Child pages
  • Lewis Carroll '10

 Alice's Adventures in Wonderland 

"Begin at the beginning and go on till you come to the end; then stop..."

Alyssa DeAnna ♣ Andy Meisner ♦ Hillary Munson ♥ Kathryn Reese ♠ Casey Salm ♣ Lisa Stanforth

♣ ♦ ♥ ♠ Topics for Discussion ♣ ♦ ♥ ♠

How is the treatment that Alice receives different from character to character?

What is the significance of asterisks throughout the story?

What significance do the poems hold? The structure of the poems?

How does the nonsense of Wonderland contrast to the formal/traditional nature of Victorian society?

How does Alice's innocence/ignorance create trouble for her while in Wonderland?

How do the creatures in Wonderland parallel the hierarchy of Victorian society?

How does Carroll's Red Queen represent the stereotypes that Victorian society had of aging?

How does Carroll use parody throughout the novel?

How was Carroll influenced by the real Alice?

♣ ♦ ♥ ♠ Significant Quotations Explained ♣ ♦ ♥ ♠

'Come, there’s no use in crying like that!’ said Alice to herself rather sharply. ‘I advise you to leave off this minute!’ She generally gave herself very good advice (though she seldom followed it), and sometimes she scolded herself so severely as to bring tears into her eyes and once she remembered trying to box her own ears for having cheated herself in a game of croquet she was playing against herself, for this curious child was very fond of pretending to be two people' (12)

This quote, while seemingly nonsensical in nature, can offer great insight into Victorian culture at the time. The passage demonstrates for us the two sides to Alice. There is the typical juvenile child, and there is the authoritarian adult. Victorian culture expected children to function essentially as mini-adults, and this passage represents the contradicting effect that this dichotomy of personalities has on Alice.

'Let me think: was I the same when I got up this morning? I almost think I can remember feeling a little different. But if I'm not the same, the next question is 'Who in the world am I? Ah, that's the great puzzle!'(15)

This quote is representative of the struggles that Alice is facing while she is in Wonderland. Carroll's story is somewhat pointed at the idea that children are struggling to find a place in the world. Adolescence is time of great confusion, and the characters in the story represent different frustrations that children have when faced with "puzzles" that aren't entirely understood. Changing bodies and minds are both themes that become relevant in the story--the representation of a changing mentality is something that Carrol depicts in the scenes where Alice is most concerned about her presence in Wonderland and how she fits in.

'Dinah's our cat. And she's such a capital one for catching mice, you ca'n't think! And oh, I wish you could see her after the birds! Why, she'll eat a little bird as soon as look at it!' (26)

Alice is speaking here to the Lory and the Mouse she meets shortly after entering Wonderland. She frequently makes the mistake of mentioning her cat, Dinah, not realizing the fear it will instill in such animals. Alice's continuous mention of Dinah shows her struggle to fit in and offer something to the conversations she has in Wonderland. The fact that she never understands the chaos that ensues when Dinah is mentioned until after she has spoken shows her naivete and childish nature.

"That's the reason they're called lessons," the Gryphon remarked, "because they lessen from day to day." (77)

This quote, which represents a larger theme that Carroll evokes throughout, demonstrates the absurdity of language that is displayed in the story. Many times, Alice is confused about the word choice that characters implement when speaking with her, and is often confused about the meaning. In the above quote, the word "lesson" is used to express two separate ideas, which is part of confusion that children feel when faced with circumstances they don't altogether understand. Creating situations where words are misconstrued is one tactic the author uses to place the reader in a world that doesn't always make sense.

‘Have some wine,’ the March Hare said in an encouraging tone.
Alice looked around the table, but there was nothing on it but tea. ‘I don’t see any wine,’ she remarked.
‘There isn’t any,’ said the March Hare.
‘Then it wasn’t very civil of you to offer it,’ said Alice angrily. (54)

This exchange between Alice and the March Hare at the Mad Tea Party represents the confusion and bewilderment of Wonderland. Alice becomes especially confused in Wonderland because she is an outsider who grew up in a world with order and behavioral expectations. She frequently becomes insulted by the whimsical, unpredictable characters within Wonderland because their manners and actions aren’t in line with the way she was raised, and so she questions and reprimands them.

'And what is the use of a book without pictures or conversations?' (9)

Both pictures and conversational text was prevalent throughout the novel. Therefore, this quotes really speaks to Carroll's character and and sense of humor and confidence.

'If everybody minded their own business,’ the Duchess said, in a hoarse growl, ‘the world would go round a good deal faster than it does.’
‘Which would not be an advantage’, said Alice, who felt very glad to get an opportunity of showing off a little of her knowledge. ‘Just think what it would make with the day and night! You see the earth takes twenty-four hours to turn on its axis’ (48)

In this conversation Alice is speaking with the Duchess. Throughout the book as Alice encounters that which doesn’t make sense she tries to regain a sense of normalcy by relating surrounding events to her school lessons. We see a perfect example of that in this passage, and the effect is to highlight the rift between the always logical Victorian society and the inanity of Wonderland.

‘And yet what a dear little puppy it was!’ said Alice, as she leant against a buttercup to rest herself, and fanned herself with one of the leaves. ‘I should have liked teaching it tricks very much, if – if I’d only been the right size to do it! Oh dear! I’d nearly forgotten that I’ve got to grow up again!’ (33)

In this scene, Alice has been shrunken to a very small size and must figure out how to become her normal size again. Rather than exclaiming “I’ve got to grow taller again!” Carroll uses the term “Oh dear! I’d nearly forgotten that I’ve got to grow up again!” on purpose. Alice struggles with her age and maturity throughout the entire novel. She tries to act like an adult at times, but other times she finds herself engaging in child-like activities, such as admiring an adorable puppy. This passage represents her internal struggle over growing up and maturing out of childhood.

'A likely story indeed!’ said the Pigeon, in a tone of deepest contempt. ‘I’ve seen a good many little girls in my time, but never one with such a neck as that! No, no! You’re a serpent; and there’s no use denying it. I suppose you’ll be telling me next that you never tasted an egg!' (43)

Here we see Alice (who at this time has an overly long neck) conversing with a Pigeon who mistakes her for a serpent. Identity and how to define things plays a large role in the book, and here Carroll is poking fun at the idea of defining things based on their characteristics, since doing so would cause once to classify a girl as a serpent (since both have long necks and eat eggs).

'The Queen turned crimson with fury, and, after glaring at her for a moment like a wild beast, began screaming 'Off with her head!' (64)

Seen as a tyrant and a very abrasive woman, the Queen of Hearts continually shouts her famous line throughout the book. The characterization of the Queen is perhaps a statement about the unfavorable way women were viewed in Victorian society. There is much irony in the Queen's constant threat because no one is ever actually beheaded; the intimidation that the threat brings adds to the nonsensical nature of Wonderland.

'But then shall I never get any older than I am now? That'll be a comfort, one way-never to be an old woman-but then-always to have lessons to learn! Oh, I shouldn't like that!' (33)

The idea of aging is consistent throughout the novel; particularly within female characters such as the Red Queen and Alice. The popular, in Victorian England,was that a woman was fairly useless past her childbearing years. This stereotype was later challenged by American author Eliza Farnham who created the concept of the "Postmaternal Woman" and the "Third Life" which gave power to women in their later life (Gullette).

'To begin with,’ said the Cat, ‘a dog’s not mad. You grant that?’
‘I suppose so,’ said Alice.
‘Well then,’ the Cat went on, ‘you see a dog growls when it’s angry, and wags its tail when it’s pleased. Now I growl when I’m pleased and wag my tail when I’m angry. Therefore I’m mad.' (51)

Here Carroll presents an argument in a commonly used but flawed form called “denying the antecedent” The argument follows the form if A then B, not A, therefore not B ( In this case A=acts like a dog, and B= is sane. The Cat’s use of this flawed method of argument and it’s acceptance demonstrate the acceptance of the logically flawed as truth in Wonderland.

'You should learn not to make personal remarks,’ Alice said with some severity: “it’s very rude’ (55)

While in Wonderland Alice has essentially been forced to through a reversal of character. In her home she is the illogical, unprincipled, child in need of instruction, but in Wonderland all of the adults behave in a juvenile fashion. Alice takes responsibility upon herself to take a parental role in their moral instruction, but due to the fact that she is still a child often contradicts herself. This passage demonstrates the effect that such a strict authoritarian upbringing would have on Victorian children.

♣ ♦ ♥ ♠ Media & Culture ♣ ♦ ♥ ♠


Alice in Wonderland (1951)
Disney’s animated movie version of Alice in Wonderland. This film presents a very colorful, whimsical adaptation of the novel as it follows Alice through her travels and escapades in Wonderland.

The Care Bears Adventure in Wonderland (1987)
This animated movie was inspired by and makes references to Alice in Wonderland.

Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988)
Alice is revealed as "Allyson Wonderland" on bathroom wall graffiti in “Toontown.”

Něco z Alenky (1988)
Translated into English, the title means “Alice.” In this version, Czech surrealist Jan Švankmajer, directs an out of the ordinary adaptation of Alice in Wonderland.

Alice in Wonderland (2010)
This version was directed by Tim Burton. It follows a 19 year old Alice as she attends a party where she is proposed to in front of hundreds of pretentious attendees. She then strays from the party, in order to follow the White Rabbit into Wonderland. Burton's adaptation is a less playful and upbeat interpretation of the novel, as compared to the 1951 Disney film. It combines characters and plotlines from both Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll.

For a look at the original 1951 film, click here .

For a look at Tim Burton's 2010 film, click here..


Alice (2009)
A miniseries intended to be set 150 years after Alice’s original adventure in Alice in Wonderland. Alice is portrayed as a brunette in this modern adaptation.

This is Wonderland (2004 – 2006)
A Canadian TV show with a comedic plotline revolving around legal drama. The main character, Alice De Raey, encounters unique characters based on those in Carroll's novels.

Big Brother (Season 8)
A reality show where contestants are forced to live with one another and compete. The decoration of each room in the house was inspired by Alice’s shrinking and growing body in the beginning of Alice in Wonderland.

Computer Games:

Alice (1990)
This game is more like an interactive novel, where you use the computer mouse to click and guide you through the story.

American McGee's Alice (2000)
Alice is an older brunette plagued by the death of her parents. She was orphaned when her parents were trapped in a fire that was set off by her pet cat. All the characters are based off those in Carroll’s novels, however, possess very different identities. For example, the Duchess is portrayed as a cannibal in this computer game.

Other Books:

Lost Girls (2006)
A novel by Alan Moore that follows the adventures of three well known fictional characters. It incorporates Alice (from Alice in Wonderland), Dorothy Gale (from The Wizard of Oz), and Wendy Darling (from the Disney movie Peter Pan) into one sexually overt novel. Set in 1913, the three adult women meet and begin to share their sexual experiences with one another.

The Looking Glass Wars (2006)
This novel was written by Frank Beddor about a girl named Alyss Heart. This book claims to be the true story of Wonderland (as opposed to Carroll’s other two Alice novels). Many of the characters in the novel are inspired by Alice in Wonderland, but their personalities and roles within the story are much different than Lewis Carroll’s version.


“White Rabbit” by Jefferson Airplane (1967)
The song mentions various characters from Alice in Wonderland including the Red Queen, Alice, and the Caterpillar. The lyrics were influenced by psychedelic drugs and their effects on the brain.

“Alice” by Stevie Nicks (1989)
The song lyrics mention Alice and other characters from the novel.

"What You Waiting For?" by Gwen Stefani (2004)
The music video was inspired by characters from Alice in Wonderland in which Stefani portrays throughout.

"Down in a Rabbit Hole" by Bright Eyes (2005)
This song shares its title with chapter one of Alice in Wonderland. The lyrics to this song were also inspired by the effects of drugs.

“Goodbye Alice in Wonderland” by Jewel (2006)
The title of her single (which is also the title of her 2006 album) is a reference to Lewis Carroll’s novel.

"Mad as Rabbits" by Panic at the Disco (2008)
The song is inspired by Alice in Wonderland.

"Down the Rabbit Hole" by Adam Lambert (2009)
This song also shares its title with chapter one of Alice in Wonderland and was inspired by the novel.

Science and Medicine:

Alice in Wonderland Syndrome (AIWS) is a neurological condition affecting human perception. People who suffer from AIWS, also known as Todd's Syndrome, experience extreme changes in their perception of objects; the most dominant symptom is an altered body image. A person will see the sizes and shapes of parts or all of their body in a distorted way. Though a person's eyes appear normal, they see themselves and other objects look larger or smaller than they should be. They also perceive distance in a distorted way; the ground may appear closer than it really is, or a hallway may appear to be very long and narrow. Some people may experience more intense hallucinations by seeing things that are not really there and becoming confused in events and situations they are placed in. AIWS is a temporary condition and is often associated with migraines, brain tumors, and psychoactive drugs.


Lewis Carroll's novel has inspired many works of art in various forms since its release.

*In 1865, an English illustrator named Sir John Tenniel created the first drawings that accompanied Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass. The success of Carroll's novels solidified Tenniel's status as an artist. Many of Tenniel's drawings are featured in our Image Gallery.

*In 1956, the Australian painter Charles Blackman created a series of 46 prints over the course of a year which tell the story of Alice during her time in Wonderland.

*In 1969, Salvador Dali painted a series of 12 prints based on Alice in Wonderland.

*In Central Park in New York City there is a bronze statue of characters from Carroll's novel. Sculpted by Jose De Creeft, the statue depicts Alice playing with the March Hare, Mad Hatter, Dormouse, and the Cheshire Cat.

♣ ♦ ♥ ♠ Portrait ♣ ♦ ♥ ♠

♣ ♦ ♥ ♠ Biography ♣ ♦ ♥ ♠

Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, better known as to us as Lewis Carroll, was born January 27, 1832 in Daresbry, which is a part of Cheshire, England. Charles was an author, mathematician, logician, Anglican deacon and a photographer. The pseudonym Lewis Carroll was so that Charles could continue his separate life of publishing his mathematical findings at Charles."His pseudonym was a play on his real name; Lewis was the anglicized form of Ludovicus, which was the Latin for Lutwidge, and Carroll an Irish surname similar to the Latin name Carolus, from which the name Charles comes" (Merriman).  Charles went to Christ Church College, in Oxford, where after graduation he stayed on as a teacher. While teaching, that is when he also became ordained as a deacon, although he rarely preached.  Later, Charles began his photography career. One of his favorite subjects was a young girl by the name of Alice Liddell, who later became his inspiration for the title character in his book, Alice in Wonderland. Between 1880 and 1881 Charles stopped his photography and public speaking to focus on writing. Charles most famous writings are Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland, the sequel Trough the Looking-Glass  and the poems, “Jabberwocky” and “The Hunting of the Snark”.  Charles died January 14, 1898 of a case of phenomena that was developed after a bad case of the flu. He lead a very private life while alive, and it was not until after his death that many of his personal journals became public.

♣ ♦ ♥ ♠ Lewis Carrol Society ♣ ♦ ♥ ♠

The Lewis Carroll Society was founded in 1969 for people to learn about and research the life of Lewis Carroll and his works. LCS is a charity based society, and is run competely by volunteers. The charity encourages the benefits of education while still remaining loyal to the first function of Lewis Carroll's work, entertainment. The webpage can be found here, and there is much more information on there about Charles Dodgson's life. The website is filled with information on how to join, what it costs, and also treasures like the journals of Lewis Carroll that were not published until after his death.

♣ ♦ ♥ ♠ Resources and Links ♣ ♦ ♥ ♠

Carroll, Lewis, John Tenniel, Martin Gardner, and Lewis Carroll. The Annotated Alice: Alice's Adventures in Wonderland & Through the Looking-glass. New York: Norton, 2000. Print.

Gullette, Margaret M. "Inventing the "Postmaternal" Woman, 1898-1927: Idle, Unwanted, and out of a Job." Feminist Studies 21.2 (1995): 221-53. JSTOR. Web. 12 Apr. 2010. <>.

Merriman, C. D. "Lewis Carroll - Biography and Works." The Literature Network: Online Classic Literature, Poems, and Quotes. Essays & Summaries. Jalic Inc. Copyright Jalic Inc, 2007. Web. 10 Apr. 2010. <>.

"Alice's Adventures in Wonderland" Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. 10 May 2010. 9 Mar. 2010. <>.

"As Mad as a Hatter." The Meanings and Origins of Sayings and Phrases. Web. 9 May 2010. <>.

"John Tenniel" Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. 10 May 2010. 7 May 2010. <>.

"Logic: Denying the Antecedent, David Henderson | EconLog | Library of Economics and Liberty." EconLog | Library of Economics and Liberty. Web. 11 May 2010. <>.

All photos courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

♣ ♦ ♥ ♠ Character List ♣ ♦ ♥ ♠

Alice: The protagonist of the story. This character is based on Alice Liddell, a young girl that Carroll spent time with and told stories to. She represents childish innocence and curiosity, and can be seen as a representation of a typical Victorian child.

The White Rabbit: Alice follows the White Rabbit down the rabbit hole and into Wonderland when she sees him checking his watch and exclaiming that he is running late. While in Wonderland Alice basically destroys his house. The White Rabbit also presents evidence at the trial of the stolen tarts, and seems to work for the King and Queen.

The Mouse, Duck, Dodo, Eaglet, and Lory: The first creatures Alice encounters in Wonderland, she offends them all by talking about her cat's predatory nature.

Dinah: Alice's cat. Alice often brings Dinah up while in Wonderland, and there is rarely a positive reaction. The constant references to Dinah display Alice's ignorance of the etiquette of Wonderland.

Bill the Lizard: A working class character, Bill is charged with the task of getting Alice out of the White Rabbit's house before being unceremoniously kicked by Alice.

The Caterpillar: Alice meets this character in the forest where he is smoking on top of a mushroom. He is very condescending, but eventually helps Alice get back to the right size. He also questions Alice about her identity, which becomes a repeated motif throughout the novel.

The Duchess: Abandons her baby (who she doesn't seem to treat very well) with Alice before heading off to a croquet match with the Queen. Later we find out that the Queen has ordered her to be beheaded. The Duchess is a good example of the role-reversal that takes place in Wonderland. She seems childish and immature, whereas, in Victorian culture, such a character would be proper and austere.

The Cheshire Cat: Appears and disappears at will, and often speaks in riddles. Is the first to suggest to Alice that she (along with everyone else in Wonderland) is "mad". Despite his insistence that he is mad, he is actually the most helpful in explaining the nature of Wonderland.

The Mad Hatter: This characters name originates from the phrase "mad as a hatter", which came into being because hat makers commonly used mercury in their production of hats, and this chemical had an adverse effect on their nervous system ( Alice meets him at the tea party. He is one of the more nonsensical characters.

The Queen of Hearts: A fiery, seemingly tyrannical ruler, she hosts the croquet match, but ends up ordering most of the participants to be beheaded (although she never follows through with this sentence). Similar to the Duchess, this character displays the childish nature of the authority figures in Wonderland.

The King of Hearts: The level-headed husband of the Queen. He presides over the trial of the stolen tarts.

The Gryphon: This character escorts Alice to see the Mock Turtle and is present for the Wonderland "lessons"

Mock Turtle: The embodiment of education in Wonderland. His lessons parody the lesson that Alice Liddell would have received in real life. Most of the poems and lessons he gives are actually based on real poems and concepts that would have been taught in typical Victorian schooling.  

♣ ♦ ♥ ♠ Alice Liddell ♣ ♦ ♥ ♠

Although a fictional novel, the character Alice was based on one of the three daughters of a colleague of Carroll's at Oxford (Carroll was originally a Professor of Mathematics at Oxford). Alice Pleasance Liddell was the daughter of former head of Oxford, Dr. Henry Liddell. Carroll's story was originally told to Alice and her sisters while on a boat trip with Carroll during the summer months.

That Christmas, Carroll presented the story to Alice in book form titled A Christmas Gift to a Dear Child in Memory of a Summer Day. The novel was then published in 1865 with illustrations by Sir John Tenniel under the current title.

Upon the close of Through the Looking Glass, Carroll inserted a poem:

A boat, beneath a sunny sky
L ingering onward dreamily
I n an evening of July-

C hildren three that nestle near,
E ager eye and willing ear,
P leased a simple tale to hear-

L ong has paled that sunny sky:
E choes fade and memories die:
A utumn frosts have slain July.

S till she haunts me, phantomwise,
A lice moving under skies
N ever seen by waking eyes.

C hildren yet, the tale to hear,
E ager eye and willing ear,
L ovingly shall nestle near.

I n a Wonderland they lie,
D reaming as the days go by,
D reaming as the summers die:

E ver drifting down the stream-
L ingering in the golden gleam-
L ife, what is it but a dream?'

The poem, composed by Carroll, mentions the day together in which the story was originally told. Surpassed by many readers, the first letter of each stanza spells the real Alice's full name.

♣ ♦ ♥ ♠ Image Gallery ♣ ♦ ♥ ♠

(Click images for captions)