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Déjà vu All Over Again: Analysis of Chapter Four (1 of 2)

November 7, 2009

The chapter starts off with the White Rabbit returning and passing by Alice, muttering to himself the same old worries about the Duchess. Carroll quickly goes on after this portion to say that the hall is gone as well as all of its contents. This phenomenon was discussed in my other entry, What Happened to the Hall?. A very strange occurrence, indeed.

To sum up, Alice runs off to find the gloves and fan that the Rabbit requested. She found his house and searched it for the gloves, and in the process she discovered another bottle marked… well, that’s the thing, it wasn’t marked as was the last one in the hall. She decides to drink it and finds herself growing rather quickly and ends up jammed inside the house. The White Rabbit and some associates discover the giant in his house and attempt to get her out. However, this does not work, and they end up tossing cakes that actually shrink her back down to size.

A bottle that makes her grow and cakes that make her shrink…  Déjà vu?

The roles have been reversed, though. The bottle inside the Rabbit’s home is what makes her grow for the second time in the story, and even more, it’s not marked as the last was, which said “DRINK ME.” The second cake that also served an opposite purpose wasn’t labeled, either. What does this all mean? Maybe nothing. Maybe Wonderland really is a nonsensical world that, when it comes right down to it, means nothing at all. On the other hand, this could be an example of how Alice is giving into the logic of Wonderland, no matter how “queer” it may seem. She has previously drunken the bottle with the label, but even then she checked it twice to see if it was poison. Now, after eating things so far to change her side, she drinks it without a second thought, regardless of any label. Maybe she is slowly becoming “mad” like all the rest… or was she already mad, as the Cheshire Cat would say?

Well, first of all, I’m surprised about the Wonderland inhabitants’ reactions to the changes Alice goes through throughout the story. Now I’m not saying that these shrinking and growing results are a regular sight in Wonderland. So far there hasn’t been any other shrunken or grown beings roaming about. However, we must consider the fact that the Rabbit and the others tossed cakes at Alice. Obviously, no one just goes and throws cakes at dangerous-looking giants and expecting everything to be alright. They shrunk her. This establishes that they in fact have knowledge of the possibility of growing and shrinking in Wonderland. This opens the possibilities to why the Rabbit was surprised at first sight of the first-enlarged Alice, which I discussed in another of my posts.

Here’s a thought: recall how Alice was mistaken for a “Mary Ann.” In the notations of The Annotated Alice, it explains that the term “Mary Ann” was a euphemism for a “servant girl.” At the time, Alice is shrunken. Referring to another annotation, it says that the Rabbit “angrily ordered about his servants, despite his timid character.” Maybe he was very angry in his ordering of Alice because she was one of the few beings that were actually physically smaller than him, therefore he could order her around without any problems. This is another explanation for why the Rabbit ran off terrified after seeing Alice in her first giant stage.

The associates of the White Rabbit attempted to somehow get Alice out of the house. A rather comical scene comes when the Lizard “Bill” is booted out from the chimney by Alice. Following it, however, is a very grave remark from the Rabbit:

“We must burn the house down!” said the Rabbit’s voice.

This could easily be interpreted to the extreme, sliding a “dark” them into the underlying meaning of the story, as I have read in another student’s blog, as well as many others. It is his house, keep in mind. The old, vague picture of a kind, timid White Rabbit I remember from the Disney movie is quickly fading. I suspect there is more of this to come from him. One a side-note, I am a little confused at why Lewis Carroll named the chapter as he did. Although I find it immensely clever, I find the part with Bill a little too small to encompass the whole chapter, for the chapter is filled with events.

So, obviously there is much to analyze in this chapter, even in this mere part one of two. How do you see it?

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