Alice in Wonderland
Lewis Carroll

by contributor

Sharon Fleming

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Plot Summary
Summary

While sitting on a riverbank with her sister on a bright summer day, Alice struggles to read a dull and uninspiring book. She gets drowsy and loses the ability to see her surroundings clearly. Amid her drowsiness, Alice sees a White Rabbit wearing a waistcoat. She watches as the rabbit pulls out a pocket watch, laments his lateness, and dashes into a nearby hole.

Her curiosity piqued, Alice follows the rabbit and slides into the hole. Therein, she finds a hallway lined with doors. On a nearby table, Alice finds a key with which she opens one of the doors. Behind it, she sees a beautiful and inviting garden. However, Alice cannot go through the door because she cannot fit, and she starts to cry. Just then, Alice notices a bottle lying next to her, labeled with the words “DRINK ME.” She does not hesitate to obey and drinks the liquid.

After drinking from the bottle, Alice shrinks to a small enough size to slide through the door. However, there is a problem: She left the keys to the door on a shelf far above her new height. Just then, Alice notices a cake, labeled with the words “EAT ME.” Again, Alice does not hesitate and eats the cake, which causes her to grow too tall to fit through the door.

Again, Alice sees the alluring garden and cries at her inability to enter it. As she cries, Alice’s tears fall out of her in a giant size, forming a pool at her feet. After a while, Alice starts walking on a sea formed from her tears and encounters a Mouse, who walks with Alice to the banks of the sea, where they meet a group of animals. Alice involuntarily scares away the animals by telling them about her feisty cat, Dinah. Then Alice finds herself alone and lonely yet again.

Suddenly, the White Rabbit reappears before Alice, whom he confuses for one of his servants. He bids her to go to his house to complete a chore. As she sits on a chair therein, she continues to eat and drink with impunity. However, this time there are no “DRINK ME” or “EAT ME” labels to guide her. Alice finds an unmarked bottle and downs its contents. The liquid within it causes Alice to grow so much that she becomes the size of a room. When the White Rabbit sees her, he attempts to remove her from the house with help from his servants. However, Alice easily manhandles them and drives them away. Together with his servants, the White Rabbit develops a new strategy to remove Alice: They throw rocks at her. However, the rocks transform into cakes, which Alice enjoys eating before they cause her to shrink again.

While in the forest, Alice meets a Caterpillar sitting on a mushroom and smoking hookah. Alice starts speaking to the Caterpillar, and it is not long before they get into a heated argument. The Caterpillar tells Alice that she can eat different parts of the mushroom to grow or shrink. When Alice eats one section of the mushroom, her neck grows so tall that it rises above the trees. When a Pigeon sees her neck, it mistakes her for a serpent preying upon its eggs and attacks her. Then Alice eats another piece of mushroom that returns her neck to a normal size.

Thereafter, while walking through the wilderness, Alice arrives at the Duchess’s house. She enters the house to find a bevy of activities taking place. The Duchess nurses a baby. Alice sees the grinning Cheshire Cat. On the other end of the room, a Cook prepares soup with too much pepper, causing Alice, the Duchess, and the baby to sneeze. Then the Duchess gives Alice the baby, announcing her departure to organize a croquet game with the Queen of Hearts. The baby shocks Alice by turning into a pig, which Alice drops and leaves behind as she reenters the forest. In the forest, Alice encounters the Cheshire Chat, who describes Wonderland. According to the Cheshire Cat, Wonderland is a place wherein everyone is mad, including Alice. After the Cheshire Cat gives Alice directions to the March Hare’s residence, he disappears, leaving his grin behind.

Alice ventures to the house, where she arrives to find the March Hare, Dormouse, and the Mad Hatter having tea. The three animals treat Alice rudely. Since she has not been invited to their “mad” tea party, Alice stands and watches them. After a while, she learns the three animals are serving punishment from Time, which, for them, remains stuck at 6 p.m. Fed up with their lack of courtesy, Alice returns to the forest, where she finds a door hanging on its side. She walks through the door and finds herself back in the hall where her adventure began. To enter the door that separates her from the beautiful garden, Alice eats one mushroom to grow large enough to reach the door’s key, then another mushroom to shrink so she can fit through the doorway.

Upon entering the garden, Alice meets the Queen of Hearts alongside her gardeners. She joins the Queen for a strange game of croquet, played with mallets and balls in the forms of hedgehogs and flamingoes, on hilly ground. During the game, the Queen goes ballistic, and she calls for other players’ destruction, saying, “Off with his head!” Amid this confusion, Alice sees the Cheshire Cat and starts talking to him. In the middle of their conversation, the King of Hearts arrives, and the Cheshire Cat speaks to him impudently. In response, the Queen orders for the Cheshire Cat’s execution. However, the executioner cannot figure out how to kill the Cheshire Cat because all that remains of him is a head floating in midair.

Alice goes on to have another encounter with the Duchess, who wants to befriend her. However, her offer of friendship makes Alice uneasy. Then the Queen of Hearts appears and drives the Duchess away before telling Alice she should visit the Mock Turtle and listen to his story. To meet the Mock Turtle, the Queen introduces Alice to the Gryphon, who escorts her to him. When Alice meets the Mock Turtle, the Gryphon interrupts his story about being a real turtle so they can play a game.  

Back at the croquet grounds, the King of Hearts leads trial proceedings against the Knave of Hearts, who is accused of stealing tarts that belong to the Queen of Hearts. Witnesses offer testimonies. The Queen’s Cook and the Mad Hatter present nonsensical evidence against the Knave. Then the White Rabbit invites Alice to testify, but the King discontinues his line of questioning. Thereafter, the White Rabbit produces a letter that the Knave allegedly wrote. However, the letter is a poem with no connection to the case. Eager to find the Knave guilty, the King misinterprets the poem as the Knave’s admission of guilt. Alice, noticing this injustice, protests the King’s interpretation of the poem. Alice's protest irks the Queen, who orders for her beheading. However, Alice randomly grows big and dismantles the Queen's army.

Suddenly, Alice awakens and finds herself slumped on her sister’s lap, back at the riverbank. After she finishes telling her sister about her dream, Alice leaves to get tea. The novel ends with her sister pondering Alice’s adventures in Wonderland.

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