An adventurous, spunky, and levelheaded seven-year-old who jumps into a dream world, Alice finds herself constantly confronted by characters who say things that make no sense and do things she knows are impossible. Alice does her best to stay grounded and polite with each new encounter—a hard task, considering she changes size so often that she's not always sure she's the same person. Although she sometimes gives way to emotion, she becomes braver and more assertive as her adventure continues. She learns to stand up for herself, and at the story's end, she stands up for a character who's being treated unfairly. She even defies a queen before returning to her own world.
At the beginning of the book, the White Rabbit races past Alice on his hind legs, checking his pocket watch and muttering anxiously. Alice chases him down a rabbit hole and finds herself in Wonderland. Readers never learn much about the White Rabbit, but because he's the first Wonderland creature readers meet, and because he reappears occasionally, he's an important character.
Queen of Hearts
An animated playing card, the Queen of Hearts is Alice's main antagonist. In fact, the Queen is nasty to everyone she meets. She's like a walking volcano, always erupting with fury, and her favorite command is "Off with his head!" (or "her head," in Alice's case). Sensible characters like the Gryphon realize that the Queen never actually succeeds at getting her opponents beheaded, though she terrifies many of her subjects. The Queen's mood never changes; it's always pitched at the same level of rage. But Alice realizes that the Queen has no power over her. When Alice defies the Queen at the trial of the Knave of Hearts, Alice's own trial in Wonderland immediately comes to an end.
The Duchess is a milder version of the Queen. When Alice meets her, the Duchess is alternately cradling and shaking a howling baby. Suddenly, she casually tosses the baby to Alice and leaves. A few minutes later, the baby turns into a pig and walks away. Alice next meets the Duchess at the royal croquet game, where the Duchess is more friendly. As she and Alice chat, the Duchess finds a moral in every topic and practically every sentence. None of the morals make any sense, but the Duchess is proud of them.
With the March Hare and the Dormouse, the Hatter presides over a long tea table set with dozens of empty chairs. He's rather uncivil to Alice, informing her that she needs a haircut and asking her to solve a riddle that doesn't have an answer. He bafflingly explains that the previous March, he "murdered the time" (sang off the beat) and that time punished him by stopping the clock at six o'clock in the evening, so that it's always teatime.
When Alice meets the Caterpillar, he's sitting on top of a mushroom and smoking a hookah. He contradicts everything Alice says, but he does make her think. He also tells her that eating from one side of the mushroom will make her grow taller and eating from the other side will shrink her. After that, Alice is better able to control her size.
The Cheshire Cat is one of the few characters who's moderately pleasant with Alice. He appears and disappears without warning, but when he's around, he listens to her sympathetically. However, he's disconcertingly sure that he, Alice, and everyone else in Wonderland are insane. Another disconcerting feature of the Cheshire Cat is that he can disappear gradually, leaving only his smile floating in the air.