Abstract illustration of the silhouettte of Alice falling, a white rabbit, and a red mushroom

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland

by Lewis Carroll

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What is the setting of Alice In Wonderland by Lewis Carroll?

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Setting encompasses many elements, and so it is with Alice in Wonderland.

Firstly, the question of locality should be addressed. This refers to the place in which the story is set. In this regard, the story has two localities: the real world in which Alice finds herself on the banks of a river and the imaginary or dream world that she explores whilst sleeping. She discovers this fantasy world in her dream when she follows a strange rabbit muttering by himself and looking at a watch, which he took out of his waistcoat-pocket, down a rabbit hole. Alice returns to the real world when she wakes up with her head in her sister's lap at the end of the novel.

Secondly, at what time do the events depicted in the novel occur? This may be a reference to the time of day, the month, year, decade season etc. In this novel there is no definitive indication of which time of day the events unfold in either the real or dream world. It is clear, however, that everything happens during daytime since there are no references to the dark or night. It furthermore seems as if (in the real world), the season could be autumn as one can judge from the following line:

... her sister, ... was gently brushing away some dead
leaves that had fluttered down from the trees upon her face.

It would be uncommon for dead leaves to flutter down during Spring or Summer. It clearly cannot be winter for the weather was pleasant enough for Alice and her sister to be spending time at the bank of a river, in all probability, after a picnic.

Another aspect to consider is elapsed time. It is clear from the text that in the real world, Alice had had quite a lengthy dream and must have been asleep for some time. her sister remarks:

"Why, what a long sleep you've had!"

In the dream world, time seems to have gone very quickly, since Alice had experienced a number of adventures and had met quite a few characters. It is clear though, that all the events occurred in one afternoon or morning. Time was thus compressed for her to have experienced so much.

Since this is a fantasy novel, it is not necessary to explore other elements related to setting such as geography, historical significance, the social or cultural environment, population or ancestry. These do not play a major role in understanding the novel and can thus be ignored. 

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Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland opens with Alice "beginning to get very tired of sitting by her sister on the bank, and of having nothing to do." The "bank" almost certainly refers to the edge of a lake on which Carroll's protagonist is resting with her sibling when she is suddenly transposed into an entirely other world, Wonderland.  Chasing the White Rabbit down a rabbit hole, Alice finds herself falling down a seemingly endless tunnel, wondering whether and if this falling will ever end, and whether she is descending through the center of the earth.  Landing finally on "a heap of sticks and dry leaves," Alice finds herself surrounded by doors, all of which are locked.  Finding a "tiny golden key" on a three-legged table, she discovers that the key won't work with any of the locks.  She finally discovers a tiny door behind a curtain that she is able to open with the key.  As Carroll describes the scene next:

"Alice opened the door and found that it led into a small passage, not much larger than a rat-hole: she knelt down and looked along the passage into the loveliest garden you ever saw."

This is the beginning of Alice's adventures in a world vastly different from her own, and titled in the story's closing passage "Wonderland": "So she sat on, with closed eyes, and half believed herself in Wonderland."  Alice has been dreaming of being lost in Wonderland, where she encountered the White Rabbit, the Cheshire Cat, the Queen of Hearts, and all the other characters etched in our collective consciousness by Carroll.

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The setting of Alice In Wonderland by Lewis Carroll is an imaginary or dream world. At the opening of the story, Alice, a character based on Alice Liddell, daughter of the renowned classicist Henry Liddell (of Liddell & Scott), is sitting on the bank of a river. She sees a rabbit rushing down a hole, checking his watch and exclaiming that he is late. She falls down the rabbit hole as well and lands in a strange and surrealistic world with a dream logic all its own. At the end of the story, Alice wakes up, and the reader discovers that the world was a dream one:

'Oh, I've had such a curious dream!' said Alice, and she told her sister, as well as she could remember them, all these strange Adventures of hers that you have just been reading about; ...

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