Alice in Wonderland: Novel Summary: Chapter 2
As Alice expected, at the beginning of this chapter the cake indeed does make her grow quite tall. As she is growing to adult proportions Alice begins to worry about her feet, her tiny feet, as though they were children. In this way Alice's manner of speaking becomes more adult and motherly. She decides that, in order to win favor from her now distant and small feat she shall send them Christmas presents. But while this opening paragraph begins as a very adult kind of worry it degenerates into childish hyperbole.
"Oh dear, what nonsense I am talking!" Alice scolds herself, reasserting her balance between the extremes of childhood and adulthood.
Then Alice grows to be too big for the house and, like a child, she cries in frustration. But the adult voice in Alice's head interjects, scolding her for crying when she is such a big girl. Her tears continue to fall, however, and she fills the house with a pool of tears.
At this point the White Rabbit reappears and Alice calls out to him for help, but he is too frightened by her size and he scurries away. '"Who in the world am I?" Ah, that's the great puzzle,' she says to her self after he is gone. (As the Rabbit leaves he forgets his white gloves and fan, which Alice picks up and keeps a hold of).
At this point Alice decides to investigate who she is, and if she is the same person that she thought she was yesterday. First she tries to catalogue all of the things she used to know to see if she still knows them. She goes from multiplication tables, to geography and then to little rhyming lessons, effectively moving backward through her schooling to the earliest things she was taught. In all cases she fails to remember.
After this Alice notices that she is shrinking again, and she shrinks back to normal size. Then she shrinks down to a size smaller than she was before, less than ten inches. She finds herself afloat in her own pool of tears and she also finds that she is sharing this pool with a mouse. She asks the mouse how she might get out of the pool. The mouse does not answer. Finally, however, Alice engages the mouse in conversation about cats. The conversation consists primarily of Alice offending the mouse by speaking well of cats (especially her cat Dinah). Then Alice tries to engage the mouse on the subject of dogs until she mentions a dog that was a good ratkiller, which enrages the mouse again.
Finally, exasperated, the mouse announces that he will tell Alice the story of why he hates both cats and dogs and leads her ashore. Alice and the mouse are followed ashore by a Dodo, a Duck, a Lory and an Eaglet who all fell into the pool while Alice and the mouse were talking.
In this chapter Carroll introduces the beginning of his argument for adulthood. The first chapter laid out the books basic question, which was: should Alice choose to remain a disordered child so that she can enjoy the laziness of a garden in summer with no worries and no responsibilities? Or, should she impose order on her life and grow up?
Her conversation with the mouse is the first of many conversations she will have in this book. While the conversations will be about many things (cats and dogs for instance) what is really going on in the conversations is the problems of politeness and civility. This will be the core of Carroll's argument that Alice SHOULD grow up and impose order on her life. If she learns to be civil and polite, for example, then she can successfully ask for help without offending anyone. This is the important first step towards growing up: learning how to be polite and how to communicate.
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