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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"Sentence First–verdict Afterward"

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Context: The Reverend Charles Dodgson, a lecturer on mathematics at Oxford University, cared little for most people. Only with children did he unbend. On one occasion, during a boating trip with three of them, he started telling a nonsense story whose chief character was called Alice, after one of the picnickers, the daughter of Dean Liddell. Supplied with 42 illustrations by Sir John Tenniel (1820–1914), it became a favorite children's book, and some of its characters, like the March Hare, White Rabbit, and Red Queen, have passed into folklore and popular speech. More serious adults can read Alice's Adventures in Wonderland as a satirical commentary on life. This is true of Chapters 11 and 12, narrating the trial of the Knave of Hearts for stealing tarts baked by the Queen. Man's tendency to want to punish even before making sure of guilt is satirized by the quotation under consideration. The stupid birds and animals in the jury box are called upon by the Royal Judge to consider their verdict as soon as the White Rabbit reads the accusation. But he is persuaded to wait until the witnesses are called: the Mad Hatter, still clutching a cup of tea and a sandwich, the Duchess' cook, and finally small Alice, who has been regaining her original size as the trial progresses. After the introduction of a particularly incomprehensible poem supposedly written by the prisoner, the chapter continues:

. . . "Let the jury consider their verdict," the King said, for about the twentieth time that day.
"No, no!" said the Queen. "Sentence first–verdict afterward."
"Stuff and nonsense!" said Alice loudly. "The idea of having the sentence first!"
"Hold your tongue!" said the Queen, turning purple.
"I won't!" said Alice.
"Off with her head!" the Queen shouted at the top of her voice. Nobody moved.
"Who cares for you?" said Alice. (She had grown to her full size by this time.) "You're nothing but a pack of cards!"

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