to suggest importance and possible arrogance, but in the Red Queen’s case it has a double meaning since her status as a Chess-queen means that she can move in any direction she desires.

In the American McGee’s Alice adaptation of the books, the characters are also combined, leading to further popular misconception.

Knave of Hearts

The Knave of Hearts is a character from the book Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll.The Knave of Hearts is mentioned first in chapter 8, and chapters 11 and 12 deal with his trial for a tart robbery in which the King of Hearts presides as judge. Alice eventually defends the Knave after the evidence becomes increasingly absurd and she is called as a witness.

The White Rabbit announces the charges as:

The Queen of Hearts, she made some tarts,
All on a summer day:
The Knave of Hearts, he stole those tarts,
And took them quite away!

The Knave rarely speaks during the trial. The Mad Hatter is called to give evidence but spends his entire time being nervous in front of the King and Queen of Hearts, and the Duchess’s cook is summoned to tell the court what tarts are made of. Neither is a convincing witness, and the Knave does not offer a very good defense. He denies he wrote a letter that mysteriously appears in the court, but that he already knows isn’t signed.

Fortunately for him, Alice diverts the attention of the court by growing ever and ever larger and arguing more and more, lastly with the Queen over the concept of “sentence first—verdict afterwards”. Before a verdict can be reached for the Knave’s innocence or guilt, Alice reaches full size and forcefulness, and then calls them “nothing but a pack of cards”. They attack her, ending the trial.

It is believed by some people that since Sir John Tenniel’s illustration of the scene in chapter 12 has the Knave with small club outline shapes on his blouse, the ultimate nonsense is that the King and the Queen do not even have the correct person standing trial, this isn’t the Knave of Hearts at all, and whoever it is unwilling to clarify the matter. However, this would also suppose Alice, the White Rabbit, the Mad Hatter and everyone else missed it as well, and that Carroll inserted an unintroduced character. After calling him “the Knave of Hearts” twice in chapter 8, the rest of the chapter simply refers to him as “the Knave”. The only other non-heart card characters in the book are the three gardeners (drawn as spades), the ten soldiers (described and drawn as clubs), and the ten courtiers (described as diamonds). For other illustrations involving the Knave, the original art by Carroll for chapter 12 and the chapter 8 drawing by both Carroll and Tenniel show no markings.

King of Hearts

The King of Hearts is a character from the book Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll. He seems to, when compared to the Queen of Hearts, be the moderate part of the Wonderland government. As an example, when the Queen, who enjoys ordering beheadings, attempts to have Alice executed (charged with being unable to answer who is lying down in front of her) the King of Hearts reminds her that she is only a child.

The King also quietly pardons many of the subjects the Queen has ordered to be beheaded when the Queen is not looking. This guarantees few people are actually beheaded. Nevertheless, when the Queen plays a game of croquet in the story, the only players who remain at the end are himself, the Queen, and Alice.

At the Knave of Hearts’ trial, however, where he acts as judge, he is revealed to be quite juvenile, with such lines as, “don’t be nervous or I’ll have you executed on the spot” to the Mad Hatter, or asking the Duchess’s cook irrelevant questions such as, “what are tarts made of?” Between the two of them, the King and Queen appear to present a fairly accurate portrayal of why Wonderland is as childish, reckless and confusing as it is.

March Hare

The March Hare is a character most famous for appearing in the tea party scene in Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.

The main character, Alice, hypothesises, “The March Hare will be much the most interesting, and perhaps as this is May it won’t be raving mad — at least not so mad as it was in March.”

“Mad as a March hare” was a common phrase in Carroll’s time, and appears in John Heywood’s collection of proverbs published in 1546. It is reported in The Annotated Alice by Martin Gardner that this proverb is based on popular belief about hares’ behavior at the beginning of the long breeding season, which lasts from February to September in Britain. Early in the season, unreceptive females often use their forelegs to repel overenthusiastic males. It used to be incorrectly believed that these bouts were between males fighting for breeding supremacy.

Like the character’s friend, The Hatter, the March Hare feels compelled to always behave as though it is tea-time because the Hatter supposedly “murdered the time” whilst singing for the Queen of Hearts. Sir John Tenniel’s illustration also shows him with straw on his head, a common way to depict madness in Victorian times. The March Hare later appears at the trial for the Knave of Hearts, and for a final time as “Haigha” (which Carroll tells us is pronounced to rhyme with “mayor”), the personal messenger to the White King in Through the Looking-Glass.

White Rabbit

The White Rabbit is a fictional character in Lewis Carroll’s book Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. He appears at the very beginning of the book, in chapter one, wearing a waistcoat, and muttering “Oh dear! Oh dear! I shall be too late!” Alice follows him down the rabbit hole into Wonderland. Alice encounters him again when he mistakes her for his housemaid Mary Ann and she becomes trapped in his house after growing too large. The Rabbit shows up again in the last few chapters, as a herald-like servant of the King and Queen of Hearts.

In his article “Alice on the Stage,” Carroll wrote “And the White Rabbit, what of him? Was he framed on the “Alice” lines, or meant as a contrast? As a contrast, distinctly. For her ‘youth,’ ‘audacity,’ ‘vigour,’ and ‘swift directness of purpose,’ read ‘elderly,’ ‘timid,’ ‘feeble,’ and ‘nervously shilly-shallying,’ and you will get something of what I meant him to be. I think the White Rabbit should wear spectacles. I’m sure his voice should quaver, and his knees quiver, and his whole air suggest a total inability to say ‘Boo’ to a goose!”

Overall, the White Rabbit seems to shift back and forth between pompous behavior toward his underlings, such as his servants, and grovelling, obsequious behavior toward his superiors, such as the Duchess and King and Queen of Hearts, in direct contrast to Alice, who is reasonably polite to everyone she meets.

Dormouse

The Dormouse is a character in “A Mad Tea-Party”, Chapter VII from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll. He sat between the March Hare and the Hatter. They were using him, while he slept, as a cushion when Alice arrives at the start of the chapter.

The Dormouse is always falling asleep during the scene, waking up every so often, for example to say:

“You might just as well say,” added the Dormouse, who seemed to be talking in his sleep, that “I breathe when I sleep” is the same thing as “I sleep when I breathe”!’

He also tells a story about three young girls who live in a treacle well, live on treacle, and draw pictures of things beginning with M, including mousetraps, memory and muchness.

Eventually the Hatter and the March Hare put his head in a teapot. He later appears, equally sleepy, at the Knave of Hearts’ trial and voices resentment at Alice for growing, and his last interaction with any character is his being “suppressed” (amongst other things) by the Queen for shouting out that tarts are made of treacle.

The Dormouse is referenced in popular culture by two American rock bands: Firstly by Jefferson Airplane in the song “White Rabbit”, in which the last line of the song, repeated twice and building through a crescendo is “Remember what the dormouse said: feed your head, feed your head”. Secondly by the progressive metal band Queensrÿche in the song “Right Side of My Mind”: “Re-engineer your head is really what the dormouse said”. The British rock band Radiohead also refer to the dormouse in the song “Knives Out” with the lyrics, “Catch the mouse/ Don’t look down/ Shove it in your mouth” and “Cook him up / Squash his head / Put him in the pot”.

The Dormouse makes an appearance in American McGee’s Alice, where he and the March Hare are held captive as the Mad Hatter’s experiments. He is tied to a dissection table and continues to fall asleep from the Hatter’s medicines.

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Devika Panikar has been teaching English Language and Literature for 14 years now. She is an Assistant Professor with the Directorate of Collegiate Education under the Government of Kerala. She teaches at the Government Colleges coming under this directorate and is now posted at the Department of English, H.H. The Maharaja’s Government College for Women, Thiruvananthapuram. This website is a collection of the lecture notes that she prepared by referring various sources, for her students’ perusal. It has been compiled here for the sake of future generations.

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