Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass
by Lewis Carroll
The March Hare, the Mad Hatter, and the Dormouse
Characters in: Wonderland
The March Hare, the Mad Hatter, and the Dormouse sit at a large banquet table outside the March Hare's house having a perpetual tea party. As the Hatter explains, this is because he offended Time, and so now it's always the same time of day for him. The Hare and Hatter are mad (insane) for specific reasons: hares and rabbits are said to go mad in the Spring because it's their mating season, and hatters were said to go mad because of their exposure to mercury, a dangerous chemical used in the manufacture of the hats they sold. The Dormouse doesn't seem particularly mad, but it does fall asleep almost every moment – even when it's telling a story.
The participants in the Mad Tea Party are some of the most famous characters in the Alice books, perhaps because they are fond of puns and jokes, or perhaps simply because they're rude. And by contrasting their rudeness, clumsiness, and silliness with the usual propriety and organization of a normal Victorian tea party, Carroll makes us realize that rudeness might actually be better than stuffiness.