Summary (Masterplots, Fourth Edition)
Alice is quietly reading over her sister’s shoulder when she sees a White Rabbit dash across the lawn and disappear into its hole. She jumps up to rush after him and finds herself falling down the rabbit hole. At the bottom, she sees the White Rabbit hurrying along a corridor ahead of her and murmuring that he will be late. He disappears around a corner, leaving Alice standing in front of several locked doors.
On a glass table, she finds a tiny golden key that unlocks a little door hidden behind a curtain. The door opens upon a lovely miniature garden, but Alice cannot get through the doorway because it is too small. She sadly replaces the key on the table. A little bottle mysteriously appears. Alice drinks the contents and immediately begins to grow smaller, so much so that she can no longer reach the key on the table. Next, she eats a piece of cake she finds nearby, and soon she begins to grow to such an enormous size that she can only squint through the door. In despair, she begins to weep tears as big as raindrops. As she sits crying, the White Rabbit appears, moaning that the Duchess will be angry if he keeps her waiting. He drops his fan and gloves, and when Alice picks them up, she begins to grow smaller. Again she rushes to the garden door, but she finds it shut and the golden key once more on the table out of reach.
Then she falls into a pool of her own tears. Splashing along, she encounters a mouse who stumbled into the pool. Alice tactlessly begins a conversation about her cat Dinah, and the mouse becomes speechless with terror. Soon the pool of tears is filled with living creatures—birds and animals of all kinds. An old Dodo suggests that they run a Caucus Race to get dry. Asking what a Caucus Race is, Alice is told that the best way to explain it is to do it, whereupon the animals run themselves quite breathless and finally become dry. Afterward, the mouse tells a “Tail” to match its own appendage. Alice is asked to tell something, but the only thing she can think of is her cat Dinah. Frightened, the other creatures go away, and Alice is left alone.
The White Rabbit appears once more, this time hunting for his gloves and fan. Catching sight of Alice, he sends her to his home to get him a fresh pair of gloves and another fan. In the Rabbit’s house, she finds the fan and gloves and also takes a drink from a bottle. Instantly, she grows to be a giant size and is forced to put her leg up the chimney and her elbow out the window to keep from being squeezed to death.
She manages to eat a little cake and shrink herself again. As soon as she is small enough to get through the door, she runs into a nearby wood where she finds a caterpillar sitting on a mushroom. The caterpillar is very rude to Alice, and he scornfully asks her to prove her worth by reciting “You Are Old, Father William.” Alice does so, but the words sound very strange. Disgusted,...
(The entire section is 1189 words.)
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Summary (Censorship (Ready Reference series))
Certain critics—including psychoanalyst Paul Schilder and author Katherine Anne Porter—have argued that Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland should be kept away from children because it is riddled with material that causes anxiety. For example, Schilder has cited the book’s frequent references to devouring small animals as evidence of the work’s “preponderant oral sadistic trends.”
The government of China banned the book in 1931, charging that its talking animals were offensive because their use of language placed them inappropriately on the same level with humans. In 1966, after the book was read over the radio in Britain, the British Broadcasting Corporation was inundated by phone calls from listeners outraged over the book’s description of using hedgehogs as croquet balls.
The Disney Company released an animated film adaptation of Alice in Wonderland in 1951. Although this film was somewhat sanitized, it later merited a warning to parents in psychologist Harold Schecter’s 1986 guide to children’s video for its threats of violence and its scenes of baby oysters being eaten. Meanwhile, Disney withdrew the film from 16 mm rental distribution during the late 1960’s, although it had won some fans on the college circuit. At that time the company’s animated feature Fantasia (1940) was drawing fire because of its association with the drug culture, so Disney may have acted to protect its wholesome image.
Summary (Magill's Survey of World Literature, Revised Edition)
Although Carroll wrote Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland explicitly to entertain children, it has become a treasure to philosophers, literary critics, biographers, clergy, psychoanalysts, and linguists, not to mention mathematicians, theologians, and logicians. There appears to be something in this work for everyone, and there are almost as many interpretations of it as there are commentators.
Alice’s dream becomes her nightmare. A novelty at first, Wonderland becomes increasingly oppressive to Alice as she is faced with its fundamental disorder. Everything there, including her own body size, is in a state of flux. She is treated rudely, is bullied, is asked questions with no answers, and is denied answers to asked questions. Her recitations of poems turn into parodies, a baby turns into a pig, and a cat turns into a grin. The essence of time and space is called into question, and her romantic notion of an idyllic garden of life becomes a paper wasteland. Whether Alice, as some critics argue, is an alien who invades and contaminates Wonderland or is an innocent contaminated by it, one important fact remains the same: She has a vision that shows the world to be chaotic, meaningless, and a terrifying void. In order to escape that oppressive and disorienting vision, she denies it with her outcry that “You’re nothing but a pack of cards!” and happily regains the morally intelligible and emotionally comfortable world of her sister, who sits next to her on the...
(The entire section is 607 words.)