Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll Chapters 3 and 4 Summary

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll Menu
Chapter 3 – A Caucus-Race and a Long Tale

Alice climbs out on the shore of her “lake” of tears, and finds herself in a groups of small animals who have also fallen in, and are now soaking wet. The group includes the Mouse who Alice met in the pool, as well as a Lory (a type of bird), an Eaglet (a young eagle), a Dodo, a Duck, a Canary, a Crab, a Magpie, and others. Of course, Alice is now near their own size, so they all get to talking together without any problem.

Alice and the animals discuss the best way to get dry, since they are all wet and uncomfortable. The Mouse offers to dry them off by quoting from a very dry (that is, boring) textbook, so they all listen to it recite some early English history, but although this makes the others shiver it doesn’t make them any drier. Then the pompous Dodo, using its customary big words, suggests that they have a Caucus-race to dry off. This turns out to mean that everyone runs around in circles until they’re dry. (Since a “caucus” is a political committee which gets together to make important decisions, Carroll is presumably making a joke about how politicians seem to run around in circles without getting anywhere).

After the race, the Dodo declares that everyone has won the race and must get a prize. Poor Alice is forced to rummage her pockets for prizes, and then has to give away all of the comfits — a kind of fruit candy — which she finds there. Since she runs out before the Dodo gets around to Alice’s own prize, she searches her pockets again until she finds a thimble (a metal thumb-protector used in sewing), which the Dodo solemnly presents back to her. Alice tries hard to keep from laughing.

After the animals have eaten their candy, Alice reminds the Mouse that it promised to tell her the story of why it hates cats and dogs. The Mouse begins to tell its “long and sad tale,” but Alice — maybe still a little bleary from all that swimming? — confuses the word with “tail,” and as the Mouse talks Alice envisions its story, in a confused sort of way, as a line of words twisting and turning around like a mouse’s tail. (The Mouse’s story, which Alice hears as a rhyming poem, is printed on the page of the book in a twisting spiral to resemble the tail.) The irritated Mouse notices that Alice isn’t paying attention, and walks away in a huff. Alice, trying to coax it back, accidentally mentions her cat Dinah again, and all the other little animals look frightened and soon find an excuse to leave. Feeling abandoned and alone, Alice starts to cry again. Suddenly she hears the sound of footsteps approaching, and, hoping the Mouse has changed its mind, looks up in eager anticipation.

Chapter 4 – The Rabbit Sends In a Little Bill

The footsteps turn out not to be those of the Mouse, but of the White Rabbit, which is looking for something and muttering, “Where can I have dropped them?” He is worried that the Duchess will get him executed if he can’t find what he’s looking for. Alice guesses that he must be searching for his kid gloves and fan (which he dropped back in Chapter 2), and she looks around for them. But everything has changed — the hallway, doors, and glass table have vanished, and so have the gloves and fan. In fact, she now appears to be outdoors.

The White Rabbit spots Alice, and, calling her “Mary Anne,” angrily orders her to run back to his house and fetch him a fan and gloves. Alice realizes that he’s mistaken her for his maid, but she is too startled to object and simply runs off in the direction the Rabbit pointed. Thinking how odd it is to be doing errands for animals, she wonders to herself: will Dinah make her watch mouse-holes for her after Alice gets home?

Soon Alice comes to a house labeled “W. RABBIT,” and, going upstairs, enters a room with a table on which she finds gloves and a fan. But just as she is about to leave with them, she spots a bottle standing on a table. Although it isn’t labeled “DRINK ME,” Alice decides to drink anyway, since she hopes it will make her grow again.

It does make her grow — and Alice quickly realizes that it wasn’t so smart to drink it indoors! She has soon become so large that she’s wedged inside the room, with one elbow against the door, one arm out the window, and one foot up the chimney. Stuck there, she thinks miserably about how much simpler life was at home, when she wasn’t always changing sizes… on the other hands, of course, it was also a lot more boring.

Alice’s thought are interrupted by noises from outside: the White Rabbit has come to see why “Mary Anne” is taking so long with his fan and gloves. But Alice’s elbow blocks him from getting in at the door, and, feeling pleased with her power, she uses her other giant arm to keep him from coming in through the window. Alice can hear the Rabbit go for help, and talk with a number of other animals outside. Finally the group sends a little lizard named Bill down the chimney, but Alice, kicking ferociously, sends him flying right out again.

Overhearing the animals deciding to burn the house down, Alice stops them by yelling at them in her huge voice, but then they start hurling pebbles in at the window. Noticing that the pebbles are turning into cakes as they lie on the floor, she eats one to see if it will shrink her. It does, and Alice runs out of the house. The Rabbit and the others see her and run after her, but Alice escapes and finds herself in a thick forest. She decides that she must try to get back to her own height, and then find the beautiful garden she saw through the tiny door — but she has no idea how she is supposed to do either of these things.

Unexpectedly, she encounters an adorable puppy — which is, however, gigantic to her, because she is now so small. Alice plays a game of catch with it, torn between loving the puppy for its sweetness, and being terrified that it will trample her or eat her up. Escaping from it as soon as she can, Alice finds herself lost among giant flowers and blades of grass, wondering what she can find to eat that will make her grow big again. Coming across an enormous mushroom, she peeks on top of it and finds — to her great surprise — a large blue caterpillar, smoking a hookah (a kind of water pipe) and ignoring her completely.