Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll Chapters 7 and 8 Summary

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll Menu
Chapter 7 – A Mad Tea-Party

Under a tree in front of the house, Alice finds a table set for tea. At the table are the Mad Hatter and the March Hare, resting their elbows on a Dormouse sitting between them, who is asleep. (Tea is a light meal which English people eat in the late afternoon — traditionally it includes tea and bread with jam and butter, and in Lewis Carroll’s time people ate it around six P.M. A Hatter is someone who makes hats. A March Hare is just a hare, or rabbit-like animal, which was thought to go mad (that is, crazy) in March, its mating season. A Dormouse is a squirrel-like English rodent, which was known for becoming very sleepy in cold weather.)

Although there is plenty of room at the tea table, all three are crowded together at one end of it. When Alice approaches, they yell “No room!”, but Alice points out that there’s lots of room, and sits down.

The Mad Hatter and the March Hare engage Alice in some very strange conversation. They contradict everything she says, and all their actions are a little bit off. They offer her wine that isn’t there, ask riddles they don’t know the answers to, and say peculiar things about Time. When the Mad Hatter accuses the March Hare of having broken his watch by putting butter into the gears, the Hare simply replies meekly, “It was the best butter.”

It turns out that the Hatter’s watch only displays the day of the month, not the time of day. The reason, it seems, is that time stands still at the Tea-Party — it’s six o’clock forever! This is why the table is covered with dirty dishes: it’s always time for tea, so they never have time to wash the dishes, and just keep moving around the table. All of this is because the Mad Hatter is on very bad terms with Time. It seems that the Hatter has offended him: while singing a song at the Queen of Hearts’ last concert, he sang so badly that the Queen screamed that he was “murdering the time.” (This is a pun on an expression which used to mean “killing time,” and it also means that the Hatter was singing off-tempo.) Since then, Time won’t do anything the Hatter asks him to.

The Hatter’s song, which he sings for Alice, was a strange version of “Twinkle, twinkle, little star,” which instead starts “Twinkle, twinkle, little bat.” When the Dormouse — who has been joining in the conversation by talking in its sleep — hears the Hatter singing, it picks up on the song and won’t stop until the Hare and Hatter pinch it.

Soon, however, they decide to wake it all the way up and make it tell a story. The Dormouse obligingly begins a story about three sisters who live at the bottom of a treacle-well (that is, a well full of molasses), and are learning how to draw things that begin with “M.” The story keep being stopped, however, by Alice’s objections to the impossible things the Dormouse describes, as well as by the Dormouse’s dozing off. Moreover, when the Hatter decides that he wants a clean cup, everyone moves one seat over, and Alice winds up with the March Hare’s dirty dishes. This is all becoming intolerable, and the next time the Hatter says something rude to her, Alice gets fed up and leaves the table. The last thing she sees, looking back over her shoulder, is the Hatter and Hare trying to stuff the now-sleeping Dormouse into the teapot.

Back in the wood, Alice is surprised to find a tree with a door leading into the trunk. She goes in, and discovers she’s back in the hallway with the glass table and tiny door. Unlocking the door with the key — which she’s now big enough to reach — she shrinks herself down using the chunks of mushroom he still has in her pocket, and walks through the fifteen-inch-high door to find herself in the beautiful garden at last.

Chapter 8 – The Queen’s Croquet-Ground

The first thing Alice comes across in the garden is a rose tree, where three gardeners are busily painting its white roses red. Alice asks them what they are doing, and the gardeners explain that they were supposed to plant a red rose tree here, but they made a mistake, and are trying to cover it up so the Queen won’t notice and cut off their heads. As they talk, Alice notices that these are unusual gardeners — they seem to be giant playing cards, with arms, legs, and heads sticking out from their card bodies.

A large procession approaches, and the frightened gardeners fling themselves onto the ground to hide. A long parade of people marches into the garden. All of them are really playing cards: the club cards are soldiers, the diamond cards are courtiers (or noblemen), and the heart cards are the children of the King and Queen. (The spade cards were the gardeners.)

Last come the king and queen cards of various suits, followed at last by the Knave (or Jack) of Hearts, and the King and Queen of Hearts themselves. The Queen turns out to be a terrifying person. She never speaks below a roar, and whenever anyone makes her angry, she screams, “Off with his head!” She sentences Alice to execution, but the anxious King calms her down. However, when she discovers what the gardeners have done to the roses, she orders that their heads be cut off too. But Alice saves the three cards by hiding them in a flower pot.

Alice is invited to join the croquet game. In the crowd of people, she meets the always-nervous White Rabbit, who informs her that the Duchess arrived late and has now been sentenced to death for boxing the Queen’s ears. (Boxing someone’s ears means to slap them upside the head.)

Soon, the croquet game starts. (Croquet is a well-known lawn game which was very popular in England in Lewis Carroll’s time. It normally involves using mallets to knock balls through little wire arches stuck into the ground.) The Queen’s croquet game, however, is very strange: instead of balls, the players use live hedgehogs, and the mallets are flamingoes, while the arches are formed by the Queen’s soldiers bending over (remember the soldiers are just giant playing cards). Alice has trouble because her hedgehog keeps wandering away, and she can’t get her flamingo to hold still enough to hit anything with. None of the other players seem to play by any rules, and to top it all off, the Queen keeps sentencing her guests to death.

In the middle of this horrible party, Alice suddenly notices a grin hovering in the air, and is glad to realize it must be the Cheshire Cat — now she’ll have someone to talk to. When the Cat’s head has finished appearing, Alice starts to complain to it about the game. It listens very sympathetically, though Alice fortunately notices the Queen passing close by just as she is about to tell the Cat her opinion of her, and diplomatically changes what she was about to say.

The King is alarmed by the Cheshire Cat’s hovering head, so the Queen sentences it to execution. Alice has to leave the scene to go chase her hedgehog, which has wandered off again and gotten into a fight. By the time she gets back, an argument has broke out — the Queen’s executioner says he can’t behead the Cat because it doesn’t have a body, so there’s nothing to cut the head off of. When asked for her opinion, all Alice can think of is to say that the Cat belongs to the Duchess. So the Queen sends the executioner to fetch the Duchess out of prison. But by the time he comes back, the Cat’s head has faded completely away, and he runs around hopelessly looking for it.