Lewis Carroll’s novel, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, was written in 1865 during the Victorian era. The young heroine, Alice, ventures through a fantastical world filled with magic potions, cakes, mushrooms, bizarre obstacles, and confounding creatures. Carroll uses the denizens of Wonderland to mock the fastidiousness and moral constrictions of the Victorian Era. Alice’s struggle to adapt to the fantastical world also represents an initiation into the strange rules and behaviors of adulthood.
The book opens with Alice spying a White Rabbit who is talking to himself. Fascinated, she follows him down into a hole in the ground. During her slow freefall, Alice fears she might fall straight through to the other side of the Earth.
Finally, Alice reaches the bottom unhurt. She continues to follow the White Rabbit to a long hallway full of locked doors, where a golden key lies on a table nearby. However, it is far too small for any of the locks. Finding a tiny door hidden behind a curtain she is able to open it but unable to enter because of her size. Through the door she can see a miniature passageway, leading to a lovely garden that she longs to visit.
Alice returns to the table, where a little bottle has appeared. She consumes the fruit-flavored drink and then shrinks to a size small enough to fit through the door. However, Alice soon realizes that she has left the golden key on top of the table and is now too short to reach it. She cries over her foolish mistake, but soon finds a piece of cake to eat which gives her hope.
As the cake takes effect, Alice finds herself growing larger. This time, she keeps growing until she is the size of a giant. Now, entering through the door to the garden will be more difficult than ever, so Alice begins to cry again. The White Rabbit comes scurrying back down the hall. Alice tries to talk to him, but he runs away in terror, leaving behind his fan and white kid gloves.
Alice begins shrinking again after picking up the rabbit’s fan, which she drops hastily to prevent disappearing completely. She is now the right size to fit through the door to the garden, but she has left the key, once again, on the table.
Alice soon slips and falls into a vast body of salt water which is the pool of tears that she cried when she was a giant. She sees a mouse swimming through the little sea, but she unintentionally offends and frightens the creature by talking about her cat. She swims to shore with the mouse and other animals who then all abandon her.
Left alone, Alice goes on through the forest where she meets the White Rabbit again. He mistakes her for his maid and sends her to fetch some things from his house. While inside, she drinks another potion and then becomes too large to get out through the door. She eventually finds pebble cakes which, when eaten, make her small again.
Alice runs from the house and then finds herself in a dense forest where she searches for something to restore her to normal size. Suddenly, Alice finds herself face-to-face with a friendly puppy. She starts to play fetch with it, but she soon realizes that at her present size, the puppy poses a considerable threat. Alice barely manages to escape being trampled.
Wandering alone through giant flowers and blades of grass, Alice comes upon a Caterpillar who is smoking a hookah and sitting on a mushroom. He gives her some sage advice, as well as a valuable tool: Alice can grow larger or smaller as she wishes by eating two sides of the mushroom.
The first time she eats the mushroom, her body stretches tremendously. Alice pokes her head into the branches of a tree where she meets a large Pigeon who flies into her face and beats her violently with his wings. The Pigeon thinks she is a serpent. As she is unable to convince him otherwise, he tells Alice to leave.
Eating a bit of the mushroom to return to normal size, she resolves to find the garden, but she finds a charming miniature house instead. Alice nibbles the mushroom again until she is only nine inches high and can enter.
The house belongs to the Duchess who is battling fiercely with the Cook. The two seem unconcerned about the safety of the baby that the Duchess is nursing. Alice rescues the child only to find that it is a pig instead of a human. She releases it to trot off into the woods.
Next, Alice sees the Cheshire cat, whom she asks for directions. He points the way to the Hatter's home, and to the March Hare's place, but he warns her that they're both mad. The cat also accuses other locals, Alice, and himself of being insane before disappearing—tail first and grin last.
Alice uses the mushroom to raise her height by two feet; she attends a Mad Tea Party at the March Hare’s house. The three creatures there—the March Hare, the Hatter, and the Dormouse—contradict and correct Alice with confusing arguments and strange logic. Much of the conversation is about time. Ever since the Queen of Hearts accused the Hatter of murdering Time, it has always been six o'clock; it is therefore always teatime.
Alice then wanders the woods until she finds a tree with a door in it. Inside, she sees the door-lined hallway from the beginning of her adventures. This time, she is prepared. She takes the golden key from the table and unlocks the door to the lovely garden that she saw earlier. She then eats just enough mushroom to fit through the door.
Once there, three gardeners, whose bodies are shaped like playing cards, are painting the roses red. They explain that if the Queen finds out that they planted white roses, she'll have them beheaded. The Queen herself soon arrives, and she does order their execution, but Alice helps to hide them in a large flowerpot.
The Queen invites Alice to play a difficult game of croquet. The balls are live hedgehogs; the mallets are live flamingoes; and the hoops are the card-people, bent over so that their bodies make arches. No one is waiting their turn, and the Queen is soon in a fury.
The Cheshire cat interrupts the game and the King of Hearts immediately dislikes him. The cat vanishes before a decision is reached about his execution.
The Queen takes Alice to the Gryphon, who in turn takes Alice to the Mock Turtle. They tell Alice bizarre stories about their school under the sea. The Mock Turtle sings a melancholy song about turtle soup, and soon afterward the Gryphon drags Alice off to see the trial of the Knave of Hearts.
The Knave of Hearts has been accused of stealing the tarts of the Queen of Hearts, but the evidence against him is unsound. Alice is appalled and begins to grow larger. She is soon called to the witness stand; by this time she has grown to a giant size. She refuses to be intimidated by the illogical court proceeding and the bluster of the King and Queen of Hearts. Suddenly, in response to her defiance, the cards all rise up and attack her, at which point she wakes up. Her adventures in Wonderland have all been a fantastic dream.