Alice in Wonderland
Lewis Carroll
Contributed by Sharon Fleming

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Chapter 12
Summary

After the White Rabbit calls Alice forward, she rushes to the witness stand, forgetting she has grown. As a result, she knocks over the jurors and frantically places them back on their benches. Once settled, Alice says that she does not know anything about the Queen’s tarts. The King explains that the Queen’s tarts were very important to her before invoking Rule 42, which orders for “all persons more than a mile high to leave the court.” Upon hearing this rule, everyone turns to Alice, who denies being a mile tall. She goes on to accuse the King of making up rules, but he contradicts her, saying Rule 42 is the oldest in the book. Alice counters him, arguing that the oldest rule in the book should be Rule 1, not Rule 42.

After a brief pause, the King calls for the verdict. The White Rabbit interjects with his belief that there is no sufficient evidence for a conviction. He goes on to say that additional witnesses should take the stand. In response, the King presents an incriminating letter that the Knave supposedly wrote, although it does not resemble his handwriting. The Knave denounces the letter because it lacks a signature, but the King retorts that the Knave might have deliberately avoided signing it so he could discredit it in court. The King’s argument persuades the court, and the Queen says the letter provides sufficient evidence for conviction. Before the court can proceed, Alice demands to read the poem in the letter. The poem does not make any sense, but the King calls for a verdict anyway. Then the Queen demands a sentence before the verdict. Alice criticizes her decision and rebukes the Queen, who responds by ordering for Alice’s execution. However, at this point Alice has grown so large that she bats away the cards that fly at her in all directions.

Suddenly, Alice wakes up to find her head resting on her sister’s lap. She recounts her experiences in Wonderland to her sister before going inside for tea. Her sister ponders Alice’s story, imagining the characters involved.

Analysis

This chapter’s title refers to two instances of evidence: the first Alice provides during the trial, and the second she shares with her sister after waking up. Alice’s experience in Wonderland’s court convinces her that everything therein is a fallacy and an illusion. For example, she realizes the jurors’ records are unimportant because they do not contribute to justice or progress. At this point, Alice demonstrates perfect awareness of her surroundings. She knows Wonderland is a place of deception and trickery. As a result, she expresses her understanding by describing Wonderland as “a pack of cards.”       

Once Alice has this realization, she leaves Wonderland forever. She wakes up on the riverbank, back in her normal life devoid of Wonderland’s intrigue. Yet, her normal life is also devoid of Wonderland’s ridiculousness, randomness, and meaninglessness. Alice no longer must make sense of her environment because she knows it and knows, more important, that it conforms to order and reason. Ultimately, Alice’s experience in Wonderland is worthwhile as a journey. It inspires within her some maturity and sophistication. Although Alice attempts to share her experiences with her sister, she does not understand them as Alice does. Wonderland exists for Alice alone.

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