Alice in Wonderland

Lewis Carroll

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Alice in Wonderland | Chapter 9 : The Mock Turtle's Story | Summary



Alice and the Duchess (who's been reprieved from execution) stroll around the garden together until the Queen commands Alice to return to the game. When the game dissolves because the Queen has put all the players under sentence of death, the Queen takes Alice to meet the Gryphon, who introduces Alice to the Mock Turtle.

The Mock Turtle dolefully tells Alice a long, sad story about his education until the Gryphon interrupts and says, "Tell her something about the games."


Wordplay dominates Chapter 9. Not much happens in this chapter, but it will please readers who like puns. The names of practically everything the Mock Turtle has ever studied are puns. For instance, when the Mock Turtle mentions "the old conger-eel," he's talking about Lewis Carroll's real-life friend John Ruskin. Ruskin, the most famous art critic of his day, taught the Liddell children drawing, etching, and painting in oils, which the Mock Turtle refers to as "Drawling, Stretching, and Fainting in Coils." Once again, Carroll is making fun of traditional schooling. He also does this at the beginning of the chapter, when the Duchess delivers a long spiel on morals. It is worth noting that the Duchess is extremely polite and that Alice responds in kind.

Because this chapter deals with education, it's fitting that Trinity College at Oxford has an emblem featuring a gryphon. Carroll and the Liddell family would have often seen the gryphon on the main Trinity gates.

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