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Alice in Wonderland

Lewis Carroll

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Alice in Wonderland | Chapter 8 : The Queen's Croquet-Ground | Summary



At the garden entrance, Alice sees three gardeners painting some white roses red. Before they can finish, a royal procession begins filing in. Last to arrive are the most important: the King and Queen of Hearts and their court. All of these characters take the form of animated playing cards.

Furious at everyone and everything, the Queen of Hearts constantly orders beheadings. Fortunately, the Queen is distractible, and Alice—along with the Duchess—joins the croquet game everyone has come to play. The game is thoroughly confusing; no one is following the rules. Alice complains about this to the Cheshire Cat when its head shows up in the sky above her. The Queen orders that this head also be cut off, but the Cheshire Cat disappears before anyone can decide how to carry out the order.


In Chapter 8, Alice meets the book's angriest character, the Queen of Hearts. Carroll later wrote that he pictured her "as a sort of embodiment of ungovernable passion—a blind and aimless Fury."

Alice stands up to the Queen. As soon as they meet, Alice tells herself, "They're only a pack of cards, after all." When the Queen asks who the gardeners are, Alice answers, "How should I know? ... It's no business of mine"—the first time she's been openly rude to a Wonderland character. And when the Queen screams, "Off with her head!" Alice interrupts her by saying, "'Nonsense!'" In Chapter 7, Alice grows angry with the rudeness of the animals at the tea party and reminds them of the rules of etiquette. In this chapter, she takes the next step and responds to rudeness with rudeness. Alice comes from a middle-class home where people follow rules and try to behave well toward one another. Wonderland is a constant challenge to her concepts of etiquette and good behavior.

In its first half, Alice in Wonderland is episodic. One adventure follows another without much discernible progress. Alice grows, shrinks, and wanders around meeting talking animals. In the second half, Alice turns more assertive, and the plot becomes more linear. In the early chapters of the novel, Alice doesn't question the reality of the characters she meets. In Chapter 8, her realization that the royals and courtiers are "only a pack of cards" suggests that she may be starting to wake up from her dream.

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