Study Guide

The Queen of Hearts in Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass

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The Queen of Hearts

Character in: Wonderland

The Queen of Hearts is the bloodthirsty ruler of Wonderland. Her solution to every problem is to order a beheading before the day is out. Fortunately, as the Gryphon explains, her orders never seem to get carried out, because her husband, the King of Hearts, is right behind her, quietly canceling her orders.

Like the belligerent Red Queen in the chess game in Looking-Glass World, the Queen of Hearts is an aggressive woman who tries to dominate everything around her. Critics sometimes try to connect these two overbearing Queens to the historical Queen Victoria, implying that Carroll was satirizing his country's ruler. However, this interpretation doesn't get us very far, since there are few points of resemblance between the Wonderland queens and their real-life cousin. Queen Victoria was strong-willed, to be sure, but she was also extremely proper and dignified. If anything, the queens that Carroll imagines are the opposite of Victoria – an example of what could happen if a Queen were rude and quirky instead of straitlaced.

What's not usually dismissed is the observation that Carroll's fantasy villains tend to be women, whose power has made them shrill and aggressive. Their husbands are passive: the King of Hearts quietly countermands his Queen's orders, the White King simply watches his wife rush around the game board, and the Red King just sleeps. Meanwhile, the Queens have to do everything themselves – they're forces to be reckoned with, but alarming ones. It's not hard to see that Carroll, who never married and preferred the company of little girls to that of adult women, seems to have, well, issues with women. If you know what we mean.

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