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How Do You Play?: Analysis of Chapter Eight

November 25, 2009

Alice has finally reached the garden, but what did she hope to gain from it? Alice hoped to find comfort in the beautiful garden, but the entire scene is one of the most confusing things to her. Inside, Alice meets more curious characters and some familiar ones. Unlike previous chapters, Alice enters this one with more backbone than usual. Normally, Alice is intimated by the inhabitants she encounters, but here Alice tells herself, “They’re just a pack of cards!”

The way Carroll set “The Queen’s Croquet Ground” was interesting because of the way he arranged the social classes of Wonderland. (The spades became the workers, painting the flowers; the hearts were the royalty, etc.) By making the highest class the “hearts,” Carroll may have been pointing to the garden as the center or “heart” of Wonderland. The workers were also made to appear like our world’s laborers… afraid of the upper class and scrambling to do their work.


The garden itself doesn’t answer Alice’s questions about Wonderland – if anything, it raises more. Alice got used to believing that animals were the leaders of Wonderland, and is surprised that they are subject to “a pack of cards.” Her whole idea of the social system is upside down. The garden also isn’t a place of Nirvana for Alice either. It is filled with fear of being beheaded, and she is taught that although these inanimate objects are dangerous too. The Queen, for example, uses living things as we humans use inanimate objects. She uses the flamingo, hedgehog, and her subjects, as we would use a mallet, ball and ring. Carroll used the theme of “games” when writing the chapter; maybe she liked playing games with Alice and was referring to it here. Not only was the denizens of the garden playing cards, but there were also absurd rules to playing croquet. This could be followed up in my colleague’s analysis of how the rules and morals adults give kids are meaningless.

The Cheshire Cat acts very relaxed in this chapter, amidst all the confusion of the game. He isn’t really bothered by the way the people are running around trying to play croquet. He ignores the King’s threats and casually leaves before his death. Only the Cheshire Cat and the Hookahpiller are calm enough to understand Wonderland’s madness. Later in the story, the readers notice that Alice seems to be a powerful person in Wonderland. She starts noticing this when she builds up confidence against the cards. The King and gardeners had both asked Alice for help, which gave her a sense of “dominance.” When the King and Executioner came to Alice for help with cutting the cat’s head off, she thinks clearly, unlike the others who are acting mad. This is just the beginning of Alice gaining control of her dream.
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