In Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, the young, innocent Alice soon realizes that anything goes in the fantastic world of Wonderland. From bodiless talking cat heads to magical mushrooms, none of these things seem to surprise Alice as much as they should. Carroll's inventive new rules for time do not appear to astonish her either. In wanting to create a extraordinarily eccentric world, Carroll plays around with metaphysical elements. Changing time as the reader knows it reinforces the otherworldliness of Carroll's world.

Alice sighed wearily. "I think you might do something better with the time," she said, "than wasting it in asking riddles that have no answers."

If you knew Time as well as I do," said the Hatter, "you wouldn't talk about wasting it. It's him . . . . Now, if you only kept on good terms with him, he'd do almost anything you liked with the clock.

"For instance, suppose it were nine o'clock in the morning, just time to begin lessons: you'd only have to whisper a hint to Time, and round goes the clock in a twinkling! Half-past one, time for dinner!"

Time appears in other parts of the story as well. In the very beginning of the book, the appearance of a white rabbit looking at a watch yelling, "Oh dear! I shall be too late!" prompts Alice to move into Wonderland. Another mention of time takes place at dinner time when the Hatter explains his new situation with Time: "[Time] wonÕt do a thing I ask! It's always six o'clock." Both of the these examples leads one to believe that changing the rules of time has more purpose than the reinforcement of a fantastic world.

Questions

How does Carroll manage to change the rules of time?

How does time in Wonderland compare to other fantastic aspects of time found in other fantasy books?

Does having Time resist the Hatter's instruction serve any thematic function?

What purpose might Carroll have for introducing the white rabbit who always speaks about time?


Victorian Web Overview Lewis Carroll Leading Questions

Last modified 22 March 2004