Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland Summary

Lewis Carroll

Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland

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Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland Summary

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While lounging along a river with her sister one afternoon, Alice sees and chases a white rabbit, following it down a rabbit hole until she falls into an inexplicable hall with locked doors of all sorts of sizes. She drinks from a bottle labeled “Drink Me,” which causes her to shrink to a tiny size. Alice then eats a cake labeled “Eat Me,” and begins to get larger—so large she hits her head on the ceiling, causing her to cry.

She begins shrinking again, and has to swim through her tears. She meets a mouse, and together they make it to a shoreline. Looking for a way to dry off, the mouse discusses William the Conqueror while a Dodo suggests running in a circle. Alice accidentally chases all the animals away.

The White Rabbit arrives, looking for the Duchess’s fan and gloves. He orders Alice to go to the house for them, thinking she’s a servant. When Alice enters the house she begins growing. Animals from outside stare at her arm as it pokes out of the house, and they throw stones at Alice. The stones turn into cake, and when she eats them, she shrinks again.

While walking, Alice meets a Caterpillar sitting on a mushroom and smoking a hookah. Alice explains she’s having an identity crisis. The Caterpillar tells Alice that one side of the mushroom will make her grow, the other shrink, so she breaks off some from each side. It takes some experimentation, but she uses the mushroom to reach an acceptable height as she reaches the grounds of a small estate.

Alice watches as a Fish-Footman delivers an invitation to the Duchess’s house to a Frog-Footman, and eventually makes her way into the house. There she finds the Cook throwing dishes and pepper, which makes Alice and some others sneeze powerfully. The Duchess hands a baby to Alice, though upon closer inspection, Alice finds that the baby is a pig. The Cheshire Cat appears to Alice, up in a tree, and he directs her to the March Hare’s house. The Cat then disappears, leaving behind only his floating smile.

Alice joins a tea party with the March Hare, the Mad Hatter, and a Dormouse who’s always falling asleep. They exchange many stories and riddles, including “why is a raven like a writing desk?” Alice leaves, exhausted and angered by the questions and chaos.

Alice heads to a garden, where she meets three large living playing cards. More cards enter the garden, the White Rabbit, and finally the King and Queen. Whenever the Queen is displeased—which is often, very often—she shouts “Off with their head!” Alice joins a game of croquet, which becomes chaotic very quickly. The Queen orders the Cheshire Cat’s beheading, but the executioner explains it’s impossible. The Duchess, who had been in prison, is released and brought to the croquet grounds.

The Queen threatens Alice again, and sends her away with the Gryphon, who introduces her to the Mock Turtle. The three of them talk and dance and play a game, until the Gryphon spirits Alice away for an upcoming trial.

The trial it for the Knave of Hearts, who’s been accused of stealing the Queen’s tarts. The jury is composed of animals. During the trial, Alice begins to grow larger. When Alice is called to testify, she knocks over the jury box. The Queen orders Alice to leave, but Alice refuses. The Queen orders the cards to attack Alice, but Alice is unafraid. As they move in on her, Alice’s sister wakes her, telling Alice it was all a dream.

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland is a mix of absurdity and social commentary. Many of the characters bear strong resemblance to important people of the time. Carroll himself appears as the Dodo, whose stutter matched his own, and Alice is probably named for and modeled after Alice Liddell, the young daughter of family friends of Carroll’s.

Eating and drinking appear throughout the book, and some critics have postulated that represents Alice’s desire to “consume” ideas and words.

The most-striking element of the book, beyond its absurdity, is the frequent clever word play. Carroll, who was in fact a mathematician named Charles Dodgson, was a master of rhyme and rhythm.

Though the book was not hugely successful at its time, it’s become widely regarded as a masterpiece of children’s literature, admired for its imaginative characters and ridiculous plot. The book has been adapted to a number of different genres and platforms, and a sequel, Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There, followed six years later.