Symbols are objects, characters, figures, or colors used to represent abstract ideas or concepts.
Nearly every object in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland functions as a symbol, but nothing clearly represents one particular thing. The symbolic resonances of Wonderland objects are generally contained to the individual episode in which they appear. Often the symbols work together to convey a particular meaning. The garden may symbolize the Garden of Eden, an idyllic space of beauty and innocence that Alice is not permitted to access. On a more abstract level, the garden may simply represent the experience of desire, in that Alice focuses her energy and emotion on trying to attain it. The two symbolic meanings work together to underscore Alice’s desire to hold onto her feelings of childlike innocence that she must relinquish as she matures.
Like the garden, the Caterpillar’s mushroom also has multiple symbolic meanings. Some readers and critics view the Caterpillar as a sexual threat, its phallic shape a symbol of sexual virility. The Caterpillar’s mushroom connects to this symbolic meaning. Alice must master the properties of the mushroom to gain control over her fluctuating size, which represents the bodily frustrations that accompany puberty. Others view the mushroom as a psychedelic hallucinogen that compounds Alice’s surreal and distorted perception of Wonderland.