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Alice in Wonderland Notes on Characters

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Alice in Wonderland Major Characters

Alice: A little girl, probably 7 years old. She has an amazing dream about changing size and meeting various strange creatures underground in Wonderland. Alice is curious, intelligent, trusting, and ready to accept the impossible. She can be quite bold; additionally, she tends to take herself seriously and sometimes has a rather quick temper.

White Rabbit: A rabbit wearing a waistcoat and pocket watch scampers past Alice at the beginning of the story. Alice follows the White Rabbit into Wonderland. The Rabbit is rather timid and nervous. He meets Alice again at his house and at the Queen's croquet-grounds where he serves as the herald at the trial of the Knave of Hearts.

Caterpillar : A large, blue, hookah-smoking caterpillar. He treats Alice with contempt and makes her angry, but he helps her to grow to the height she wants to be by telling her about the special properties of the mushroom he sits on.

Duchess: Hideously ugly in the illustrations by John Tenniel, the Duchess is hostile when she first meets Alice, but quite pleasant later on. The Duchess believes that everything has a moral, and she speaks in moralizing clichés.

Cheshire Cat: The Duchess' perpetually grinning cat. The cat speaks to Alice, but not to anyone else in the story. He informs Alice that he is insane. The Cheshire Cat can disappear and reappear suddenly, he can disappear very slowly, and he can appear as just a floating head. 'Grins like a Cheshire cat' was a common saying in England when Alice was written.

March Hare: A hare who lives in a house shaped like a hare's head. The Mad Tea Party is held on his lawn. At the trial, he contradicts the evidence presented by the Mad Hatter. At the time Alice meets him, he has been mad for two months. Alice doesn't care for him. In Carroll's time, 'Mad as a march hare' was a common phrase alluding to the frenzied behavior of hares in March, their mating season.

Mad Hatter: A hatter who continually has tea with the March Hare and the Dormouse because for him it is always six o'clock (tea-time). He quickly offends Alice. Two months before meeting Alice, he gave a concert for the Queen that ended badly. He is called as a witness at the trial of the Knave of Hearts. 'Mad as a hatter' was also a common expression in 19th century England, probably because many hatters did go mad from exposure to mercury, which was used in the process of making felt hats.

Queen of Hearts: The savage, domineering queen whose realm includes the garden. She is literally a playing card. She constantly issues orders to behead someone or other. Alice doesn't like her at all. The Queen sends Alice to meet the Gryphon and the Mock Turtle. At the trial, the Knave of Hearts is accused of stealing her tarts.

Mock Turtle: The Mock Turtle is always sad and depressed, and usually he's sighing or sobbing. He used to be a real turtle, but now he's a mock turtle, which, as the Queen explains, is what mock turtle soup is made from. (Mock turtle soup is imitation green turtle soup and is often made from veal-hence John Tenniel's illustration of a turtle with a calf's head and hooves.) The Mock Turtle loves to reminisce about his schooldays, and he teaches Alice the Lobster Quadrille.

Gryphon: A gryphon is a mythical monster, part lion and part eagle. This Gryphon takes Alice to meet the Mock Turtle and then ushers her off to the trial. He is amused by the illusions of other characters. He speaks in a Cockney accent and, like many of the other characters, he loves puns. Like the Mock Turtle, he is nostalgic about his days at school and he joins in the Lobster Quadrille.

Minor Characters

Alice's sister: Alice's older sister, who reads a book without illustrations or dialogue while sitting on the bank with Alice at the beginning of the book. Alice falls asleep with her head in her sister's lap and has the dream about Wonderland. When Alice awakes, she tells her sister about her dream, and the book closes with her sister daydreaming about what Alice will be like as a grown-up.

Dinah: Alice's cat. Dinah never actually appears in Alice, but as Alice has her adventures she often misses Dinah or talks about her.

Mouse: A French mouse who falls into the pool of Alice's tears. He is easily offended. He tells Alice his tale, which appears in Alice printed in the shape of a tail.

Mary Ann: The White Rabbit's maid. She never actually appears, but at one point the Rabbit mistakes Alice for Mary Ann.

Bill the Lizard: A hapless, somewhat stupid lizard. He first appears in the story when Alice, having grown huge, is blocking all of the entrances to the White Rabbit's house-the Rabbit sends Bill down the chimney, but Alice kicks him back out. Bill is also one of the jurors at the trial, where Alice takes away his chalk and accidentally stuffs him upside-down into the jury box.

Pig-Baby: The Duchess' ugly, squealing baby boy. Alice takes him from the Duchess to take care of him, but she lets him go when he actually turns into a pig before her eyes.

Cook: The Duchess' belligerent, violent cook. When Alice first sees her, she is making soup and using so much pepper that it fills the air of the Duchess' house. The cook is a hostile witness at the Knave's trial.

Dormouse: A guest at the Mad Tea Party. The Dormouse is always either asleep or falling asleep, despite the efforts of the Mad Hatter and the March Hare to keep him awake. The Dormouse tells Alice a story about three little girls in a treacle well. He appears again at the trial of the Knave of Hearts. (Dormice are nocturnal, hibernating rodents found in Europe and Britain. The word 'dormouse' is derived from the Latin dormire, which means 'to sleep.')

Three Gardeners: Three playing cards in the service of the Queen of Hearts. They are spades-numbers Two, Five, and Seven-who paint white roses red in an effort to cover up their mistake of planting the wrong kind of rose tree. They are placed under a sentence of execution by the Queen.

King of Hearts: Kinder than his wife, the King of Hearts quietly pardons everyone who has been sentenced to death when the Queen leaves the croquet grounds. He serves as the judge at the Knave's trial, although he doesn't seem to know much about court proceedings.

Knave of Hearts: In the King and Queen's court processions, the Knave serves as a crown-bearer. He is tried for stealing tarts made by the Queen. Despite reasonable efforts to prove himself innocent, the King and the court are determined to pronounce him guilty.

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