Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll Summary

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll Menu

One summer afternoon, Alice, a little girl in Victorian England, starts to drift off to sleep while sitting under a tree with her sister. Suddenly, Alice notices a white rabbit hopping by — but the rabbit is wearing a vest, checking its pocket-watch, and muttering, “Oh dear! I shall be late!” Seized by curiosity, Alice jumps up and runs after it, even following it down a rabbit hole. But the hole turns out to be very deep, and Alice falls down it for a long time.

Finally, Alice lands unhurt on a pile of leaves. Seeing the Rabbit down a hallway, she chases it, but find only an empty hallway lined with doors, as well as a glass table and a golden key. Finding a bottle labeled “Drink Me,” Alice drinks it and starts to grow until she’s nine feet tall. She reduces her size again by waving a fan which the Rabbit drops when he scurries through the hall, but — now only a few inches high — she slips and falls into a salty lake created by the tears she wept when she was huge.

Alice meets a number of creatures in the pool, and after climbing out, they tell stories and have a Caucus-race to dry off. Alice accidentally scares the creatures off by talking about her cat, and when the White Rabbit passes through again he finds her alone. Mistaking Alice for his housemaid, he orders her to run to his house and get a replacement fan and pair of gloves (he dropped his first pair in the hallway when he saw Alice).

Alice, who is now somehow outside, finds the Rabbit’s house. Inside, she drinks from an unlabeled bottle and grows huge again — so big that she gets trapped inside the Rabbit’s house! The Rabbit and several other animals try to get rid of her, through methods which include sending a lizard down the chimney. When they pelt her through the window with pebbles, the pebbles turn into cakes, and Alice eats one and shrinks again. She escapes the house and the angry crowd, and runs into a wood.

In the wood, Alice meets and plays catch with a gigantic puppy. Then she comes across a Caterpillar sitting on a mushroom, smoking an enormous pipe. It questions her, gives her confusing advice, and finally crawls off, telling her, “One side will make you grow taller, and the other side will make you grow shorter.” Alice realizes it’s talking about the mushroom, and, taking pieces from both sides, is now able to change her size at will.

In a clearing in the woods, she sees a little house guarded by a frog dressed as a footman. Inside, she finds a Duchess, who is rocking her baby in a kitchen whose air is full of pepper; a grinning Cat sitting on the hearth; and a Cook, who keeps throwing things at everyone. After an awkward conversation, the Duchess gives her baby to Alice to hold while she goes to get ready to play croquet with the Queen. When Alice takes the baby outside, it turns into a pig and runs away into the forest. Then Alice meets the Duchess’s Cheshire Cat again, sitting on a branch. It tells her that everyone in Wonderland (including herself) is mad, and that if she follows the road she’s on she’ll meet a Mad Hatter and a March Hare. When it disappears, it leaves its grin lingering in the air.

Following the road, Alice finds the March Hare’s house, where it is having tea outdoors with the Mad Hatter and the sleepy Dormouse. Alice joins them, but they are very impolite and have a funny sense of humor. Alice learns that time stands still at the tea-party, and also realizes that her companions really are crazy. The Dormouse keeps falling asleep in the middle of telling a story, and eventually Alice is fed up with the Hare and Hatter’s rudeness and leaves.

Alice finds herself now in the beautiful garden which she saw earlier through the tiny hallway door. This turns out to be the Queen’s Croquet-ground, and many of the people Alice has met before are at the croquet party. The party is hosted by the Queen of Hearts, who has an astonishing temper and is always shouting “Off with his head!”, and her timid husband, the King of Hearts. They, and most of their subjects, are actually giant playing cards.

Alice meets both the White Rabbit and the Cheshire Cat at the croquet game (which is played with live hedgehogs and flamingos). The Rabbit whispers to Alice that the Queen has condemned the bad-tempered Duchess to jail for slapping her. When the Queen tries to behead the Cheshire Cat, she finds it’s hard to do this to an animal who can make its body disappear, and sends to get the Duchess out of jail. The Duchess is very friendly to Alice, but Alice is almost relieved when the Queen orders her to go away. Then the Queen drags off Alice to meet an animal called the Gryphon, ordering the Gryphon to bring Alice to the Mock-Turtle so she can hear its story.

The Gryphon takes Alice to the Mock-Turtle, a very sad creature who weepily tells stories about its happy school days. It and the Gryphon sing for Alice and demonstrate a dance called the Lobster Quadrille. But the Gryphon suddenly drags Alice away when someone calls, “The trial is starting!”

The trial turns out to be that of the Knave of Hearts (the Jack of Hearts in the card deck). He is accused of having stolen the Queen’s tarts, following the plot of an old nursery rhyme. The trial is being judged by the King, with the Queen also presiding; the court herald is the White Rabbit; and the jury is composed of little animals, some of whom Alice has already met.

The trial proceeds nonsensically, with the Mad Hatter and the Duchess’s Cook called as witnesses and nothing really found out. Alice, however, has noticed that she is starting to grow as she sits in her seat. To her surprise, Alice herself is called as the next witness, but she forgets how big she now is and when she jumps up, her skirt knocks over the jury box and she has to put the jurors back in.

The Rabbit reads a nonsense poem as evidence, and when the King and Queen try to condemn the Knave without being fair about the trial, Alice loudly criticizes them. The King gets more and more rude to her, and Alice, no longer afraid of them, yells, “Who cares for you? You’re nothing but a pack of cards!” Suddenly they all leap up and come flying down on her — and Alice wakes up on the river bank, to find her sister brushing away dead leaves from her face.

Alice tells her sister all about her strange dream, and her sister sends her in to have her tea. But the sister remains on the riverbank, daydreaming about Alice’s adventures, and wondering if Alice will remember them as she grows older and has children of her own.