Alice in Wonderland | Study Guide

Lewis Carroll

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Alice in Wonderland | Chapter 1 : Down the Rabbit-Hole | Summary

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Summary

On a May afternoon in the English countryside, seven-year-old Alice is dozing on a riverbank when a large white rabbit races by. The rabbit checks a pocket watch and then disappears down a large hole with Alice in impetuous pursuit. The hole turns into an exceedingly deep tunnel. After a seemingly endless fall, Alice touches bottom and finds herself in a long, dark hallway lined with closed doors.

Alice finds a gold key on a table and uses it to open a little door, through which she spots a lovely garden. She longs to explore the garden but is too tall to get through the door. The contents of a bottle labeled "drink me" cause Alice to shrink until she's too short to reach the key on the table. Next she finds a small cake labeled "eat me." She obeys the instruction and waits to see what will happen.

Analysis

Readers see from the beginning that Alice's adventures will be extraordinary. Almost as strange will be her reaction to them. Throughout the story, Lewis Carroll uses an unemphatic, almost deadpan style. Like a person in a dream, Alice takes in stride everything that happens to her. Carroll's understated style is convincingly dreamlike and very effective; after all, the book would become tedious if Alice were constantly reeling with shock.

It must have been refreshing for young female readers to see a child heroine act so boldly and decisively the minute she sees the White Rabbit. Alice doesn't hesitate to follow the White Rabbit, and she's not daunted by landing in a new world. She's ready for this adventure.

Alice's adventures are also trials—trials of her patience, her courage, and even her manners. As she learns that nothing in Wonderland makes sense, she struggles to stay cheerful and to maintain her own understanding of reality.

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