Alice in Wonderland: Novel Summary: Chapter 4
Select a Chapter:
This chapter opens with Alice again running into the White Rabbit. The Rabbit is running back toward Alice because he has lost his Gloves and Fan (remember them from Chapter Two?) Alice doesn't have them though, so she can't help him. But then the Rabbit mistakes Alice for his maid and commands her back to his cottage for the items in question. Still operating as a child, Alice immediately responds to the authority in his voice and runs back to the cottage (even though she isn't sure where it is) to get the Gloves and the Fan.
In the cottage Alice doesn't find the items in question, but instead she finds another bottle of liquid, which, though it has no label directing her to do so, she drinks. And she grows. And she gets herself stuck in the cottage because she is too big. And there, in the cottage, her too personalities (that is, the Adult Alice and the Child Alice) have a bit of an argument until the Rabbit shows up calling out for his maid, Mary Ann.
The Rabbit tries to get in, but Alice fills the house so completely that the doors are jammed. Then the Rabbit is terrified by her giant arm and calls to his Gardener, Pat, for assistance. Then they summon more help with ladders. Then there is an argument about who should climb to the roof and go down the chimney and it is decided that Bill should do it (Little Bill being one of the new helpers that the Rabbit seeks to Send In).
Alice hears scrambling in the chimney, decides that that is Bill and she kicks him out (the illustration on this page shows Bill as a Salamander being ejected from a sooty Chimney. The Salamander has long been associated with fire in European culture, which explains why it had to be Bill who went down the chimney: he would be the only one able to withstand a fire if there was one in the fireplace). Once Bill is ejected, the Rabbit calls out that house must be burned to the ground. Alice finally speaks up, threatening to sic Dinah on the lot of them. There is silence at that point.
The group finally decided to throw in a barrowful of pebbles through a window. The pebbles hit Alice in the face. But then the pebbles turned into cakes, and Alice ate a few, and she shrank. Normal sized, Alice exits the cottage and is chased by the assembled animals. Luckily she is able to make her escape into a dense wood.
While in the wood Alice comes upon a puppy that is very large, much larger than she. Or perhaps Alice is too small again. She can't decide. She tries to avoid the puppy for fear of being trampled, but she is sad that she can't play with the puppy. Again she decides to grow up so that she can enjoy these things she is coming upon. At this point she looks around for things to eat or drink, but instead she comes upon a caterpillar on a mushroom smoking a hookah.
Little can be said about this chapter symbolically. The story returns to some standard themes about adults and children (most importantly that Alice is still enough of a child that she immediately responds to the Rabbit's command without even thinking the matter over.) Also, the puppy in the end further illustrates how Alice can't enjoy her childhood completely when she is a child because the need to grow up is too great. It seems that big or small, Alice is out of place: a good metaphor for Adolescence where no one seems happy with the size they are or the way things are going.