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If you would be a real seeker after truth, it is necessary that at least once in your life you doubt, as far as possible, all things.
Rene Descartes
When we see men of a contrary character, we should turn inwards and examine ourselves.

This chapter doesn't get many reviews, and I think I know the reason—the Hatter isn't around to be ridiculous, and it's all about the inside of Alice's head. She's very introspective here. The important think is that there's a conflict building out of Alice being away from home.

his words were beginning to sound nonsensical and came out in worrying phrases that sounded something like Ph'nglui mglw'nafh cthulhu r'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn,
"In his house at R'lyeh dead C'thulhu waits dreaming." The Call of Cthulu, H.P. Lovecraft

“You are so curious sometimes,” said her sister, arranging the brand new white-topped stalks among the decorative green shoots in a copy of the Portland Vase as she did every seven days.
The Portland Vase is a very famous piece from first-century Rome depicting scenes that some scholars believe represent its purpose as a wedding gift, which would make sense with Alice's sister being engaged.

“It's nothing, I was just going to put it back in the library,” said Alice, running her fingers over the gilt words along the spine. The Age of Innocence, it read.
The Age of Innocence is one of my very favorite books—it's about the Gilded Age (1890s-1900s), so once again there's this aspect of time not quite being static. How would Alice read a book that was published in 1920? The book itself seems like a nostalgic look at better times, but the book is all about being straitlaced into one's societal role and being unable to escape the niches that others carve out for us, like gender roles and marital bonds. It's a hint that Alice isn't quite right with where she is in the world, and that marriage isn't necessarily the answer to life's questions.

“But still nicer than you, I suppose. There's an air of something amiss with you, whatever you are.”
It's not that Alice isn't from the Wonderland, or the flowers' normal dislike of her. There's something else about Alice that's off.

Clouds had passed over the sun, and though the rest of the sky was a cheerful blue, the darkened buildings became more of a snapping call to what passed for reality to Alice, instead of the cooled harbor of a road where the market's other visitors were taking shelter from the heat.
The weather begins mimicking Alice's distress.

The shortest of these three brunettes held several thick books in her arms with golden titles along the spine...
Cameos—I'm the one with the 20 pounds of text books, Brianna's got the painting supplies, Jenny has her baker's apron on, and Lily we join down the street.

“Though I don't think the montera does me any justice, do you?”
The montera is the small hat a toreador sometimes wears; it's shaped a bit like an overturned canoe with little caps at each end.

“And now you look like you have mouse ears.”
It's funny because they're owned by a company built on a mouse.

”but look—now your floor will be 'thick inlaid with patines of bright gold'.”
“Look how the floor of heaven is thick inlaid with patines of bright gold.” From The Merchant of Venice.

”then you certainly must take some, for I have corking great sums of it, and you have need.”
The Hatter's wealth comes from a very specific thing he used to do. I imagine him as the sort of person who needs constant distraction and amusement, and somehow magically makes a profit out of his own boredom. It is awfully nice of him to just give her the cash.

More ominously, of course, she could hear him softly singing the bit of the Marsellaise that dealt with the “braying of enemy soldiers in the field...”
The Marsellaise is a French anthem. The lyrics are all about victory on the battlefield, but the Hatter makes a play on “braying” and “field.”

The tiny voice in the back of her head came through regardless. Why not her, though?
Feelings of alienation can be dangerous in a foreign country.

Back outside she went again, and there was only a stuccoed wall with a thin, high jalousie window that looked sealed shut from where she stood.
Jalousie windows are very old and aren't really considered “to code” these days. They're mostly used in tropical locations, but they're very interesting to look at:

Alice had even found the original plan for the house stuffed into a drawer in the bathroom vanity, and where her strange new room stood, there actually had been built a too-small hall closet with shelves unnecessarily installed. Happy thought indeed.
Mr. Collins: Lady Catherine de Bourgh herself was kind enough to suggest that these shelves be fitted exactly as you see them there.
Elizabeth Bennet: Shelves in the closet. Happy thought indeed.
Pride and Prejudice, 1995

It was a bit like standing over a gorge with an invisible bridge, with the perfect and unshakeable knowledge that a supporting walkway was there, but with the equally unshakeable desire to test each step before venturing out, just a little way at a time.
Correct me if I'm wrong, because it's been so long since I've seen this movie, but this is a reference to one of the Three Trials that Indiana Jones faces in Last Crusade. There's a canyon in the caves that he has to cross, and he can't figure out how to do it until he throws some sand out into what looks like a deep pass. Turns out that there's a stone bridge that looks exactly like the massive pit beneath him, so it's like walking on glass high up in the air. You just have to trust that the floor will be there.

It did have the air of the sort of room one would find back home.

As if she could go nowhere sans Hatter, could not function in this world without someone to lead her around by the nose and purse, as if she were missing the second half of a pair of something.
The theme of duality returns. What is Alice missing, do you think?


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May 2009

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