Characters Discussed (Cyclopedia of Literary Characters, Revised Third Edition)
Alice, a curious, imaginative, strong-willed, and honest young English girl. She falls asleep by the side of a stream in a meadow and dreams that she follows a White Rabbit down his hole. She has many adventures in a Wonderland peopled by all kinds of strange characters and animals.
The White Rabbit
The White Rabbit, anxious, aristocratic, dandified. Alice follows him down his hole, which leads to an enchanted house and garden. The White Rabbit is a prime minister of sorts in Wonderland, for he has close contact with the royalty there and carries out their orders, although he does not institute policy.
The Queen of Hearts
The Queen of Hearts, the ill-tempered Queen of Wonderland. She constantly demands that everyone who crosses her be beheaded. Fond of croquet, she orders Alice to take part in a game in which flamingoes are used for mallets and hedgehogs for balls. She issues an order for Alice’s execution at the end of the book, but the order is never carried out because Alice accuses the Queen and all her company of being only a pack of cards, an assertion that turns out to be true.
The King of Hearts
The King of Hearts, a timid, kindly man. Although he is completely under his wife’s power because of her temper, he manages to pardon all her victims surreptitiously.
The Duchess, another member of royalty...
(The entire section is 951 words.)
Want to Read More?
Subscribe now to read the rest of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland Characters. Plus get complete access to 30,000+ study guides!
Themes and Characters
After what seems like an endless fall, Alice finally lands in a dark winding passage. Ahead of her, the White Rabbit scurries along, still fretting about the time. The White Rabbit appears again and again in Alice's adventures as a continual reminder of the major theme of the story: that satisfying one's curiosity is likely to lead to fun and excitement, but also to danger, confusion, and even humiliation. But in spite of the risks, it is important for the young person to question the "facts" that sometimes obscure truth in order to understand the complexities of life. Alice represents the intellectual curiosity of young people. She sets an example by boldly embarking on an adventure to discover the "meaning" of a White Rabbit who wears a waistcoat and carries a watch. Although Alice sheds many tears over her plight early in her adventures, she does not retreat when confronted with insults and even threats from characters such as the Mock Turtle, the Mad Hatter, and the King and Queen of Hearts. The character of Alice also goes against the stereotype—popular in Carroll's time—of the young girl who is interested only in homemaking skills, not intellectual growth.
Alice follows, but loses sight of the White Rabbit in a long, low hall furnished with nothing but a three-legged glass table. On the table, Alice discovers a key that fits a little curtained door leading to "the loveliest little garden you ever saw." Alice's attempts to reach the garden...
(The entire section is 556 words.)
Alice is in some ways the most complex and the simplest of Carroll's characters. Her character was modeled on that of his young friend Alice Pleasance Liddell, middle daughter of the classics professor and dean of Christ Church College, Oxford. Although John Tenniel's illustrations of Alice look nothing like Alice Liddell—she had short, dark hair cut into bangs, while Tenniel's little girl has long blonde hair—some of the characteristics of Miss Liddell remain in the character of Carroll's Alice. Carroll described his dream Alice in an article entitled "Alice on the Stage" as loving, courteous, "trustful, ready to accept the wildest impossibilities with all that utter trust that only dreamers know; and lastly, curious—wildly curious, and with the eager enjoyment of Life that comes only in the happy hours of childhood, when all is new and fair, and when Sin and Sorrow are but names—empty words signifying nothing!"
Carroll's Alice is all of these things and more. She is an ordinary person trying to make sense of a senseless situation and to understand the curious realm into which she has wandered. In Wonderland, Alice is caught in a predicament where none of the rules or logic she has learned does her any good. The creatures of Wonderland behave to her like the Victorian adults of her outside world: they ignore conventional rules in favor of rules of their own that make no sense to anyone but themselves. Alice tries to deal with them logically and...
(The entire section is 425 words.)
The Cheshire Cat first appears in the kitchen with the Duchess, the Cook, and the Baby. It has an unusual grin, as well as the strange ability to fade into invisibility—sometimes one part at a time. The Cheshire Cat is one of the few animals in Wonderland that apparently has some sympathy with Alice. He guides her on the next step of her journey (the Mad Tea Party) and is the subject of what may be Alice's Adventures in Wonderland's most quoted line: "'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 all my life!'" The Cat reappears and provokes an argument between the executioner and The King of Hearts about whether one can decapitate a bodiless character.
The Cheshire Cat's grin is one of the most debated questions about Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. Why does the Cheshire Cat grin? There was a common phrase in Carroll's time, "to grin like a Cheshire Cat," but no one really knows how the phrase originated. One theory holds that the grin is based on pictures of grinning lions that a local painter used to paint on the signboards of inns. Another states that Cheshire cheeses were sometimes molded into the shape of grinning cats. Carroll, who was born in the county of Cheshire, could have known both theories. Although he is one of the most popular characters in the Alice stories, the Cheshire Cat does not appear in the original manuscript version, Alice's...
(The entire section is 264 words.)
White Rabbit is the first character that Alice meets in her dream wonderland. He looks much like any other white rabbit, with a white coat and pink eyes, but he wears a waistcoat (vest) and carries a large gold watch. John Tenniel's illustration from the first edition of the novel shows him wearing a jacket and carrying an umbrella. He also speaks English, but to Alice his clothes and watch are his most amazing characteristics. In the second chapter he drops his white kid gloves and a fan, which Alice picks up; it is the fan that causes her to shrink to below her normal size. (In the original manuscript, Alice's Adventures Under Ground, the fan was replaced by a nosegay, a small bouquet of flowers.) Later he mistakes Alice for his maidservant Mary Ann.
The White Rabbit, with his preoccupation with time and clothing, is in many ways a representative Victorian adult. Carroll wrote about him in the article "Alice on the Stage": "For her 'youth,' 'audacity,' 'vigour,' and 'swift directness of purpose,' read 'elderly,' 'timid,' 'feeble,' and 'nervously shillyshallying,' and you will get something of what I meant him to be." "I think the White Rabbit should wear spectacles," the author continued. "I am sure his voice should quaver, and his knees quiver, and his whole air suggest a total inability to say 'Boo' to a goose!"
(The entire section is 237 words.)
Alice's sister is unnamed throughout the course of the story. She appears briefly at the beginning—the book she is reading launches Alice on her dream voyage—and in a more lengthy passage at the end of the book, in which she herself dreams about the adventures Alice has just had. Alice's sister offers an adult perspective to the entire Wonderland adventure, interpreting Alice's dream in her own way and then going on to dream about Alice's own future.
Alice Pleasance Liddell, Carroll's model for the character Alice, had in fact two sisters: Lorina Charlotte, three years older than herself, and Edith, two years younger. Alice's sister apparently is based on neither of the two other Liddells. If there is a historical character that Alice's sister is supposed to represent, it is probably Carroll himself.
See Pig Baby.
Bill the Lizard
Bill is a lizard, one of the White Rabbit's helpers. He is sent down the chimney of the White Rabbit's house to get Alice out of the place.
Canary is one of the birds that flee Alice's company after she begins to talk about her cat Dinah. The Canary "called out in a trembling voice, to its children, 'Come away, my dears! It's high time you were all in bed!'"
Alice meets the Caterpillar and spends most of Chapter 5 trying to understand his twisted logic. When she first...
(The entire section is 2675 words.)