“Oh, you can’t help that,” said the Cat: “we’re all mad here. I’m mad. You’re mad.”

In one of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland’s most iconic lines, the Cheshire Cat suggests that Alice cannot escape the madness of Wonderland, as everyone there, including her, is insane. However, the fascinating thing is that, to the Cheshire Cat and the rest of the creatures of Wonderland, being mad is not considered a particularly bad thing. In fact, it’s a state of normalcy. To them, being insane is simply a part of existing. Alice, like many children beginning to think about the greater questions of life, is starting to understand that being a little bit mad is necessary for surviving in a world that doesn’t always make sense.

“Oh, you’re sure to do that,” said the Cat, “if you only walk long enough.”

Like the White Rabbit, the Cheshire Cat is one of the creatures of Wonderland who seems to make the most sense, and yet, unlike the White Rabbit, its words seem to hold a deeper meaning, and its aura is vaguely threatening. In this passage, the Cheshire Cat logically tells Alice that if she doesn’t care where she’s going, only that she gets somewhere in the end, she will do so, as long as she walks long enough. However, there’s a sense that the Cat is making a greater statement about the absurdity of existence as a whole – that life involves walking along strange paths, never quite finding what you’re looking for.

“Well, then,” the Cat went on, “you see a dog growls when it’s angry, and wags its tail when it’s pleased. Now I growl when I’m pleased, and wag my tail when I’m angry. Therefore I’m mad.”

The Cat proves to Alice that it’s mad by comparing itself to its opposite, a dog. In literature, cats and dogs are often considered opposites, with dogs representing order, family, and obedience, and cats representing mystery, magic, and independence. Considering this common symbology, it’s both humorous and reasonable that dogs be seen as sane and cats as insane. Their contrasting behaviors – growling and wagging their tales at opposite times – further prove to the Cat its own madness.