Alice in Wonderland
Lewis Carroll
Contributed by Sharon Fleming
Chapter 4

While searching for his missing gloves and fan, the White Rabbit approaches Alice and asks for her help. Confusing Alice for his housemaid, the White Rabbit orders Alice to go to his home to find his missing items. As Alice goes looking for the White Rabbit’s house, she feels perturbed by the fact that she is following an animal’s orders. She thinks that her cat — Dinah — may also start sending her on errands when she returns home. When Alice arrives at the White Rabbit’s house, she finds the missing items and happens upon a bottle labeled “DRINK ME.” She does not hesitate to gulp down its contents, which promptly make her grow so large that her limbs protrude from the house.

Upon noticing her rapid growth, thoughts race through Alice’s head. She believes she might have just grown up and achieved her peak height. When the White Rabbit arrives, Alice is still lost in her thoughts. Although the White Rabbit attempts to enter the house, he is denied access because Alice’s arm has blocked the entry. When the White Rabbit attempts to get into the house through a window, Alice's giant hand forces him away. He then calls for his servant, Pat, to help him devise strategies to remove Alice from the house. They fail and enlist another servant, a lizard named Bill, to assist them. Bill attempts to enter the house through the chimney, but Alice kicks him away. At this point, a crowd of animals forms around the house, calling for it to be burned down. When Alice responds by threatening to sic Dinah on the animals, they throw stones at her. However, instead of hurting Alice, the stones transform into cakes, which she eats. The cakes make Alice shrink to her normal size. She manages to exit the White Rabbit’s house and flee from the angry mob of animals surrounding it.

Once she escapes into a forest, Alice thinks about how she can get into the beautiful garden she saw after first arriving in Wonderland. She wonders what she can eat or drink to change her size so she can fit through the door. Then Alice encounters a huge mushroom, whereupon she finds a Caterpillar smoking hookah.


When the White Rabbit orders Alice to go to his house to find the missing items, Alice feels disturbed. She is forced to rethink her perception of humans as the top of the animal kingdom, a belief she developed in her life outside of Wonderland. However, as Alice realizes, human dominance and clear laws of order and reason do not apply to Wonderland, where madness reigns. “When I used to read fairy tales,” she says, “I fancied that kind of thing never happened, and now here I am in the middle of one!” Alice wonders if Dinah, her cat, will start telling her what to do when she returns home. The topsy-turvy nature of life in Wonderland makes it difficult for Alice to decipher fiction from reality. Everything she knows to be true of human-animal relationships does not apply to Wonderland, and she must adapt to thrive there. 

Aside from her trouble acclimating to Wonderland, Alice continues to struggle with an identity crisis. Her constant bodily changes leave her feeling confused and uncomfortable. She does not know how to control her body’s rapid growth. Alice’s ever-changing size suggests she is transitioning from childhood to adulthood, from reality to Wonderland, and from boredom to adventure. Although she appreciates her growth spurt, she realizes there is little she can do to alter it because external forces beyond her control create it. As she grows and becomes used to Wonderland, her thoughts become more mature. She demonstrates an emerging ability to adapt to her circumstances.

When Alice meets the puppy, it is the only creature in Wonderland that behaves according to her expectations. The puppy reminds Alice of her normal life outside of Wonderland, and its appearance comforts her. Amid the madness, Alice finds an element of normality. However, some literary scholars interpret the puppy’s appearance as Carroll’s expression of a deep disdain for dogs. They argue Carroll deprives the dog of supernatural qualities because it, unlike the other animals, does not deserve them. Since it has no place in Wonderland, the dog acts exactly as Alice would expect in her normal life.

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