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Chapter 9

Chapter 9 - The Mock Turtle's Story

The Duchess has been brought to the party by the executioner, but he seems to have lost track of her while looking for the Cheshire Cat's missing head. She is very glad to see Alice, and walks around for a while with her arm in Alice's. Alice is pleased the Duchess is in such a good mood -- maybe it was only the pepper in her kitchen that made her so mean, she thinks -- but is also a little uncomfortable with the Duchess's extreme friendliness, and the way she finds morals in everything.

The Queen of Hearts finds them, and orders the Duchess to leave or be beheaded. The Duchess (naturally) quickly disappears. Alice follows the Queen back to the croquet party, but within half an hour, all the guests except Alice herself have been rounded up and sentenced to execution. The Queen suddenly decides that Alice must meet somebody called the Mock Turtle and hear his story, so she leads Alice off to find him. To her relief, Alice hears the King quietly pardoning all the prisoners as she and the Queen walk away.

The Queen leads her to a Gryphon, which is lying asleep in the sun. (A Gryphon -- also spelled "griffin" -- is a mythological animal with the head and wings of an eagle and the body and legs of a lion.) The Gryphon, watching the Queen leave, chuckles and assures Alice that no one ever really gets executed -- the Queen only thinks they do. Then it leads Alice to the Mock Turtle, which is sitting sadly on a ledge of rock and sighing in despair. (The Mock Turtle is a strange, made-up animal, part turtle and part cow. For an explanation of how Lewis Carroll came up with it, you can look at the "Character Analyses" section of this study guide.)

The Mock Turtle tells Alice its story, which is all about how much it misses its childhood, when it was a real turtle and went to school in the ocean. (It seems the Gryphon also went to school with it -- which seems a little strange for an eagle-lion! -- but this is never fully explained.) Sighing and sobbing in a heartbroken way, the Mock Turtle tells Alice about the classes it used to go to. The whole story is full of puns: for instance, the Turtle's math class used to study "Ambition, Distraction, Uglification and Derision" (say them out loud and you'll see what Carroll really means).

At the end of its story, the Turtle explains to Alice that it used to go to school for fewer and fewer hours every day -- according to the Turtle, lessons are called "lessons" because they "lessen" every day -- so it had classes for ten hours the first day, nine hours the second, and so on. Alice naturally asks what happened on the eleventh day, but the Gryphon interrupts her and instructs the Turtle to tell Alice about some of the games they used to play.

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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