In chapter five in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, we are introduced to the caterpillar. He is described as “sitting on the top [of the mushroom], with its arms folded, quietly smoking a long hookah”. The caterpillar speaks in a sleepy, languid voice which we can only assume is an effect of the hookah. Why is hookah present in a children’s story? I believe that maybe in 1865 when the story was written that people did not know the harm in smoking hookah. Perhaps in Carroll’s mind there was nothing wrong with providing knowledge of adult matter to children. He did see children in a different way than most people, therefore he may have seen nothing wrong with the idea.
On the other hand, Carroll appears to be a bit on the crazy side. Everything in this story is unbelievable and insane so the presence of hookah is not all that odd. The hookah may symbolize a dream-like state in which the entire story may take place. The caterpillar speaks sleepily and slowly. This supports my idea in that we generally associate dreams with sleep. The hookah makes the caterpillar feel good and dreams also make one feel good. They allow the mind’s wildest thoughts to be a temporary reality. So you can think that Carroll is writing about hookah for adults, but in my opinion he is hinting toward dreams.