Alice’s Adventures in DREAMland

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.

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Published in: on November 16, 2009 at 10:08  Comments (5)  

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  1. I do love the fact that you have mentioned that the Caterpillar is connected to dreams and sleep. The Caterpillars languid voice makes it seem like a dreamlike state which would fit in well with Wonderland. But the hookah is not the case of the Caterpillars current state, because I do fell that I should tell you that a hookah is not a specific type of tobacco but a water pipe, which many people mess up on. But aside from that, dreams, not drugs, was the cause of the Caterpillar giving Alice such vague answers and questions.

  2. Very good points. I think this really shows how society is changing. Our parents’, or our parents’ parents’ parents’, generation was much different than our generation. I agree, perhaps hookah was not a bad thing back then. Only in the last several decades have we known that cigarettes were bad for us. Perhaps the same is true for the hookah?

    Also, I agree with your theory about the hookah symbolizing the dream-like place that Wonderland is.

    Great post.

  3. I think that this is very interesting. I never thought of the caterpillar associating with dreams. I remember reading this chapter and thinking how strange it was that he put this into this book .I agree with you, that when the story was written not many people knew the effects hookah could have; this could be one reason why Carroll put this in the book. I also believe that a lot of this story represents the effects drugs can have on a person. I leads me to believe that yes the caterpillar is associated with dreams, but Carroll is trying to show that one effect of hookah can result in a dream like feeling.

  4. You made some really good points here. I also wondered why a Hookah was in the story. I thought it had no meaning. After reading your post, I can understand it more. It is as if the Hookah is setting a scene. The Hookah makes our mind sort of “hazy”. Just like Alice. I think it helps the readers see it more like Alice saw it. I watched the trailer for the original Alice movie, I was shocked to see that the Hookah was in the movie! I can understand it being in the book because children probably won’t be reading the original story. But children do watch movies. In movies it is easier to set the scene that in it is a book. I think it is pretty ridiculous to show a Hookah in a childrens’ movie.

  5. Rachel brings up a very important point. When Alice is introduced to the Caterpillar, the first thing that she notices is the hookah in its mouth. Alice perceives this to be strange, since the Caterpillar didn’t talk to her until after 10 or so minutes. Rachel brings up the point of the hookah. Probably back during Carroll’s time, many did not know what the point of a hookah was. This is why the Caterpillar speaks in a low, and sort of dreary voice.


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