Study Guide

The Duchess in Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass

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The Duchess

Character in: Wonderland

The Duchess demonstrates how people can change radically in different environments. When she's in her pepper-filled house with her angry cook and squealing baby, she is rude and violent. But while strolling in the open air with Alice, she is almost too affectionate.

She's also ready to assign morals or meanings to anything, even if they don't seem to fit. You can think of the Duchess as a bad literary critic – someone who's trying to slap a trite moral onto the end of everything that happens, as though the world were made of Aesop's fables. Lewis Carroll signals his disapproval of this moralistic attitude by giving the Duchess a sharp chin that she likes to dig into Alice's shoulder – similarly, her boring morals and sayings dig irritatingly into Alice (and the reader) in a metaphorical way. The world of Wonderland resists a moral interpretation; it's really just a fantasy world, and things are neither good nor bad.

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