Down the Rabbit Hole

An Excerpt from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland

By Lewis Carroll

Charles Lutwidge Dodgson (1832-1898), better known by his penname Lewis Carroll, was an English writer,
mathematician, and Anglican minister. His best known work is Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. A
whimsical and satirical piece, it tells the tale of a young girl who falls into a world of nonsense. As you read,
take notes on how Carroll uses point of view to portray a childlike imagination.

Chapter 1: “Down the Rabbit Hole”
Alice was beginning to get very tired of sitting by her
sister on the bank,1
and of having nothing to do: once
or twice she had peeped into the book her sister was
reading, but it had no pictures or conversations in it,
‘and what is the use of a book,’ thought Alice ‘without
pictures or conversation?’
So she was considering in her own mind (as well as
she could, for the hot day made her feel very sleepy
and stupid), whether the pleasure of making a daisy￾chain would be worth the trouble of getting up and
picking the daisies, when suddenly a White Rabbit
with pink eyes ran close by her.
There was nothing so very remarkable in that; nor did Alice think it so very much out of the way to hear the
Rabbit say to itself, ‘Oh dear! Oh dear! I shall be late!’ (when she thought it over afterwards, it occurred to her
that she ought to have wondered at this, but at the time it all seemed quite natural); but when the Rabbit
actually took a watch out of its waistcoat-pocket, and looked at it, and then hurried on, Alice started to her feet,
for it flashed across her mind that she had never before seen a rabbit with either a waistcoat-pocket, or a watch
to take out of it, and burning with curiosity, she ran across the field after it, and fortunately was just in time to
see it pop down a large rabbit-hole under the hedge.
In another moment down went Alice after it, never once considering how in the world she was to get out again.
The rabbit-hole went straight on like a tunnel for some way, and then dipped suddenly down, so suddenly that
Alice had not a moment to think about stopping herself before she found herself falling down a very deep well.

  1. the bank of a river
    Either the well was very deep, or she fell very slowly, for she had plenty of time as she went down to look about
    her and to wonder what was going to happen next. First, she tried to look down and make out what she was
    coming to, but it was too dark to see anything; then she looked at the sides of the well, and noticed that they
    were filled with cupboards and book-shelves; here and there she saw maps and pictures hung upon pegs. She
    took down a jar from one of the shelves as she passed; it was labelled ‘ORANGE MARMALADE’, but to her great
    disappointment it was empty: she did not like to drop the jar for fear of killing somebody, so managed to put it
    into one of the cupboards as she fell past it.
    ‘Well!’ thought Alice to herself, ‘after such a fall as this, I shall think nothing of tumbling down stairs! How brave
    they’ll all think me at home! Why, I wouldn’t say anything about it, even if I fell off the top of the house!’ (Which
    was very likely true.)
    Down, down, down. Would the fall never come to an end! ‘I wonder how many miles I’ve fallen by this time?’ she
    said aloud. ‘I must be getting somewhere near the centre of the earth. Let me see: that would be four thousand
    miles down, I think — ’ (for, you see, Alice had learnt several things of this sort in her lessons in the schoolroom,
    and though this was not a very good opportunity for showing off her knowledge, as there was no one to listen
    to her, still it was good practice to say it over) ‘ — yes, that’s about the right distance — but then I wonder what
    or Longitude3
    I’ve got to?’ (Alice had no idea what Latitude was, or Longitude either, but thought they
    were nice grand words to say.)
    Presently she began again. ‘I wonder if I shall fall right through the earth! How funny it’ll seem to come out
    among the people that walk with their heads downward! The Antipathies,4
    I think — ’ (she was rather glad there
    was no one listening, this time, as it didn’t sound at all the right word) ‘ — but I shall have to ask them what the
    name of the country is, you know. Please, Ma’am, is this New Zealand or Australia?’ (and she tried to curtsey as
    she spoke — fancy curtseying as you’re falling through the air! Do you think you could manage it?) ‘And what an
    little girl she’ll think me for asking! No, it’ll never do to ask: perhaps I shall see it written up
    [10] Down, down, down. There was nothing else to do, so Alice soon began talking again. ‘Dinah’ll miss me very
    much to-night, I should think!’ (Dinah was the cat.) ‘I hope they’ll remember her saucer of milk at tea-time.
    Dinah my dear! I wish you were down here with me! There are no mice in the air, I’m afraid, but you might catch
    a bat, and that’s very like a mouse, you know. But do cats eat bats, I wonder?’ And here Alice began to get rather
    sleepy, and went on saying to herself, in a dreamy sort of way, ‘Do cats eat bats? Do cats eat bats?’ and
    sometimes, ‘Do bats eat cats?’ for, you see, as she couldn’t answer either question, it didn’t much matter which
    way she put it. She felt that she was dozing off, and had just begun to dream that she was walking hand in hand
    with Dinah, and saying to her very earnestly, ‘Now, Dinah, tell me the truth: did you ever eat a bat?’ when
    suddenly, thump! thump! down she came upon a heap of sticks and dry leaves, and the fall was over.
  2. Latitude is a geographic coordinate that details the north-south position of a point on the earth’s surface. Its lines
    run horizontally, or side-to-side, across the globe.
  3. Longitude is a geographic coordinate that details the east-west position of a point on the earth’s surface. Its lines run
    vertically, or up-and-down, across the globe.
  4. Alice mistakenly says “antipathies” instead of “antipodes,” which is a term used to describe people who live on the
    opposite side of the world as oneself, often used in reference to Australia and New Zealand from the Northwestern
  5. Ignorant (adjective) lacking knowledge, awareness, or understanding of a subject or in general
    Alice was not a bit hurt, and she jumped up on to her feet in a moment: she looked up, but it was all dark
    overhead; before her was another long passage, and the White Rabbit was still in sight, hurrying down it. There
    was not a moment to be lost: away went Alice like the wind, and was just in time to hear it say, as it turned a
    corner, ‘Oh my ears and whiskers, how late it’s getting!’ She was close behind it when she turned the corner, but
    the Rabbit was no longer to be seen: she found herself in a long, low hall, which was lit up by a row of lamps
    hanging from the roof.
    There were doors all round the hall, but they were all locked; and when Alice had been all the way down one
    side and up the other, trying every door, she walked sadly down the middle, wondering how she was ever to get
    out again.
    Suddenly she came upon a little three-legged table, all made of solid glass; there was nothing on it except a tiny
    golden key, and Alice’s first thought was that it might belong to one of the doors of the hall; but, alas! either the
    locks were too large, or the key was too small, but at any rate it would not open any of them. However, on the
    second time round, she came upon a low curtain she had not noticed before, and behind it was a little door
    about fifteen inches high: she tried the little golden key in the lock, and to her great delight it fitted!
    Alice opened the door and found that it led into a small passage, not much larger than a rat-hole: she knelt
    down and looked along the passage into the loveliest garden you ever saw. How she longed to get out of that
    dark hall, and wander about among those beds of bright flowers and those cool fountains, but she could not
    even get her head though the doorway; ‘and even if my head would go through,’ thought poor Alice, ‘it would be
    of very little use without my shoulders. Oh, how I wish I could shut up like a telescope!6
    I think I could, if I only
    know how to begin.’ For, you see, so many out-of-the-way things had happened lately, that Alice had begun to
    think that very few things indeed were really impossible.
    [15] There seemed to be no use in waiting by the little door, so she went back to the table, half hoping she might
    find another key on it, or at any rate a book of rules for shutting people up like telescopes: this time she found a
    little bottle on it, (‘which certainly was not here before,’ said Alice,) and round the neck of the bottle was a paper
    label, with the words ‘DRINK ME’ beautifully printed on it in large letters.
    It was all very well to say ‘Drink me,’ but the wise little Alice was not going to do that in a hurry. ‘No, I’ll look first,’
    she said, ‘and see whether it’s marked “poison” or not’; for she had read several nice little histories about
    children who had got burnt, and eaten up by wild beasts and other unpleasant things, all because they would
    not remember the simple rules their friends had taught them: such as, that a red-hot poker will burn you if you
    hold it too long; and that if you cut your finger very deeply with a knife, it usually bleeds; and she had never
    forgotten that, if you drink much from a bottle marked ‘poison,’ it is almost certain to disagree with you, sooner
    or later.
    However, this bottle was not marked ‘poison,’ so Alice ventured to taste it, and finding it very nice, (it had, in
    fact, a sort of mixed flavour of cherry-tart, custard, pine-apple, roast turkey, toffee, and hot buttered toast,) she
    very soon finished it off.
    ‘What a curious feeling!’ said Alice; ‘I must be shutting up like a telescope.’
  6. Alice is referring to a collapsible hand-held telescope.
    And so it was indeed: she was now only ten inches high, and her face brightened up at the thought that she was
    now the right size for going through the little door into that lovely garden. First, however, she waited for a few
    minutes to see if she was going to shrink any further: she felt a little nervous about this; ‘for it might end, you
    know,’ said Alice to herself, ‘in my going out altogether, like a candle. I wonder what I should be like then?’ And
    she tried to fancy what the flame of a candle is like after the candle is blown out, for she could not remember
    ever having seen such a thing.
    [20] After a while, finding that nothing more happened, she decided on going into the garden at once; but, alas for
    poor Alice! when she got to the door, she found she had forgotten the little golden key, and when she went
    back to the table for it, she found she could not possibly reach it: she could see it quite plainly through the
    glass, and she tried her best to climb up one of the legs of the table, but it was too slippery; and when she had
    tired herself out with trying, the poor little thing sat down and cried.
    ‘Come, there’s no use in crying like that!’ said Alice to herself, rather sharply; ‘I advise you to leave off this
    minute!’ She generally gave herself very good advice, (though she very seldom followed it), and sometimes she
    scolded herself so severely7
    as to bring tears into her eyes; and once she remembered trying to box8
    her own
    ears for having cheated herself in a game of croquet she was playing against herself, for this curious child was
    very fond of pretending to be two people. ‘But it’s no use now,’ thought poor Alice, ‘to pretend to be two people!
    Why, there’s hardly enough of me left to make one respectable person!’
    Soon her eye fell on a little glass box that was lying under the table: she opened it, and found in it a very small
    cake, on which the words ‘EAT ME’ were beautifully marked in currants.9
    ‘Well, I’ll eat it,’ said Alice, ‘and if it
    makes me grow larger, I can reach the key; and if it makes me grow smaller, I can creep under the door; so
    either way I’ll get into the garden, and I don’t care which happens!’
    She ate a little bit, and said anxiously to herself, ‘Which way? Which way?’, holding her hand on the top of her
    head to feel which way it was growing, and she was quite surprised to find that she remained the same size: to
    be sure, this generally happens when one eats cake, but Alice had got so much into the way of expecting
    nothing but out-of-the-way things to happen, that it seemed quite dull and stupid for life to go on in the
    common way.
    So she set to work, and very soon finished off the cake.
  7. Severe (adjective) very great, intense, or harsh
  8. to smack or hit
  9. a small seedless raisin
    Discussion Questions
    Directions: Brainstorm your answers to the following questions in the space provided. Be prepared to
    share your original ideas in a class discussion.
  10. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland is known for its portrayal of a child’s logic, compared to
    that of the adult. How would you describe Alice’s reasoning skills? Do they seem sound or
    silly, and why? Cite evidence from the text in your answer.
  11. Imagination and curiosity are what land Alice in Wonderland. Do you think this passage is
    advocating for these traits, especially in children?