Study Guide

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

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Madness is the explanation for just about any silly, curious, or crazy behavior in theAlice books. The reader must give in and accept a certain degree of irrationality in order to enjoy the tales. Madness is not simply the opposite of sanity; there are many degrees and types of madness, each of which deviates from the norm in a different way and to a different extent. Madness has no negative connotation; on the contrary, it seems freeing and interesting. However, madness in these books is different from foolishness, which evokes pity and compassion.

Questions About Madness

  1. Is madness a positive or negative quality for the characters in the Alice books?
  2. The Cheshire Cat insists that Alice is mad, or she wouldn't have been able to enter Wonderland in the first place. Do you agree? Does the reader have to share in Alice's madness? Why or why not?
  3. Are there any sane characters in the Alice books? Think especially about the beginning and ending of each book.
  4. Why do you think the Mad Tea Party is one of the most famous episodes in Alice's Adventures in Wonderland?

Chew on This

Although the Cheshire Cat claims that all the characters in Wonderland are mad, they're actually relatively reasonable – they just have different underlying assumptions about how the world works.

In the Alice books, "madness" is just another term used to describe things that are fantastic or imaginative.

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