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Similes and Metaphors in the Book "Alice in Wonderland"


“Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” by Lewis Carroll is an example of the literary nonsense genre. The reader follows Alice through a fantasy land filled with strange, human-like creatures. According to Poets.org, Carroll wrote “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” for a group of little girls while on a trip. The satirical nature of the book is clear by the similes and metaphors that Carroll injects throughout the work.

The Rabbit Hole

In “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland,” the act of going down a rabbit hole is a metaphor for exploring the new and unknown. The rabbit hole under the hedge is where Alice’s adventure begins in the first chapter of the book. Alice never considers how she would get out of the hole as she chases the White Rabbit. She quickly learns that the rabbit hole is a one-way trip into Wonderland, and it doesn’t provide an exit back to the real world.

Food and Appetite

Food in “Alice in Wonderland” is a metaphor for growing up and Alice’s curious appetite. Much of the story revolves around Alice’s drinking and eating. Alice eats biscuits and drinks potions and tea to satisfy her curiosity. At the same time, the eating and drinking show that Alice cannot control her position in Wonderland’s food chain, as well as her maturity level as she faces adulthood in the real world. As Alice consumes food, Carroll demonstrates that growing up comes with unpredictable events and uncontrollable changes.

Like a Telescope

At the beginning of “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland,” Alice refers to telescopes. She says that she wishes that she could “shut up like a telescope” and shut up other people. Alice later exclaims that she shut and opened like a telescope. When Alice says that she wants to shut up, she refers to the ability to reduce a telescope’s size by collapsing its moving parts. She expresses the desire and ability to shrink or grow as easily as she would extend or contract a telescope. The simile may serve as a metaphor for Alice’s desire to remain a child.

Characters and Riddles

Carroll also uses similes in his book to describe the characters. When Alice first meets the Queen, she glares at Alice “for a moment like a wild beast.” Later, the Queen frowns “like a thunderstorm” as she and Alice play croquet. The similes show that the queen is untamable, unreasonable and moody. During the Mad Tea-Party, the Mad Hatter asks Alice the nonsensical riddle, “Why is a raven like a writing desk?” The Hatter then confesses that he doesn’t have an answer for the riddle. Carroll stated in the preface of the 1896 edition of the book that a raven is like a writing desk because they both produce a few notes and are never “put with the wrong end in the front!”

About the Author

Flora Richards-Gustafson has been writing professionally since 2003. She creates copy for websites, marketing materials and printed publications. Richards-Gustafson specializes in SEO and writing about small-business strategies, health and beauty, interior design, emergency preparedness and education. Richards-Gustafson received a Bachelor of Arts from George Fox University in 2003 and was recognized by Cambridge's "Who's Who" in 2009 as a leading woman entrepreneur.

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