Charles Lutwidge Dodgson (27 January 1832 – 14 January 1898), better known by his pen name Lewis Carroll, was an English writer of children’s fiction, notably Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and its sequel Through the Looking-Glass. He was noted for his facility with word play, logic, and fantasy. The poems Jabberwocky and The Hunting of the Snark are classified in the genre of literary nonsense. He was also a mathematician, photographer, inventor and Anglican deacon.
Alice sits on a riverbank on a warm summer day, drowsily reading over her sister’s shoulder, when she catches sight of a White Rabbit in a waistcoat running by her. The White Rabbit pulls out a pocket watch, exclaims that he is late, and pops down a rabbit hole. Alice follows the White Rabbit down the hole and comes upon a great hallway lined with doors. She finds a small door that she opens using a key she discovers on a nearby table.
Through the door, she sees a beautiful garden, and Alice begins to cry when she realizes she cannot fit through the door. She finds a bottle marked “DRINK ME” and downs the contents. She shrinks down to the right size to enter the door but cannot enter since she has left the key on the tabletop above her head. Alice discovers a cake marked “EAT ME” which causes her to grow to an inordinately large height. Still unable to enter the garden, Alice begins to cry again, and her giant tears form a pool at her feet. As she cries, Alice shrinks and falls into the pool of tears. The pool of tears becomes a sea, and as she treads water she meets a Mouse. The Mouse accompanies Alice to shore, where a number of animals stand gathered on a bank. After a “Caucus Race,” Alice scares the animals away with tales of her cat, Dinah, and finds herself alone again.
Alice meets the White Rabbit again, who mistakes her for a servant and sends her off to fetch his things. While in the White Rabbit’s house, Alice drinks an unmarked bottle of liquid and grows to the size of the room. The White Rabbit returns to his house, fuming at the now-giant Alice, but she swats him and his servants away with her giant hand. The animals outside try to get her out of the house by throwing rocks at her, which inexplicably transform into cakes when they land in the house. Alice eats one of the cakes, which causes her to shrink to a small size.
She wanders off into the forest, where she meets a Caterpillar sitting on a mushroom and smoking a hookah (i.e., a water pipe). The Caterpillar and Alice get into an argument, but before the Caterpillar crawls away in disgust, he tells Alice that different parts of the mushroom will make her grow or shrink. Alice tastes a part of the mushroom, and her neck stretches above the trees. A pigeon sees her and attacks, deeming her a serpent hungry for pigeon eggs.
Alice eats another part of the mushroom and shrinks down to a normal height. She wanders until she comes across the house of the Duchess. She enters and finds the Duchess, who is nursing a squealing baby, as well as a grinning Cheshire Cat, and a Cook who tosses massive amounts of pepper into a cauldron of soup. The Duchess behaves rudely to Alice and then departs to prepare for a croquet game with the Queen. As she leaves, the Duchess hands Alice the baby, which Alice discovers is a pig. Alice lets the pig go and reenters the forest, where she meets the Cheshire Cat again. The Cheshire Cat explains to Alice that everyone in Wonderland is mad, including Alice herself. The Cheshire Cat gives directions to the March Hare’s house and fades away to nothing but a floating grin.
Alice travels to the March Hare’s house to find the March Hare, the Mad Hatter, and the Dormouse having tea together. Treated rudely by all three, Alice stands by the tea party, uninvited. She learns that they have wronged Time and are trapped in perpetual tea-time. After a final discourtesy, Alice leaves and journeys through the forest. She finds a tree with a door in its side, and travels through it to find herself back in the great hall. She takes the key and uses the mushroom to shrink down and enter the garden.
After saving several gardeners from the temper of the Queen of Hearts, Alice joins the Queen in a strange game of croquet. The croquet ground is hilly, the mallets and balls are live flamingos and hedgehogs, and the Queen tears about, frantically calling for the other player’s executions. Amidst this madness, Alice bumps into the Cheshire Cat again, who asks her how she is doing. The King of Hearts interrupts their conversation and attempts to bully the Cheshire Cat, who impudently dismisses the King. The King takes offense and arranges for the Cheshire Cat’s execution, but since the Cheshire Cat is now only a head floating in midair, no one can agree on how to behead it.
The Duchess approaches Alice and attempts to befriend her, but the Duchess makes Alice feel uneasy. The Queen of Hearts chases the Duchess off and tells Alice that she must visit the Mock Turtle to hear his story. The Queen of Hearts sends Alice with the Gryphon as her escort to meet the Mock Turtle. Alice shares her strange experiences with the Mock Turtle and the Gryphon, who listen sympathetically and comment on the strangeness of her adventures. After listening to the Mock Turtle’s story, they hear an announcement that a trial is about to begin, and the Gryphon brings Alice back to the croquet ground.
The Knave of Hearts stands trial for stealing the Queen’s tarts. The King of Hearts leads the proceedings, and various witnesses approach the stand to give evidence. The Mad Hatter and the Cook both give their testimony, but none of it makes any sense. The White Rabbit, acting as a herald, calls Alice to the witness stand. The King goes nowhere with his line of questioning, but takes encouragement when the White Rabbit provides new evidence in the form of a letter written by the Knave. The letter turns out to be a poem, which the King interprets as an admission of guilt on the part of the Knave. Alice believes the note to be nonsense and protests the King’s interpretation. The Queen becomes furious with Alice and orders her beheading, but Alice grows to a huge size and knocks over the Queen’s army of playing cards.
All of a sudden, Alice finds herself awake on her sister’s lap, back at the riverbank. She tells her sister about her dream and goes inside for tea as her sister ponders Alice’s adventures.
The seven-year-old protagonist of the story. Alice believes that the world is orderly and stable, and she has an insatiable curiosity about her surroundings. Wonderland challenges and frustrates her perceptions of the world.
The White Rabbit
The frantic, harried Wonderland creature that originally leads Alice to Wonderland. The White Rabbit is figure of some importance, but he is manic, timid, and occasionally aggressive.
The Queen of Hearts
The ruler of Wonderland. The Queen is severe and domineering, continually screaming for her subjects to be beheaded.
The King of Hearts
The co-ruler of Wonderland. The King is ineffectual and generally unlikeable, but lacks the Queen’s ruthlessness and undoes her orders of execution.
The Cheshire Cat
A perpetually grinning cat who appears and disappears at will. The Cheshire Cat displays a detached, clearheaded logic and explains Wonderland’s madness to Alice.
The Queen’s uncommonly ugly cousin. The Duchess behaves rudely to Alice at first, but later treats her so affectionately that her advances feel threatening.
A Wonderland creature. The Caterpillar sits on a mushroom, smokes a hookah, and treats Alice with contempt. He directs Alice to the magic mushroom that allows her to shrink and grow.
The Mad Hatter
A small, impolite hatter who lives in perpetual tea-time. The Mad Hatter enjoys frustrating Alice.
The March Hare
The Mad Hatter’s tea-time companion. The March Hare takes great pleasure in frustrating Alice.
The Mad Hatter and March Hare’s companion. The Dormouse sits at the tea table and drifts in and out of sleep.
A servant to the Queen who befriends Alice. The Gryphon escorts Alice to see the Mock Turtle.
The Mock Turtle
A turtle with the head of a calf. The Mock Turtle is friendly to Alice but is exceedingly sentimental and self-absorbed.
The Knave of Hearts
An attendant to the King and Queen. The Knave has been accused of stealing the Queen’s tarts.
The first Wonderland creature that Alice encounters. The Mouse is initially frightened of Alice and her talk about her pet cat, and eventually tells the story of Fury and the Mouse that foreshadows the Knave of Heart’s trial.
A Wonderland creature. The Dodo tends to use big words, and others accuse him of not knowing their meanings. He proposes that the animals participate in a Caucus race.
The Duck, the Lory, and the Eaglet
Wonderland creatures who participate in the Caucus race.
The Duchess’s cook, who causes everyone to sneeze with the amount of pepper she uses in her cooking. The Cook is ill-tempered, throwing objects at the Duchess and refusing to give evidence at the trial.
A Wonderland creature who believes Alice is a serpent. The pigeon is sulky and angry and thinks Alice is after her eggs.
Two, Five, and Seven
The playing-card gardeners. Two, Five, and Seven are fearful and fumbling, especially in the presence of the Queen.
A lizard who first appears as a servant of the White Rabbit and later as a juror at the trial. Bill is stupid and ineffectual.
The Duchess’s footman. The Frog-footman is stupid and accustomed to the fact that nothing makes sense in Wonderland.
The only character whom Alice interacts with outside of Wonderland. Alice’s sister daydreams about Alice’s adventures as the story closes.
“It was much pleasanter at home,” thought poor Alice, “when one wasn’t always growing larger and smaller, and being ordered about by mice and rabbits. I almost wish I hadn’t gone down that rabbit-hole—and yet—and yet—it’s rather curious, you know, this sort of life! I do wonder what can have happened to me!”
The Caterpillar was the first to speak.
“What size do you want to be?” it asked.
“Oh, I’m not particular as to size,” Alice hastily replied; “only one doesn’t like changing so often, you know.”
“I don’t know,” said the Caterpillar.
“Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?”
“That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,” said the Cat.
“I don’t much care where—” said Alice.
“Then it doesn’t matter which way you go,” said the Cat.
“—so long as I get somewhere,” Alice added as an explanation.
“Oh, you’re sure to do that,” said the Cat, “if you only walk long enough.”
“Well! I’ve often seen a cat without a grin,” thought Alice; “but a grin without a cat! It’s the most curious thing I ever saw in my life!”
Through the Looking-Glass
Alice sits in her armchair at home, drowsily watching her pet kitten, Kitty, as she unravels a ball of string. She snatches Kitty up and begins telling her about “Looking-Glass House,” an imaginary world on the other side of the mirror where everything is backward. Alice suddenly finds herself on the mantelpiece and steps through the mirror into Looking-Glass House. On the other side of the mirror, Alice discovers a room similar to her own but with several strange differences. The chessmen stand in the fireplace in pairs, oblivious to Alice’s presence. She comes to the aid of the White Queen’s daughter, Lily, but realizes that the chess pieces cannot see her. Alice becomes distracted by a book on the shelf, in which she reads a nonsensical poem entitled “Jabberwocky.” Frustrated by the strange poem, she sets off to explore the rest of the house.
Alice leaves the house and spots a beautiful garden in the distance, but every time she tries to follow the path to the garden she finds herself back at the door to the house. Confused, she wonders aloud how to get to the garden, and to her surprise a Tiger-lily responds. Other flowers join in the conversation, and several of them start to insult Alice. Alice learns from the flowers that the Red Queen is nearby, and Alice sets off to meet her. Alice meets the Red Queen, and the two engage in conversation, but the Red Queen constantly corrects Alice’s etiquette. Alice looks out over a field, sees a great game of chess in progress, and tells the Red Queen that she would like to join. The Red Queen tells Alice she can stand in as a White Pawn and marks a course for Alice, explaining that when she reaches the end of the game, Alice will become a Queen.
Alice inexplicably finds herself on a train with a Goat, a Beetle, and a man dressed in white paper. They each nag Alice until the train eventually lurches to a halt. Alice finds herself in a forest, conversing with a chicken sized Gnat, who tells her about the different insects of Looking-Glass World. After learning the names of the insects, Alice sets off again and discovers that she has forgotten the names of things, even her own name. She comes across a Fawn, who has also forgotten the names of things, and the two press on through the forest.
When Alice and the Fawn emerge from the forest, their memories of names come back, and the Fawn runs away in fear of Alice. Alice soldiers on alone until she meets Tweedledum and Tweedledee, an identical pair of heavyset men. The twins ignore Alice’s repeated requests for directions and recite a poem instead. Tweedledum and Tweedledee notice the Red King sleeping nearby and explain to Alice that she exists only as a figment of the Red King’s dream. Upset at first, Alice decides that the two of them speak nonsense. A fight spontaneously erupts between Tweedledum and Tweedledee over a broken rattle. A giant crow swoops down and interrupts the fight, sending Tweedledum and Tweedledee running.
Alice slips away and encounters the White Queen, who explains that time moves backward in Looking-Glass World. As they speak, the White Queen plasters her finger, then screams in pain, and finally pricks her finger on a brooch. After explaining to Alice that she used to practice the impossible daily, she transforms into a sheep in a shop. The Sheep asks a disoriented Alice what she would like to buy. Though the shop is full of curious things, Alice finds that she cannot fix her eye on any one thing. The Sheep asks Alice if she knows how to row. Before she knows it, Alice finds herself in a boat with the Sheep, rowing down a stream. The boat crashes into something and sends Alice tumbling to the ground. When she stands she finds herself back in the shop. She purchases an egg from the Sheep, who places the egg on a shelf. Alice reaches for the egg and finds herself back in the forest, where the egg has transformed into Humpty Dumpty.
Humpty Dumpty sits on a wall and criticizes Alice for having a name that doesn’t mean anything, explaining that all names should mean something. Humpty Dumpty treats Alice rudely, boasting that he can change the meanings of words at will. When Alice learns this, she asks Humpty Dumpty to explain the words of the nonsense poem “Jabberwocky” to her. He defines the words of the first stanza and then recites a portion of his own poem. He abruptly bids her goodbye, and Alice storms off, annoyed. All of a sudden, a loud crash shakes the forest and she watches soldiers and horsemen run by.
Alice comes across the White King, who explains to her that he has sent all of his horses and men, presumably to put the shattered Humpty Dumpty back together again. The King’s messenger Haigha approaches and informs them that the Lion and the Unicorn are doing battle in the town. Alice sets off with her new companions toward the town to watch the battle. They catch up with another of the King’s messengers, Hatta, who explains the events of the fight thus far. The Lion and Unicorn stop battling and the White King calls for refreshments to be served. The White King tells Alice to cut the cake, but she finds that every time she slices the cake the pieces fuse back together. The Unicorn instructs Alice that Looking-glass cakes must be passed around first before they are sliced. Alice distributes the cake, but before they begin eating, a great noise interrupts, and when Alice looks up, she finds herself alone again.
The Red Knight gallops up to Alice and takes her as a prisoner. The White Knight arrives at Alice’s side and vanquishes the Red Knight. Alice and the White Knight walk and talk together, and Alice finds a friend in the eccentric chessman. He promises to bring her safely to the last square where she will become a queen. As they walk, he tells her about all of his inventions before sending her off with a song. She crosses the final brook and finds herself sitting on the bank with a crown on her head.
Alice finds herself in the company of the Red Queen and the White Queen, who question her relentlessly before falling asleep in her lap. The sound of their snoring resembles music. The sound is so distracting that Alice doesn’t notice when the two queens disappear. Alice discovers a castle with a huge door marked “QUEEN ALICE.” Alice goes through the door and finds a huge banquet in her honor. She sits and begins eating, but the party quickly devolves into total chaos. Overwhelmed, Alice pulls away the tablecloth and grabs the Red Queen.
Alice wakes up from her dream to find herself holding Kitty. She wonders aloud whether or not her adventures where her own dream or the dream of the Red King.
The seven-and-a-half-year-old protagonist of the story. Alice’s dream leads to her adventures in Looking-Glass World. Alice has set perceptions of the world and becomes frustrated when Looking-Glass World challenges those perceptions. Alice has good intentions, but has trouble befriending any of the creatures that populate Looking-Glass World.
A domineering, officious woman who brings Alice into the chess game. The Red Queen is civil but unpleasant, hounding Alice about her lack of etiquette and general knowledge.
An untidy, disorderly mess of a woman. The White Queen explains the properties of Looking-Glass World, including the reversal of time and the need to believe in the impossible.
The sleeping King. Tweedledum and Tweedledee tell Alice that she is not real and exists only as part of the Red King’s dream.
The White King sends his horses and men after Humpty Dumpty after his fall. The White King takes words literally. He is completely helpless and is terrified of the Lion and the Unicorn.
A kind and noble companion who rescues Alice from the Red Knight and leads her to the final square. The White Knight is old with shaggy hair, pale blue eyes, and a gentle face. He is an eccentric who has invented many bizarre contraptions.
The Red Knight
A knight who attempts to capture Alice. The Red Knight is captured by the White Knight.
A contemptuous, egg-like man based on the nursery rhyme character. Humpty Dumpty sits on a wall and treats Alice rudely. He explains the meaning of “Jabberwocky” to Alice but changes the meanings of words.
Tweedledum and Tweedledee
A pair of identical little fat men dressed as schoolboys. Tweedledum and Tweedledee get along well and finish each other’s thoughts, but wind up fighting each other over a broken rattle.
A mythical beast that resembles a horse with a long horn. The Unicorn battles the Lion. The Unicorn believes Alice to be a monster and tells Alice that he will believe in her if she agrees to believe in him.
The Lion does battle with the Unicorn in the town. The Lion’s actions imitate Alice’s nursery rhyme about the Lion and the Unicorn.
Haigha and Hatta
The White King’s messengers. Haigha is the March Hare and Hatta is the Mad Hatter from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Their madness is under control in this story.
An old shopkeeper. The Sheep is cranky and rude to Alice. The White Queen transforms into the Sheep.
Alice’s companion on the train and in the wood. The Gnat grows from normal insect size to become as large as a chicken. He points out potential puns and wordplay to Alice and always seems to be sad.
Alice’s companion through her travels through the wood, where she forgets the names of things. The Fawn is beautiful but runs away when it realizes that Alice is a human and might pose a threat.
A talking flower. The Tiger-lily speaks civilly to Alice and has some authority over the other flowers.
A talking flower that speaks rudely to Alice.
A talking flower that also speaks rudely to Alice.
Talking flowers. The Daisies are extremely chatty and only quiet down when Alice threatens to pick them.
The White Queen’s daughter. Alice takes Lily’s place as the White Pawn in the chess game.
A passenger on the train with Alice.
The man in white paper
A passenger on the train with Alice.
The old footman at Alice’s castle.
“That’s the reason they’re called lessons,” the Gryphon remarked: “because they lessen from day to day.”
“Take a bone from a dog: what remains?”
Alice considered. “The bone wouldn’t remain, of course, if I took it—and the dog wouldn’t remain; it would come to bite me—and I’m sure I shouldn’t remain!”
“Then you think nothing would remain?” said the Red Queen.
“I think that’s the answer.”
“Wrong, as usual,” said the Red Queen: “the dog’s temper would remain.”
“But I don’t see how—”
“Why, look here!” the Red Queen cried. “The dog would lose its temper, wouldn’t it?”
“Perhaps it would,” Alice replied cautiously.
“Then if the dog went away, its temper would remain!” the Queen exclaimed triumphantly.
“You look a little shy; let me introduce you to that leg of mutton,” said the Red Queen. “Alice—Mutton; Mutton—Alice.”
The leg of mutton got up in the dish and made a little bow to Alice; and Alice returned the bow, not knowing whether to be frightened or amused.
“May I give you a slice?” she said, taking up the knife and fork, and looking from one Queen to the other.
“Certainly not,” the Red Queen said, very decidedly: “it isn’t etiquette to cut anyone you’ve been introduced to. Remove the joint!”