Chapter 10: The Lobster Quadrille Notes from Alice in Wonderland

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Alice in Wonderland Chapter 10: The Lobster Quadrille

After choking back sobs, the Mock Turtle tells Alice that he assumes that she has no idea what a Lobster Quadrille is. With the Gryphon's help, he goes about explaining it to her. The Mock Turtle and the Gryphon try to demonstrate the dance for Alice while the Mock Turtle sings the song, which includes such lyrics as

"'Will you walk a little faster?' said a whiting to a snail,
'There's a porpoise close behind us and he's treading on my tail.
See how eagerly the lobsters and the turtles all advance!
They are waiting on the shingle--will you come and join the dance?
Will you, won't you, will you, won't you, will you join the dance?'"
Chapter 10, pp. 67-8

When the dance is over, Alice is quite relieved not to have to watch it any longer. She comments that she enjoyed the song about the whiting and narrowly avoids blurting out that she has eaten whitings often. The others are pleased that she seems to know quite a bit about whiting, and the Gryphon asks her if she knows the reason for the name of this particular fish. Alice doesn't know, so the Gryphon reveals to her that whiting is for boots and shoes. On land, he says, shoes are shined with blacking, and in the sea, they're shined with whiting.

And the Gryphon and the Mock Turtle are back to their punning again. Alice further learns that under the sea, shoes are made of "Soles and eels" and that when traveling in the sea one must always keep a porpoise along, in case someone asks with what porpoise one is traveling. Alice is pretty sure the Mock Turtle means "purpose" and not "porpoise," but the Mock Turtle defensively insists that he means what he says.

Topic Tracking: Meaning 7

The Gryphon tells Alice that now she should tell them her adventures, but Alice says that she could tell what has happened today, but not what happened before, since she had been a different person then. The Mock Turtle wants to know about the change Alice has gone through, but the Gryphon is much more interested in Alice's adventures and tells her to start with those instead.

Topic Tracking: Identity 9

Alice begins telling them the events of the day, from when she first saw the White Rabbit to trying to recite "You are old, Father William" to the Caterpillar. The Gryphon and the Mock Turtle agree that this is very strange, and for that matter so are all of her adventures. To test Alice's strange inability to recite properly, the Gryphon asks her to recite "'Tis the voice of the sluggard."

Alice, a bit annoyed that everyone keeps ordering her around and telling her to repeat her lessons, nevertheless begins to recite. Her head, however, is so full of the words of the Lobster Quadrille that the poem comes out as the story of a lobster:

"'Tis the voice of the Lobster: I heard him declare
'You have baked me to brown, I must sugar my hair.'"
Chapter 10, pg. 70

Topic Tracking: Knowledge 10

When Alice finishes the first verse, the Gryphon tells her that Alice's poem is quite different from what he had learned as a child. The Mock Turtle never even knew the original, but he agrees that what Alice recited was "'uncommon nonsense.'" Chapter 10, pg. 70 Alice wonders if anything will ever happen normally again. The Mock Turtle asks Alice to explain her version of the poem, but the Gryphon knows that she can't. The Mock Turtle keeps asking questions, but Alice herself is so confused by what she recited that she can't come up with a very good explanation. At the Gryphon's urging, she goes on to the second verse.

The Mock Turtle is getting quite upset because he can't understand the meaning of what Alice recites. He says that if she's not going to explain as she recites then she may as well stop. Alice is only too glad to be finished. The Mock Turtle then sings another song, "Turtle Soup," in his sobbing way.

Topic Tracking: Meaning 8

After a few verses, a voice in the distance yells that the trial is beginning. The Gryphon grabs Alice's hand and starts running back to court, faster and farther until all Alice can hear of the Mock Turtle's song is the chorus, "'Soup of the evening, beautiful soup!'" Chapter 10, pg. 72

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