Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass
by Lewis Carroll
Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass Philosophical Viewpoints: The Absurd Quotes
How we cite our quotes: Citations follow this format: (Book.Chapter.Paragraph)
The executioner's argument was, that you couldn't cut off a head unless there was a body to cut it off from: that he had never had to do such a thing before, and he wasn't going to begin at his time of life.
The King's argument was that anything that had a head could be beheaded, and that you weren't to talk nonsense.
The Queen's argument was that, if something wasn't done about it in less than no time, she'd have everybody executed, all round. (Wonderland 8.67-69)
What at first seems like a reasonable debate between the King and the Executioner is rendered ridiculous by the Queen's bloodthirsty reaction. Different points of view can coexist in discussion unless one person doesn't want to play fair – or nice.
"Maybe it's always pepper that makes people hot-tempered," she went on, very much pleased at having found out a new kind of rule, "and vinegar that makes them sour – and camomile that makes them bitter – and – and barley-sugar and such things that make children sweet-tempered. I only wish people knew that: then they wouldn't be so stingy about it, you know – " (Wonderland 9.3)
As absurd as this "rule" might be, what's more absurd is the truth that people's moods may not be related to anything going on in the world around them.
"Tut, tut, child!" said the Duchess. "Every thing's got a moral, if only you can find it." (Wonderland 9.6)
By putting this Victorian commonplace into the mouth of the ridiculous Duchess, Lewis Carroll shows us how absurd it really is. Alice's Adventures in Wonderland was one of the first major works of children's literature that placed entertainment value above moral instruction. After all, not everything does have a moral – some things are just wrong, or absurd, or ridiculous. Carroll almost anticipates existentialism here. It's a bit depressing, really, but it's saved by our laughter.