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

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Why does Alice wish that she could shut up like a telescope?

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When Alice says that she wishes she could shut up like a telescope—meaning that she wishes she could be folded down into a very small space, the way a telescope can be folded down to a small size for transportation—she has a very specific reason for saying this. At this point, Alice has spotted a very small door, about the size of a rat hole, and through the hole she can see "beds of bright flowers" and cool fountains. All in all, it looks a very attractive garden, but Alice finds that she cannot even fit her head through the small door. As such, she has no chance of ever reaching the garden. Theoretically, if she could compress herself into a very small space the way a telescope does, she could pass through the door and then unfold herself again in the garden.

Alice, in the end, is unable to find a "book of rules" for telescoping in this fashion, but she does find a bottle with the words "DRINK ME" written on it. Subsequently, she is interested to find that she begins shrinking down to a very tiny size indeed, and she is able to comfortably fit through the door.

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Alice is like many children, she gets bored, and is afraid of what becoming an adult will be. In the story Alice in Wonderland, Alice wants to go down the rabbit hole, however she is not able due to her size. She wishes she could shut up like a telescope, because she is referring to telescopes such as the one explorers used during their expeditions. Telescopes could extend and retract in size and could be carried and used when needed. When Alice says that she wants to shut up, she refers to the ability to reduce a telescopes size by collapsing it’s moving parts. She expresses the desire to shrink and grow as easily as she extend or contract a telescope. The simile serves as a reminder that Alice is a child that is scared of becoming an adult, and wishes to remain a child.