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Alice enters the garden and meets three gardeners in the
shape of playing cards. The gardeners Two, Five, and Seven bicker
with each other as they paint the white roses on the rose trees
red. Upon noticing Alice, the gardeners explain that they have planted
white rose trees by mistake and must paint them red before the Queen
of Hearts finds out. Just then, the Queen arrives, surrounded by
a great entourage of living playing cards. The gardeners scramble
to their bellies to bow before the Queen, who asks for Alice’s name
with great severity. Alice answers the Queen graciously and realizes
she should not be afraid, as they are simply a pack of cards. The
Queen asks Alice about the trembling gardeners. Alice responds flippantly, prompting
the Queen to call for Alice’s beheading until the King calms her
down. Upon discovering what the gardeners were doing, she orders
their decapitation and moves on. Alice saves the gardeners by hiding
them in a flower pot and going off with the Queen to play croquet.
When she arrives at the croquet match, Alice finds out from the
White Rabbit that the Duchess is under sentence of execution for
boxing the Queen’s ears.
Alice has a difficult time adjusting to the curious version
of croquet played by the Queen. The croquet ground is ridged, the
croquet balls are live hedgehogs, and the mallets are live flamingos.
The various playing cards stand on all fours to form the arches
that the balls are hit through. As she plays, the Queen apoplectically
shouts for everyone’s decapitation. Alice attempts to slip away
from the croquet match, but catches sight of the Cheshire Cat’s
grin. The Cheshire Cat asks her how she is getting on, and Alice
begins to complain about the Queen’s unusual behavior. The King
notices the conversation and attempts to bully the Cheshire Cat,
but it refuses to give in to the King’s taunts. The King becomes
aggravated and calls for the Queen to remove the Cheshire Cat. The
Queen carelessly orders its decapitation, but the executioner and
the King cannot agree on how to execute the Cheshire Cat, who at
this point is only a head floating in midair. They appeal to Alice,
who suggests that they get the advice of the Duchess, who owns the
Cheshire Cat. By the time the Duchess arrives, the Cheshire Cat
has completely vanished.
When Alice reaches the garden, she hopes that it will
fulfill her desires, but her experience in the garden proves to
be as frustrating as the rest of Wonderland. Alice has sought out
the garden since she first glimpsed it in chapter one. The garden
occupies a central role not only in Alice’s quest but also in Wonderland.
The garden is the seat of power for the King and Queen of Hearts,
and the use of the card suit of hearts underscores the idea that
the garden is the heart of Wonderland. Alice quickly discovers that
the garden provides no great experience of enlightenment. The rules
and practices of the garden are just as idiosyncratic and maddening
as the rest of the locales she has visited. The beds of bright flowers
she pined for are nothing more than ridges and furrows, and the
roses are painted red rather than being naturally beautiful. The
garden is not an idyllic place of calm pastoral beauty, but an artificially
constructed space that becomes a source of anxiety and fear for
Alice has grown accustomed the unusual social hierarchy
of Wonderland, but the discovery that an inanimate object rules
as Queen shakes Alice’s fragile understanding of her surroundings. Before
her arrival in the garden, Alice experienced an inverted hierarchy
in which animals have a measure of authority and treat her as an
inferior. Alice has become accustomed to following the orders of the
likes of the White Rabbit. She discovers in the garden that all
of these animals are the subjects of an inanimate object, a Queen
who is a playing card. In Alice’s world, inanimate objects register
below animals in the social hierarchy (assuming that inanimate objects would
fit into a “social” hierarchy at all). The Queen acts not only as
a ruler, but as a ruthless authoritarian with a penchant for ordering
her subjects’ beheadings. She utilizes living creatures as objects, playing
croquet using hedgehogs, flamingos, and her playing-card subjects
as equipment. Wonderland completely reverses the conventions of
the aboveground world, so that inanimate objects rule the land and
use living creatures as tools.
Alice starts to realize that she may have more power in
Wonderland than she realized. Once she figures out that the Queen
and her procession are merely a “pack of cards,” she demonstrates
a previously unseen courage. She talks to the Queen with great insolence, attacking
the illusion of Wonderland’s power. Though she stands up for herself,
she doesn’t yet attempt to assert control over the Queen. However,
the fact that the gardeners, the king, and the executioner have
deferred to Alice and asked her for help in mediating conflict indicates
that they believe she has some measure of authority. Ultimately,
Alice only has to wake up to destroy Wonderland and all of its inhabitants.
However, she remains “uneasy” as she plays croquet with the Queen,
since a dispute might bring an early end to her dream and prohibit
Alice from ever figuring out the point of Wonderland.