Alice in Wonderland | Study Guide

Lewis Carroll

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Alice in Wonderland | Chapter 4 : The Rabbit Sends in a Little Bill | Summary

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Summary

As Alice sits alone in the hall, the White Rabbit passes again. This time he mistakes her for his housemaid, Mary Ann, and orders her to fetch him some gloves and a fan. Alice makes her way to the White Rabbit's house. In addition to the fan and gloves, she finds a little bottle whose contents she decides to try. Instantly, she starts growing until her body fills the entire house.

The White Rabbit comes to his house in search of Mary Ann. Seeing Alice's huge arm sticking out of the window, he sends for help. A crowd of animals throw pebbles through the window, and the pebbles change into little cakes. Alice eats one to see if it will shrink her. It does, and tiny Alice runs out of the house. After escaping from a puppy, she spots a mushroom with the Caterpillar sitting on top. The Caterpillar is smoking a hookah.

Analysis

Lewis Carroll was obsessed with the world of childhood. In his letters to children, he sometimes mentioned how sad it was that they would have to grow up one day. Alice "grows up" with a vengeance in this chapter, and the process is disagreeable—awkward and uncomfortable. The White Rabbit threatens to burn down the house with her inside; the other animals throw rocks at her.

Alice herself is mournful about having grown so much. "At least there's no room to grow up any more here," she reflects. Without reading too much into Carroll's intentions, the reader can still recognize that Chapter 4 reveals some ambivalence about a child getting bigger.

The White Rabbit is a caricature of a Victorian gentleman—self-important, vain, and somewhat ineffectual. True to the stereotype, the White Rabbit pays little attention to the people around him. When he mistakes Alice for his housemaid, it is clear that he has no idea what his housemaid looks like. It is also likely that he doesn't know his housemaid's name, as he calls Alice by the name of Mary Ann, which was actually slang for "servant girl" in Victorian England.

Some critics have noted that the puppy doesn't seem to fit into Wonderland. It is the only important animal in the book who doesn't talk to Alice.

Documents for Chapter 4

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Questions for Chapter 4

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