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Alice in Wonderland | Quotes

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1.

What is the use of a book without pictures or conversations?


Alice, Chapter 1

Alice asks herself this question in the book's first paragraph. She's sitting on the riverbank next to her sister, who's reading what looks to Alice like a very dull book. Alice can't know that she herself is about to become the star of an adventure whose conversations and pictures will become famous around the world.

2.

Oh dear! Oh dear! I shall be too late!


White Rabbit, Chapter 1

This commonplace sentence has become world-famous. The White Rabbit mutters it as he passes Alice. Seeing a talking rabbit doesn't rouse Alice, but when he takes out a pocket watch to check the time, she jumps to her feet and follows him into Wonderland.

3.

Curiouser and curiouser!


Alice, Chapter 2

Alice's famous exclamation opens Chapter 2. Alice is only seven, and she's so flummoxed by suddenly being nine feet tall that proper grammar is the last thing on her mind. Ungrammatical as it is, the remark shows that Alice has kept her composure: many seven-year-olds in Alice's position would have burst into tears.

4.

"Who in the world am I?" Ah, that's the great puzzle!


Alice, Chapter 2

One of Alice's greatest challenges is holding onto her identity when she's undergoing so many changes in size. Early in the book, she can't quite believe that she's still herself whether she's three inches or nine feet tall. This speaks to the theme of growing up—how children struggle to develop their own identities as they mature.

5.

Speak roughly to your little boy,/And beat him when he sneezes.


Duchess, Chapter 6

Most people wouldn't consider this a lullaby, but it's what the Duchess sings when she's trying to soothe her screaming baby. It is not only an extreme interpretation of how children were disciplined in the Victorian era but another example of parody, making reference to the American poem "Speak Gently" (1848) by David Bates. From a child's perspective, punishment might often have seemed just this undeserved. The stricture is, however, very much in keeping with how the creatures in Wonderland often treat one another.

6.

We're all mad here.


Cheshire Cat, Chapter 7

Alice knows that Wonderland is different from the real world, but the characters she's met so far have insisted that they're normal and she's the one who's out of step. The Cheshire Cat is one of the few characters in the book whose conversation makes sense to Alice. As this line shows, the Cheshire Cat is also more self-aware than most other Wonderland inhabitants.

7.

Why is a raven like a writing-desk?


Hatter, Chapter 7

The Hatter poses this riddle to Alice. After she's thought about it for a while, she gives up. The Hatter tells her that he doesn't know the answer either. Lewis Carroll heard from many readers who believed they had come up with an answer. In a preface to the 1896 edition, he suggested, "Because it can produce [a] few notes, though they are very flat; and it is never put with the wrong end in front."

8.

Off with her head!


Queen of Hearts, Chapter 8

This is what the Queen of Hearts says when Alice displeases her at their first meeting. The Queen is always displeased and always ordering people to be beheaded. Luckily, the sentences are never carried out.

9.

Everything's got a moral, if only you can find it.


Duchess, Chapter 9

The Duchess says this to Alice during the royal croquet game. She can always find a moral in what people say, even when the moral makes no sense.

10.

'Tis the voice of the Lobster: I heard him declare/'You have baked me too brown, I must sugar my hair.'


Alice, Chapter 10

Like most educated children in the 19th century, Alice has learned many poems and songs by memory. But whenever a Wonderland character asks her to recite something, Alice—who cannot control what she dreams—can only stammer out a parody version. Here, the Gryphon has just asked her to recite a real-life poem called "'Tis the Voice of the Sluggard." Since they're standing on the beach, this parody is what comes out of poor Alice's mouth.

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