Fiction Classic

Alices Adventures in Wonderland Summary

Lewis Carroll
Rating: 8.0

“The story is deeply but gently satiric enlivened with an imaginative plot and brilliant use of nonsense.”

Alices Adventures in Wonderland Summary

Lewis Carroll’s tale Alices Adventures in Wonderland is a carnival mirror reflection of Victorian society with its rigid social conventions. The story’s absurd nature, hilarious puns, and verbal soundscape make it an outstanding example of the nonsense literature that was so popular in mid-19th century England.

“It’s no use going back to yesterday, because I was a different person then.”

-Alices Adventures in Wonderland Summary by Make Me Read, Author Lewis Carroll

Following the White Rabbit

On a beautiful summer’s day, Alice sits with her sister at the riverbank. Alice is starting to feel bored, finding no pictures or conversations in her sister’s book when, suddenly, a white rabbit with red eyes runs by. Excitedly, the little animal pulls a pocket watch out of his waistcoat and murmurs to himself that he’s going to be late. Full of curiosity, Alice jumps to her feet. She has never seen a rabbit with a watch, let alone one wearing clothes.

“The rabbit-hole went straight on like a tunnel for some way, and then dipped suddenly down, so suddenly that Alice had not a moment to think about stopping herself before she found herself falling down what seemed to be a very deep well.”

-Alices Adventures in Wonderland Summary by Make Me Read, Author Lewis Carroll

Alice chases after him until he disappears into a rabbit hole. She crams herself into the narrow hole, only to find herself falling down a deep well. The fall seems to take an eternity. She can only imagine that she’ll soon arrive at the other end of the earth, where, in her view, people walk with their heads pointed downward. Finally, she lands in a long hall cluttered with small doors. A golden key lies on a glass table. It fits one of the doors leading to a passage, at the end of which Alice sees an enchanting garden. Alas, Alice is too tall to pass through the door.

“She generally gave herself very good advice, (though she very seldom followed it).”

-Alices Adventures in Wonderland Summary by Make Me Read, Author Lewis Carroll

Either Too Big or Too Small

“Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.”

-Alices Adventures in Wonderland Summary by Make Me Read, Author Lewis Carroll

She sees a little bottle labeled “Drink me.” Suspiciously, after carefully checking that it isn’t labeled as poison, she tastes its contents and, finding its taste very nice, drinks it to the last drop. She suddenly shrinks. Now, Alice is too short to reach the key lying on the table. She begins to cry. She spots a cake labeled “Eat me” under the table. Without further ado, she bites into it and grows so much she can barely fit inside the hall. Again, she’s too tall to pass through the door into the garden. Alice is bitterly disappointed and cries so much that a pool of tears forms around her. She doesn’t know who she is any more.

“But if I’m not the same, the next question is, ‘Who in the world am I?’”

-Alices Adventures in Wonderland Summary by Make Me Read, Author Lewis Carroll

The Rabbit shows up again, but when Alice addresses him, he scurries away in fear, leaving only a pair of white gloves behind. Alice wonders what has happened to her. To find out whether she is, in fact, still Alice, she sings a few nursery rhymes – convinced that she knows them by heart – only to realize that the words are coming out all wrong.

“Who in the world am I? Ah, that’s the great puzzle.”

-Alices Adventures in Wonderland Summary by Make Me Read, Author Lewis Carroll

A Tearful Bath

“One of the deep secrets of life is that all that is really worth the doing is what we do for others.”

-Alices Adventures in Wonderland Summary by Make Me Read, Author Lewis Carroll

Alice manages to put on one of the Rabbit’s little gloves. Apparently, she has grown smaller yet again. Quickly, she wants to seize the moment and run for the entry to the garden – only to find herself in the middle of the pool of her own tears. She starts to swim. Looking around she realizes that many animals have fallen into the water and are swimming behind her. As she attempts to make conversation with the Mouse, she repeatedly insults it by talking about her cat and its hunting, in particular, mice.

“If everybody minded their own business, the world would go around a great deal faster than it does.”

-Alices Adventures in Wonderland Summary by Make Me Read, Author Lewis Carroll

After Alice and the animals climb onshore, they wonder how they can get dry. The Mouse attempts to dry them with the driest thing he knows: a dull narrative of the Norman Conquest. When this is unsuccessful, the Dodo suggests a Caucus race in which everyone runs where they please to no clear purpose. After having run around in all directions for at least half an hour, drying off properly in the process, they wonder who has won the race, and decide that they’ve all won and everyone should get a prize.

“Indeed, she had quite a long argument with the Lory, who at last turned sulky, and would only say, ‘I am older than you, and must know better’; and this Alice would not allow, without knowing how old it was, and, as the Lory positively refused to tell its age, there was no more to be said.”

-Alices Adventures in Wonderland Summary by Make Me Read, Author Lewis Carroll

They ask Alice to hand out prizes. Luckily, she finds some old candy in her pocket, and she has just enough for each animal to get a piece. When she doesn’t have any left for herself, the animals agree she must still have a prize. The Dodo asks what else she has in her pockets. She checks and finds a single thimble. He promptly takes it from her and hands it back again, asking her with a short speech to accept the gift. Alice, despite finding the spectacle absurd, solemnly takes the gift.

“No, no! The adventures first, explanations take such a dreadful time.”

-Alices Adventures in Wonderland Summary by Make Me Read, Author Lewis Carroll

Alice Shall Burn

“Everything is funny, if you can laugh at it.”

-Alices Adventures in Wonderland Summary by Make Me Read, Author Lewis Carroll

A little later the Rabbit returns, demanding that she give back his gloves at once. Having lost the gloves, Alice decides to search for them. While looking for the gloves, she comes upon a little house and steps in. Driven by curiosity, she takes a sip from yet another bottle and suddenly grows so big that her arms stick out of the house and one leg goes up the chimney.

“If you don’t know where you are going any road can take you there.”

-Alices Adventures in Wonderland Summary by Make Me Read, Author Lewis Carroll

The Rabbit decides to send Bill the Lizard through the chimney to fetch his gloves. Alice hears Bill scrambling above her and, with a sharp kick, sends the lizard flying the other way like a rocket. This infuriates the Rabbit so much that he decides to burn down the house. Alice threatens to send her cat Dinah – who is at home with her parents – after the Rabbit, but to no avail.

“‘We must burn the house down!’ said the Rabbit’s voice, and Alice called out as loud as she could, ‘If you do, I’ll set Dinah at you!’”

-Alices Adventures in Wonderland Summary by Make Me Read, Author Lewis Carroll

The Rabbit throws pebbles at her that turn into cakes, and after eating one of them she begins shrinking again. Now she can free herself and flee into the woods. She finds herself too small yet again, and comes upon the Caterpillar, who is sitting on a mushroom, smoking a long hookah.

“I knew who I was this morning, but I’ve changed a few times since then.”

-Alices Adventures in Wonderland Summary by Make Me Read, Author Lewis Carroll

A Mushroom for Growing and Shrinking

“How puzzling all these changes are! I’m never sure what I’m going to be, from one minute to another.”

-Alices Adventures in Wonderland Summary by Make Me Read, Author Lewis Carroll

The Caterpillar asks Alice who she is, and when the girl responds that with all her growing and shrinking she hardly knows any more, he demands an explanation. Alice feels unable to give one, but she can’t help but comment that the Caterpillar, of all creatures, has no reason to criticize her. After all it’ll also change its appearance when it becomes a butterfly.

“Well, I never heard it before, but it sounds uncommon nonsense.”

-Alices Adventures in Wonderland Summary by Make Me Read, Author Lewis Carroll

Aggrieved by her clever answer, the Caterpillar suggests that Alice recite a poem. After she has finished, the crawler tells her coolly that she didn’t say it right. Still, Alice confides in the creature that she’d like to be a different size, and the Caterpillar becomes a bit more pleasant, revealing that Alice should eat from one side of its mushroom to grow and the other to shrink.

“‘How do you know I’m mad?’ said Alice. ‘You must be,’ said the Cat, ‘or you wouldn’t have come here’.”

-Alices Adventures in Wonderland Summary by Make Me Read, Author Lewis Carroll

Puzzled as to which are the sides of a round mushroom, she breaks off two pieces as far apart as she can. She shrinks at first, but before she disappears takes a bite from the other piece and grows. Unfortunately, not her whole body has grown, but only her neck, leading a pigeon to mistake her for a serpent. Alice then nibbles at different parts of the mushroom, growing a little taller and shorter each time, until she finally reaches her normal height again. Walking through the woods, she stumbles upon the house of the Duchess and witnesses a fish-faced footman hand a frog-faced footman an invitation from the Queen to play croquet.

“Why is a raven like a writing desk?”

-Alices Adventures in Wonderland Summary by Make Me Read, Author Lewis Carroll

The Grinning Cat

The Duchess’s cook is busy preparing a pepper soup, but she suddenly starts hurling plates and saucepans at the head of the Duchess’, who is rocking a baby to sleep. Although the Duchess is rather ungracious toward Alice, she quickly tosses the child to her, and Alice runs outside for fear of being hit by an object the cook has thrown. In her arms, the baby increasingly takes on the features of a piglet. Finally, she puts it down, and the creature trots away grunting.

“A large rose-tree stood near the entrance of the garden: the roses growing on it were white, but there were three gardeners at it, busily painting them red.”

-Alices Adventures in Wonderland Summary by Make Me Read, Author Lewis Carroll

Alice now talks with the Duchess’ Cheshire Cat, who has the disconcerting habit of disappearing. The cat is constantly grinning and when Alice complains of how rapidly it keeps vanishing, it disappears slowly from tail to head leaving just its lingering grin. Shortly thereafter the girl meets the March Hare, who is having tea under a tree with the Mad Hatter and the half-asleep, half-awake Dormouse. While many empty places are set at the table, the three are squeezed next to each other at one end.

“I give myself very good advice, but I very seldom follow it.”

-Alices Adventures in Wonderland Summary by Make Me Read, Author Lewis Carroll

They give Alice a rather rude welcome, constantly complaining about her manners. In turn, she reprimands her hosts for not inviting her to sit when there are so many places. A lively and frustrating discussion ensues on the subject of time, intermixed with riddles that lack solutions.

“In another moment down went Alice after it, never once considering how in the world she was to get out again.”

-Alices Adventures in Wonderland Summary by Make Me Read, Author Lewis Carroll

A Memorable Croquet Match

At long last Alice grows weary of them and moves on. Much to her surprise she discovers a tree with a door leading into its trunk. Upon entering, she finds herself once again in the hall with the golden key. This time, she manages to step into the magical garden, where she meets three Gardeners who are busy painting white roses red. Alice wants to know why they would do this, and they respond that they accidentally planted a white rose tree, while the Queen had asked for a red one. They tell Alice that the Queen will have them executed for it. Alice is quite amazed that the gardeners are not human; they are playing cards.

“‘Begin at the beginning,’ the King said, gravely, ‘and go on till you come to the end: then stop’.”

-Alices Adventures in Wonderland Summary by Make Me Read, Author Lewis Carroll

When the Queen shows up with her entourage, it turns out that they are all playing cards. At the Queen’s prompting, Alice introduces herself. The severe ruler orders the beheading of anyone who displeases her. Alice then participates in a strange croquet game: The mallets are flamingos, rolled up hedgehogs serve as balls and playing card soldiers from the arches. One by one the Queen orders the execution of all the players for being unable to follow the confusing rules.

“No wise fish would go anywhere without a porpoise.”

-Alices Adventures in Wonderland Summary by Make Me Read, Author Lewis Carroll

The Cat Refuses to Kiss the King’s Hand

Alice gets more and more frightened. She’s relieved when the Cheshire Cat’s head appears, because it gives her someone reasonable to talk to. Delighted, she introduces the Cat to the King. Yet when the monarch demands the animal kiss his royal hand, the Cat refuses. The angered King calls over the Queen, who orders her soldiers to behead the Cat. However, that brings about an animated debate between the executioner and the Queen as to whether it’s possible to behead the Cheshire Cat at all, as without a body, they can’t cut the head off of anything.

“‘No, no!’ said the Queen. ‘Sentence first – verdict afterward.’ ‘Stuff and nonsense!’ said Alice loudly. ‘The idea of having the sentence first!’”

-Alices Adventures in Wonderland Summary by Make Me Read, Author Lewis Carroll

The King wholeheartedly disagrees: He maintains that wherever there’s ahead it can be beheaded. Now Alice tries to mediate by suggesting that they should ask the Duchess since she owns the Cat after all, but it turns out that the Queen has had her thrown into prison. The executioner goes off to fetch her. Meanwhile, the Cat disappears totally.

“If you set to work to believe everything, you will tire out the believing-muscles of your mind, and then you’ll be so weak you won’t be able to believe the simplest true things.”

-Alices Adventures in Wonderland Summary by Make Me Read, Author Lewis Carroll

The Mock Turtle Causes a Great Commotion

The Duchess is happy to see Alice again, and they engage in a deep conversation. The Duchess tries to convince Alice that there’s a moral in everything that happens to you in life. The apparent harmony between Alice and the Duchess bothers the Queen, and she threatens to have the Duchess beheaded. After the Duchess flees, the croquet match continues. The Queen suggests that Alice visit the Mock Turtle and listen to its life story. The Gryphon leads her to the Mock Turtle.

“Take care of the sense and the sounds will take care of themselves.”

-Alices Adventures in Wonderland Summary by Make Me Read, Author Lewis Carroll

He indulges in lengthy reminiscences about his time at school, which annoys Alice a bit, especially when he claims to have learned a lot more than her, including “French, music, and washing – extra.” The encounter becomes much jollier when the Gryphon and the Turtle teach Alice how to dance the Lobster Quadrille, which involves each animal partnering with a lobster and then throwing its partner into the sea.

“If you’ll believe in me, I’ll believe in you. Is that a bargain?”

-Alices Adventures in Wonderland Summary by Make Me Read, Author Lewis Carroll

The Knave’s Trial

The Mock Turtle turns out to be a morose creature, constantly pondering the fact that its purpose is to end up in a Mock Turtle soup. Choked with tears, he sings his last song called “The Turtle Soup.” He has barely finished when a voice resounds in the distance reminding everyone that a great trial is about to begin. Alice notices that she is slowly regaining her old size. All the animals have assembled in the courtroom. The Knave of Hearts, a playing card in the Queen’s service, stands accused of having stolen the tarts that the Queen baked.

“Read the directions and directly you will be directed in the right direction.”

-Alices Adventures in Wonderland Summary by Make Me Read, Author Lewis Carroll

The King is the judge, and the White Rabbit announces the proceedings as an officer of the court. After several curious depositions, Alice is called as a witness. When an absurd piece of evidence is produced – a poem that is alleged proof of the Knave of Hearts’ guilt – Alice loses her temper. She denounces the trial as sheer nonsense, which makes the Queen threaten to behead Alice once more. Yet as Alice grows taller she becomes more self-confident. She dismisses them all as just a bunch of playing cards.

“So Alice got up and ran off, thinking while she ran, as well she might, what a wonderful dream it had been.”

-Alices Adventures in Wonderland Summary by Make Me Read, Author Lewis Carroll

At her words, the cards rise up and come flying down on Alice, making her scream in anger and fear – until she realizes that she’s lying on the river bank and everything was but a dream. She tells her adventures to her sister, who reminds her that it is time for tea. After Alice rushes off to eat, her sister ponders Alice’s future life and children, and how the story of her dream might entertain them.

“When I used to read fairy-tales, I fancied that kind of thing never happened, and now here I am in the middle of one!”

-Alices Adventures in Wonderland Summary by Make Me Read, Author Lewis Carroll

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