Before delving into the motivations, relevance, and reasons behind the purpose of Caterpillar in Lewis Carroll’s Alice In Wonderland, it’s important to understand the fantasy world of Wonderland. Located beneath Oxfordshire (the author never actually specifies how far down it is), Wonderland is heavily covered with trees, an understory of shrubs, mushrooms, and herbaceous plants, including grasses. It also comprises well-kept gardens and substantial houses like the Duchess and the White Rabbit.
The Caterpillar is one of the more recognizable characters in the entire story of Alice in Wonderland, wholly because it smokes a hookah. It also serves an important purpose in the story, even though it isn’t as popular as other characters, such as the White Rabbit, the Mad Hatter, or the Queen of Hearts. While an important character, we only see the Caterpillar twice in the entire story of Alice’s Adventure in Wonderland – first in Chapter Four and then in Chapter Five. His part in the story is pivotal to the direction Alice and her story eventually take.
What The Caterpillar Looks Like
Many depictions of the Caterpillar have been based on how Lewis Carroll described it in the book. We know it is exactly three inches tall, which is quite small if you were regular size. We also know that it smokes a hookah. Some drawings have depicted the Caterpillar as stout, while others have pictured the Caterpillar as slim. Some variations have depicted the Caterpillar as grumpy or angry, while others simply show it as more aloof than anything. The Caterpillar has appeared blue in some iterations and green in others. One thing that most of these variations have in common is that the Caterpillar is almost always holding the hookah that it’s smoking.
Alice Meets The Caterpillar
When Alice met the Caterpillar for the first time, she did not like it. The Caterpillar took its time talking to Alice and was very curt each time it spoke to her. Alice first saw the Caterpillar sitting atop a mushroom and smoking its hookah. The first thing that the Caterpillar said to Alice was the question, “Who are you?” Alice had difficulty answering the Caterpillar, so she decided to take her leave. The Caterpillar called her back to recite the poem, “You Are Old, Father William,” which she did incorrectly. She was again disappointed by this occurrence, especially because she thought she knew the poem completely. The Caterpillar pointed out her mistake and asked Alice how tall she would like to be. Alice answered that being three inches tall was a misery – an answer that insulted the three-inch Caterpillar deeply. It then decided to crawl away, but before doing so, it told Alice how she could grow back to normal size again.
The Caterpillar Solves One Of Alice’s Pertinent Challenge In Wonderland
So many important things that happened during this meeting get lost easily. First, the Caterpillar is the very first character Alice meets in Wonderland that offers to help her. Everything in this strange new world was quite confusing for Alice, and the height changes were beginning to take a toll on her.
Though unfriendly, the Caterpillar told Alice exactly what she needed to know about returning to her original size. Eating one side of the mushroom would make her shrink while eating the other would make her grow. While Alice may still have had difficulty doing this, she had received some form of direction.
The Importance Of The Caterpillar
Caterpillar’s role in Wonderland has been interpreted in many different ways through different perspectives. Some believe that Caterpillar is there to highlight Alice’s confusion and that she is beginning to forget who she is. Others say the Caterpillar was sexual, considering its phallic shape and impending body transformation – a representation of sexual maturity. Even more astounding, the Caterpillar has been used as a reference point to point out a drug culture in the story of Alice in Wonderland, considering that the Caterpillar was smoking a hookah and pointed Alice towards eating some magic mushrooms to solve her issues.
Many interpretations can be said of Caterpillar, but the most popular notion is that Caterpillar represented a change for Alice. She met Caterpillar after having undergone so much change in her height, and many experts believe Caterpillar was there to show Alice that change is not necessarily bad. In fact, change can turn an otherwise dreary situation into something beautiful – a fate that the Caterpillar in Alice in Wonderland would eventually experience because regardless of how angry or negative it was, the Caterpillar was on its way to becoming a butterfly.