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Chapter 3

Chapter 3 - A Caucus-Race and a Long Tale

Alice climbs out on the shore of her "lake" of tears, and finds herself in a groups of small animals who have also fallen in, and are now soaking wet. The group includes the Mouse who Alice met in the pool, as well as a Lory (a type of bird), an Eaglet (a young eagle), a Dodo, a Duck, a Canary, a Crab, a Magpie, and others. Of course, Alice is now near their own size, so they all get to talking together without any problem.

Alice and the animals discuss the best way to get dry, since they are all wet and uncomfortable. The Mouse offers to dry them off by quoting from a very dry (that is, boring) textbook, so they all listen to it recite some early English history, but although this makes the others shiver it doesn't make them any drier. Then the pompous Dodo, using its customary big words, suggests that they have a Caucus-race to dry off. This turns out to mean that everyone runs around in circles until they're dry. (Since a "caucus" is a political committee which gets together to make important decisions, Carroll is presumably making a joke about how politicians seem to run around in circles without getting anywhere).

After the race, the Dodo declares that everyone has won the race and must get a prize. Poor Alice is forced to rummage her pockets for prizes, and then has to give away all of the comfits -- a kind of fruit candy -- which she finds there. Since she runs out before the Dodo gets around to Alice's own prize, she searches her pockets again until she finds a thimble (a metal thumb-protector used in sewing), which the Dodo solemnly presents back to her. Alice tries hard to keep from laughing.

After the animals have eaten their candy, Alice reminds the Mouse that it promised to tell her the story of why it hates cats and dogs. The Mouse begins to tell its "long and sad tale," but Alice -- maybe still a little bleary from all that swimming? -- confuses the word with "tail," and as the Mouse talks Alice envisions its story, in a confused sort of way, as a line of words twisting and turning around like a mouse's tail. (The Mouse's story, which Alice hears as a rhyming poem, is printed on the page of the book in a twisting spiral to resemble the tail.) The irritated Mouse notices that Alice isn't paying attention, and walks away in a huff. Alice, trying to coax it back, accidentally mentions her cat Dinah again, and all the other little animals look frightened and soon find an excuse to leave. Feeling abandoned and alone, Alice starts to cry again. Suddenly she hears the sound of footsteps approaching, and, hoping the Mouse has changed its mind, looks up in eager anticipation.

Browse all book notes

Historical Context
Main Characters
Points to Ponder
Did You Know?
Plot Summary
Opening Poem
Chapter 1
Chapter 2
Chapter 3
Chapter 4
Chapter 5
Chapter 6
Chapter 7
Chapter 8
Chapter 9
Chapter 10
Chapter 11
Chapter 12


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