As Alice progresses through Wonderland for a second time in Through the Looking Glass, she encounters a classic nursery rhyme character, Humpty Dumpty. Alice accidently offends him by mistaking his cravat for a belt. This brings up the fact that the King and Queen gave him the cravat as an unbirthday present. Alice then calculates in a book the number of unbirthdays someone has, and then gives the book to Humpty Dumpty.

"You're holding it upside down!" Alice interrupted.

"To be sure I was!" Humpty Dumpty said gaily, as she turned it round for him. "I thought it looked a little queer. As I was saying, that seems to be done right — though I haven't time to look it over thoroughly just now — and that shows that there are three hundred and sixty-four days when you might get birthday presents-"

"Certainly," Alice said.

"And only one for birthday presents, you know. That's glory for you!"

"I don't know what you mean by 'glory,' " Alice said.

Humpty Dumpty smiled comtemptuously. "Of course you don't — till I tell you. I meant 'there's a nice knock-down argument for you!" [189]

Alice argues with this definition of glory, claiming one cannot make up meanings for words. Humpty Dumpty responds by saying that a word means "just what I choose it to mean." When Alice further questions this statement Humpty Dumpty proclaims the question is "which is to be master," leaving Alice "too puzzled to say anything."

Questions

1. How do the aspects of Wonderland compare to those of the Fairy Forest in Phantastes? Does Alice's lack of understanding about how the world functions parallel the problems of Anodos?

2. Humpty Dumpty's contemptuous smile reminds the readers of the multitude of somewhat sinister characters within Wonderland. Why does Carroll include such characters in a children's book?


Victorian Web Overview Lewis Carroll Leading Questions

Last modified 24 March 2004