Alice in Wonderland
Lewis Carroll
Contributed by Sharon Fleming
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Chapter 10

The Mock Turtle continues whining and sobbing as he talks with Alice. Amid his misery, he asks Alice if she has ever met a lobster. Remembering she once ate lobster, Alice considers saying “yes” to the Mock Turtle’s question but decides “no” is a safer response. The Mock Turtle and Gryphon explain that the Lobster-Quadrille is a dance in which all the sea creatures — except the jellyfish — gather the lobsters along the shore and throw them back into the water.

Sensing that Alice does not understand what they are talking about, the Mock Turtle and Gryphon demonstrate the dance, despite the notable absence of nearby lobsters. During the dance, the Mock Turtle sings about a whiting and a snail. When the dance ends, Alice asks about the whiting, careful to avoid mentioning her previous experience eating one. The Gryphon explains that Alice has a misconception about whiting. He states that whiting does not have a crumb, and it is named because it shines animals’ shoes. Alice mentions that, in the song, the porpoise steps on the whiting’s tail. Had she been in the dance, she says, she would have excluded the porpoise. In response, the Mock Turtle tells Alice fish go nowhere without a “porpoise,” a pun of the word “purpose.”

After all that, the Gryphon and Mock Turtle ask Alice to describe her experiences in Wonderland. Alice launches into various anecdotes, including her encounter with the Caterpillar. The Gryphon and Mock Turtle react with surprise upon hearing that Alice could not correctly recite the poem. They then order her to try again in front of them. When Alice recites random lines incorrectly, they do not react well. Displeased, the Mock Turtle demands Alice explain why she keeps ruining the poem. The Gryphon asks Alice to stop reciting the poem so that they can show her the Lobster-Quadrille dance again. However, a voice interrupts them by shouting, “the trial is beginning,” and the Gryphon takes Alice away.


The Mock Turtle and Gryphon initially appear to sympathize and get along with Alice. They occasionally use words such as “nonsense,” “confusing,” and “dreadful,” which makes Alice believe that they share her feelings about Wonderland. Although the Gryphon and Mock Turtle appear to see the world as Alice does, they struggle to grasp Alice’s lack of comprehension of Wonderland. As they continue to interact with her, they realize that they do not understand her after all. It is not long before Alice feels disconnected from them. The Gryphon’s detachment and the Mock Turtle’s sentimental, exaggerated sense of self prevent Alice from bonding with them.

In her previous interactions with other animals, Alice often expresses hostility. Her conversations with the Gryphon and Mock Turtle change this trend. Alice does not display as much antagonism, and she even seems to agree with them on some issues. This improvement indicates some progress in Alice’s understanding of Wonderland. Albeit not perfect, Alice’s interactions with the Gryphon and Mock Turtle suggest she has adapted to her environment. She has come a long way from her initial fall down the rabbit hole.

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