Symbols are objects, characters, figures, or colors used to represent abstract ideas or concepts.

The Garden

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.

The Caterpillar’s Mushroom

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.

The White Rabbit’s Pocket Watch

When Alice first sees the White Rabbit, he’s checking his pocket watch and worrying about being late. From then on, time becomes a crucial aspect of Alice’s adventures in Wonderland. While the pocket watch itself isn’t a recurring image, there is a sense that a clock is ticking down the time throughout Alice’s stint in Wonderland – for example, she feels a strong urge to find the White Rabbit and get into the beautiful garden before the day is done. Additionally, considering that Alice is likely dreaming, she only has until the end of her nap to fit in all her adventures before she must return to the real world.

Additionally, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland is thematically focused on the transition from childhood to adulthood, and the beginning of Alice’s coming-of-age. The White Rabbit’s pocket watch also symbolizes the passing of time in a greater sense: Alice’s womanhood is growing ever closer. The clock is ticking down the time until her childhood is over; adulthood is rapidly growing nearer. There’s a feeling of melancholy at the end of the novel when Alice’s sister’s point of view takes over, because she knows that Alice will soon be past the age of dreaming about fantastical things like Wonderland.