Is Alice Becoming Smarter?

One thing that caught my attention in chapter 10 was when The Mock Turtle asks Alice if she’s seen the whiting, and she responds by saying “yes, I’ve often seen them at dinn-.” Notice how she doesn’t finish her sentence and say dinner, most likely to not offend the mock turtle. This reminds of when she’s swimming with the mouse in her pool of tears and talks about cats to the mouse, which offends him.

Alice’s talk with the mouse and the mock turtle are similar because she says things that could offend them, she offends the mouse when she talks about cats and about how her cat was good at catching mice, she discovers her mistake after she talks a bit it for a little while, the difference is with the mock turtle she catches herself before she says something that could offend the mock turtle. So naturally the question “Why does she offend the mouse and the mock turtles even though the situation is similar?” comes up.

The answer I came up with is that she must have become smarter, I may be wrong, but some how her journeys may have made her smarter, not in math or school subjects, but socially. In chapter 2 she said her mind and offended the mouse and in chapter 10 she held back a little, to not offend the mock turtle. Maybe I’m completely wrong and she gets along better with mock turtles more than she does mice, but most likely not. So basically Alice’s journeys from chapter 2 to chapter 10 must have affected her in a way that made her more socially smart.



  1. I agree with Adam. I’ve seen that over the course of her adventure, Alice has grown more wise since she first fell through the rabbit hole. In the beginning, Alice was unaware to whom she was speaking to, which thus lead her to offending the mouse, back in Ch. 2. Although she doesn’t mean to offend him, yet she still continues to speak and continuing to offend the mouse. And all throughout the book, her words keep leading her into trouble. But, until her meeting with the Mock Turtle, Alice then comes to a realization. Alice is beginning to mind what she is now speaking. You’ll notice, that the conversation she has with the Mock Turtle, Alice catches herself on some instances where she is wanting to say something back, but figures out that if she might offend him. Which, again, will lead her down more trouble. I like how Hagen phrases her epiphany, “She is beginning to realize that if she speaks her mind all the time, if may offend the characters she interacts with.”

    I have a theory that the changing of sizes might have contributed to her epiphany. Symbolically, when Alice is growing up, Carroll means that she is becoming more mature and independent. And with maturity, comes wisdom. So I believe, because of many changes in size has made her more mature than the beginning. And that’s why she has learned to say what’s need to be said.

  2. I agree. Alice is slowly learning the rules of Wonderland. At the start, she is plunged into this strange new world. Like you said, she fumbles around with cats and dogs, and is caught up in the fiasco with the table, the bottle, the key, and the cake, and the door. After all the adventuring she has been through, she learns how Wonderland works, what with growing, shrinking, and strange methods of travel. The key example of her proficiency is when she re-encounters the table with the key and acts properly to escape the trap of growing and shrinking with no positive outcome. Therefore, when she encounters the Mock Turtle, she knows what to do, and how to act in order to not upset the denizen. Because Alice is always learning about Wonderland, she comes out (sort of) victorious at the end of the novel.

  3. I like the way you put this. I think I agree with you and disagree. I can see her getting smarter but in some ways I can see her getting dumber. She seems to be losing herself throughout wonderland. She starts to lose all her manners. Do you have any more examples that can show she has been getting smarter? I think that would help me make my choice if she is really getting smarter or dumber.

  4. Yep, I totally agree with this…

    It seems that throughout the story, Alice is constantly seeming to offend others that she meets. She seems to be, but she is not realizing what she is doing until the character speaks out for him/herself. Throughout the Mock Turtle’s conversation, when she realizes that she might say something offensive, she just stops and doesn’t say another word. I think that Carroll intended Alice’s character to be this way. He probably wanted Alice’s character to be just in what she is saying, and have it realize when it made a mistake, like her offensiveness towards others.

  5. Yes Adam, I agree that she becomes socially smarter. She realizes her mistakes and learns from them. Also I think that she does not want to offend the mock turtle as much as the mouse. She does not want to offend either of them but she doesn’t really care if she hurts the mouse. The mouse is referred to as the children’s mistress who she did not like. Other than that I think that she will obviously get smarter as her journey goes on. But I guess that it is not obvious in wonderland because everything is different in wonderland.

  6. I agree that Alice does get “socially” smarter as the story progresses. She stops herself when speaking to the Mock Turtle and realizes her audience, in contrast to earlier with the mouse like you said. She. There is realization and she holds back her comment that would offend the turtle. She is beginning to realize that if she speaks her mind all the time, it may offend the characters she interacts with. Now, she is becoming older and understands how to ‘safely’ interact with people down in Wonderland. This lesson will continue to help her though later on when she ‘returns’ to the real world.

    Alice earlier in this chapter has another comment about lobster, but holds her tongue again. There is talk about if Alice has ever seen a lobster. When asked, she responds that once she had “tasted-” but stops before she finishes. Yet another example that, like you said, Alice is becoming smarter.

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  • Welcome to the “Alice Project”

    What happens when a group of insightful 10th grade students explore Alice's journey into Wonderland?