Alice's Adventures in Wonderland Questions and Answers
by Lewis Carroll

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland book cover
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What is an analysis of the dialogue below from Alice's Adventures in Wonderland? “I can’t believe that!” said Alice. “Can’t you?” the queen said in a pitying tone. “Try again, draw a long breath, and shut your eyes.” Alice laughed. “There’s no use trying,” she said. “One can’t believe impossible things.” “I dare say you haven’t had much practice,” said the queen. “When I was your age, I always did it for half an hour a day. Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.”

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Lynnette Wofford eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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The most important thing to note in analyzing this quotation is that it reflects a theological dispute between the Oxford movement and Roman Catholics, on the one side, and the Noetic and Broad Church movements on the other side, that was extremely active in Oxford in the period in which Carroll, who was ordained as a Deacon in the Church of England (and who counted Pusey as a family friend), was somewhat involved.

The Queen is expressing the Fideist position, one often associated with the Tertullian's Latin dictum "credo quia absurdum" (I believe because it is absurd), a position that argued for belief in miracles and the notion that miracles proved the divinity of Jesus and existence of God. On the other side ranged atheists such as Hume (who wrote influentially against the credibility of miracles) and liberal theologians who thought we should read miracles somewhat figuratively or explain them rationally.

Alice is portrayed as a sensible and literal-minded young girl, while the Red Queen takes an extreme High Church position that belief should be grounded in faith rather than reason.

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Lorna Stowers eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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While many may recognize the quote from Tim Burton's 2010 filmatic adaptation of Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, many may not know that it was actually the queen who spoke the words and not Alice.

As for the quote itself, it refers to the fact that one can only do impossible things if they believe in impossible things. Here, Alice does not recognize the existence, or importance, of the imagination.

Being imaginative does take practice. One cannot know how to be imaginative if they have never tried, If one has never tried, they may not believe that imaginative things can actually happen.

Essentially, the queen is trying to get Alice to understand that the imagination is a powerful thing. Alice needs the power in order to challenge, and defeat, the Jabberwocky. The queen is trying to get Alice to understand that having an imagination give one power. This idea parallels with the theme of absurdity.

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