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CHAPTER SUMMARY WITH NOTES
CHAPTER 5 - ADVICE FROM A CATERPILLAR
This chapter is all about the manner in which Alice tries to regain her size and that too with the help of a caterpillar. It is difficult to present a summary of the conversation between Alice and Caterpillar, since it is something that cannot be easily captured in words.
Alice is upset with the constant changes that have been occurring and is worried that she might finally forget all about her original self. She speaks to the caterpillar of the severe ‘identity crisis’ that she suffers from and it is the caterpillar that tells her of the way in which she can get back to her original self.
It is amazing to note that a being like the caterpillar (comfortable with so many changes occurring in its life) is able to understand the discomfort felt by Alice. The mushroom is the one that helps Alice grow. Grow, she does. But it is only her neck that grows and as the pigeon states, it resembles a snake. Alice consistently argues that she is not a serpent. However, the Pigeon’s logic is all out to prove Alice to be a serpent. Her love for eggs and the nature of her neck are evidences to support the pigeon’s theory that Alice is a kind of a serpent.
After her argument with the Pigeon, she nibbles at the mushroom again and slowly succeeds in bringing herself down to her usual height. Her next intention was to get into the beautiful garden and no sooner than the thought occurred to her she spotted a little house about four feet high. Curiosity drives her to nibble at the mushroom again so that she could enter the house.
She ventures into the house as soon as she brings herself to being nine inches high.
Now, comes the chapter where Alice speaks to another being (caterpillar) who experiences ‘time’ through a total change of identity. Alice, unable to adjust to her constant change in her size meets the caterpillar who seems to take these changes very easily and in the stride.
To the caterpillar such anxieties with regard to a change in identity is ridiculous, since he experiences it very often. Carroll projects the caterpillar in a far better light that the human beings, since ‘change’ is something which the caterpillar accepts easily than when compared to the human beings. Ironically, it is the caterpillar who tells Alice of the way she can get back to her original size, and it is this that support her through the rest of her adventures in Wonderland.
However, with the eating of the mushroom it is only her neck that grows and she begins to resemble a snake. Her inability to adapt herself to the changing situation gets her entangled (literally and figuratively) with the nature around her. Her neck gets caught amongst the branches and often she has to untwist herself out of it. Symbolically speaking, it represents her curiosity to ‘stick out her neck’ and question all that happens around her.