Alice in Wonderland
Lewis Carroll
Contributed by Sharon Fleming
Chapter 7

Alice comes face to face with the March Hare and Mad Hatter. A table has been set under a tree, and both the March Hare and Mad Hatter are in festive moods. They drink tea while their associate, the Dormouse, sleeps at the table. Despite being told that there is no space for her at the table, Alice nonetheless sits down at it. The March Hare offers Alice some wine, but there is none. Alice reprimands the March Hare for his incivility. In part rebuttal and part self-defense, the March Hare informs Alice that she too is uncivil to sit down without an invitation.

Soon, the Mad Hatter joins the conversation by informing Alice that she needs a haircut. When Alice scolds the Mad Hatter for his rudeness, he responds with a riddle. He asks her, “Why is a raven like a writing desk?” Alice’s answer instigates a long argument over semantics. When it ends, they sit in silence until the Mad Hatter asks the March Hare for the time. When he realizes the March Hare’s watch is broken, the Mad Hatter gets angry. He blames the March Hare for breaking the watch while spreading butter on bread. In retaliation, the March Hare dips the watch into his tea, saying, “It was the best butter.”

When Alice realizes that the Mad Hatter does not know the answers to his own riddle, she cautions him against telling them, saying that he is wasting “time.” The Mad Hatter responds that “Time” is a “he,” not an “it.” He adds that since “Time” has remained fixed at six o’clock — tea time — the tea party never ends. The March Hare finds this discussion boring and decides to wake up the Dormouse for a different story. In his story, the Dormouse describes three sisters who live in a treacle-well. During the Dormouse’s story, Alice becomes confused and interrupts several times for clarification. Disgusted by Alice's persistent questioning, the Mad Hatter insults her, and she leaves the tea party. As she goes, she looks back at the Mad Hatter and March Hare, noticing them stuff the Dormouse into a teapot.

When Alice ventures back into the forest, she notices a tree with a door on its side. She goes through the door and finds herself back in the hall she landed in when she fell down the rabbit hole. Alice eats the part of the mushroom that makes her grow large enough to take the key from the table. Then she eats the part of the mushroom that reduces her size enough to fit through the door to the beautiful garden.


Alice’s encounter with the Mad Hatter and March Hare leaves an impression on her. First, Alice realizes that they refer to “Time” as a living, sentient being. Although Alice has known, for some time, that Wonderland adheres to social principles that differ from her home, the personification of time startles her. She reacts with surprise and confusion when she learns that the Mad Hatter and March Hare are serving Time’s punishment of being trapped at six o’clock. The incident reinforces the notion that Alice must adjust her perceptions of everything — including something as apparently straightforward as time — in Wonderland.

Moreover, the Mad Hatter’s answerless riddle emphasizes the confusion and disorder of Wonderland. It is no surprise, then, that Alice often responds with annoyance. Yet, ironically, although chaos appears the law of the land, some sense of order remains. At the table, the three animals tell Alice that saying what she means and meaning what she says are entirely different concepts. To continue their tedious semantic argument, Alice says that it is not possible for her to drink “more” tea since she has not had any in the first place. To this, the Mad Hatter responds that “it is always easy to take more than nothing.” Although the Mad Hatter and March Hare’s language games frustrate Alice and ultimately drive her away, they seem appropriate for Wonderland, a place where confusion reigns.

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