Alice in Wonderland

Lewis Carroll

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Alice in Wonderland | Chapter 11 : Who Stole the Tarts? | Summary



Back on the croquet lawn, Alice and the Gryphon learn that the Knave of Hearts has been charged with stealing a plate of tarts. The bewigged King of Hearts is serving as judge in the trial, and 12 creatures make up the jury. The White Rabbit is acting as herald.

"Consider your verdict," the King tells the jury before the trial even begins. It's clear the whole proceeding will be a shambles. In the midst of the confusion, Alice realizes that she's starting to grow again. The next witness is the Duchess's Cook, who refuses to give evidence and slips away in the confusion. Alice is startled to hear her own name being called as the third witness.


The action in this trial scene is based on the famous nursery rhyme that begins, "The Queen of Hearts / She made some tarts / All on a summer's day." The first stanza of the poem is familiar; the next three, about the other Kings and Queens in a card deck, are surprisingly violent and never appear in modern Mother Goose books.

Alice finds the trial ridiculous from the beginning; she's becoming impatient with her long adventure. Note that this time she starts growing without eating anything special—she is literally growing out of Wonderland, a reflection of her dawning awareness that she's dreaming and is starting to wake up. She wonders if she should leave but decides to stay as long as there's room—an accurate portrayal of the way dreams seem to dissipate as the dreamer gradually pulls away from sleep.

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