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Chapter 4: Tweedledum and Tweedledee

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Alice approaches the portly twins Tweedledee and Tweedledum, who stand side by side with their arms around each other’s shoulders. Upon seeing them, Alice begins reciting a poem that she knows about them. The poem describes Tweedledee and Tweedledum fighting over a broken rattle until a crow frightens them, causing them to forget their argument. They deny that this has ever happened, and though they ignore Alice’s questions about how to get out of the wood, they do extend their hands to her in greeting. Alice does not want to choose one over the other, so she grabs each man’s hand and the three begin dancing in a ring. After a short dance, they stop, and though Alice continues to ask how to get out of the wood, Tweedledee and Tweedledum ignore her.

Tweedledee begins reciting “The Walrus and the Carpenter,” a poem that describes the story of a Walrus and a Carpenter who trick a group of young oysters into leaving their home underwater and coming to shore with them. Once the oysters get to shore, the Walrus and the Carpenter eat them. When Tweedledee finishes, Alice states that she prefers the Walrus because he feels sympathy for the oysters. Tweedledee points out that the Walrus ate more oysters than the Carpenter, and Alice changes her mind, stating her new preference for the Carpenter. Tweedledum observes that the Carpenter ate as many oysters as he could, which causes Alice to doubt her feelings.

As she tries to sort out her feelings, Alice becomes distracted by the Red King sleeping under a tree and snoring like a train engine. Tweedledee tells Alice that the Red King is dreaming about her, and if he stops, she will vanish. Alice starts to cry at the thought that she is real, and Tweedledee and Tweedledum try to comfort her by telling her that her tears are not real.

Alice decides that Tweedledum and Tweedledee are talking nonsense and that she is indeed real. Alice changes the subject and starts to leave when Tweedledee grabs her wrists and points to a broken rattle on the ground. Tweedledum recognizes it as his new rattle, and explodes in anger while Tweedledee cowers in fear. Tweedledee calms down and the two agree to a battle to determine ownership of the rattle. Alice helps them put on their battle gear, but before they can begin fighting, a great crow comes and scares them off, and Alice slips away into the wood alone.


Tweedledum and Tweedledee are mirror images of one another, reintroducing the theme of inversion. With the exception of their names, the two little fat men are identical in looks, manner, and stance. They exhibit perfect symmetry, standing together with their arms around each other, so that when they extend their free hands they each reflect the other’s body position. Their conversation also displays a symmetrical position designated by Tweedledee’s favorite expression, “contrariwise.” “Contrariwise” functions as a transitional word that flips the premise of the conversation. Tweedledee usually addresses the other side of whatever Tweedledum just said. The twins’ reversal of language becomes apparent in the following exchange with Alice:

TWEEDLEDUM: I know what you’re thinking about . . . but it isn’t so, nohow.