Alice in Wonderland | Study Guide

Lewis Carroll

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Alice in Wonderland | Chapter 6 : Pig and Pepper | Summary

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Summary

Alice reaches a strange house and hears terrible howling and screaming inside. She enters to find a kitchen, where the Cook is stirring a very peppery soup. In the middle of the room, the Duchess is holding (and occasionally shaking) a screaming baby boy, who is also sneezing nonstop because of the pepper.

The Duchess hands the baby over to Alice, who takes him outside. Gradually, the baby turns into a pig, which Alice turns loose. She then spots the Cheshire Cat in a tree, who gives her directions to the Hatter's. When Alice remarks that she doesn't want to "go among mad people," the Cheshire Cat says, "We're all mad here."

Analysis

Lewis Carroll's father was rector of a church that featured a carving of a cat's head on one wall. Looked at from a child's perspective, the carving showed the cat to be smiling broadly. This carving may have inspired Carroll's creation of the Cheshire Cat. Additionally, the expression "grinning like a Cheshire cat" was a familiar one in Carroll's day.

The Cheshire Cat makes the book's first mention of madness, a popular theme in Victorian literature. This is also the first time that Alice is warned that the characters she'll meet next are insane, though most of the characters she has already encountered have also seemed mad.

The baby's transformation into a pig is a good example of the dream motif that runs through the novel. In dreams, things can change in unexpected and illogical ways. The transformation of the baby boy is also in keeping with Carroll's opinion of little boys. "My best love to yourself," he once signed off in a letter to a little girl. He added, "To your small, fat, impertinent, ignorant brother, my hatred."

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