'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 (econlog.econlib.org). 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.