Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass
Philosophical Viewpoints: The Absurd Quotes
How we cite our quotes:
First it marked out a race-course, in a sort of circle . . . and then all the party were placed along the course, here and there. There was no "One, two, three, and away!", but they began running when they liked, and left off when they liked, so that it was not easy to know when the race was over. However, when they had been running half an hour or so, and were quite dry again, the Dodo suddenly called out "The race is over!", and they all crowded round it, panting, and asking "But who has won?"
This question the Dodo could not answer without a great deal of thought, and it stood for a long time with one finger pressed upon its forehead (the position in which you usually see Shakespeare, in the pictures of him), while the rest waited in silence. At last the Dodo said "Everybody has won, and all must have prizes." (Wonderland 3.19-20).
The "Caucus-race" is the most strongly satirical element in the Alice books. The narrator exposes the absurdity of political machinations, which are a race that has no clear beginning or ending and gets everybody precisely nowhere.
"I have tasted eggs, certainly," said Alice, who was a very truthful child; "but little girls eat eggs quite as much as serpents do, you know."
"I don't believe it," said the Pigeon; "but if they do, why, then they're a kind of serpent: that's all I can say." (Wonderland 5.62-63)
To Alice, a name describes what a thing is; to the Pigeon, a name describes what it does.
"A cat may look at a king," said Alice. "I've read that in some book, but I don't remember where." (Wonderland 8.58)
Every time Wonderland seems to provide some kind of philosophical wisdom ("a cat may look at a king," or, in other words, "it's free to look") it's immediately undercut. Alice knows she's read this idea somewhere, but she doesn't know who said it or why it might be true.