Posted by: Derek_M | November 28, 2009

The Crazy Caterpillar

As you enter chapter five, the mushroom and the caterpillar who is sitting  upon it become very obvious. Where there seems to be just a child’s fantasy, there are multiple references to the real world, especially in reference to drugs. The ‘crazy’ caterpillar is sitting on a mushroom smoking. Point 1: this book could be tied to making it okay for kids to be around smoke. Whether they do it themselves, or just sit by and watch this can definitely play with kid’s minds. Once they accept that something is normal, they continue the legacy. Look at the fifty’s to the seventy’s. Kids in the United States saw their parents constantly smoking, so they figured that is was okay. That process continued until it was displayed on it’s grandest scale in the seventy’s when drugs became the most popular subject of day to day conversation. If you truly sit and think about the disastrous effects that some simple day to day actions can have on humans, you realize how important it is to mold the minds to look for good things, not bad things.

The Caterpillar seems to be in a daze and shows some of his negative qualities with his seemingly rude remarks. He cannot get over the question “Who are you?” He asks Alice multiple times. What really disturbs me is the fact that Carroll puts the caterpillar on a throne so to speak. He plays him off to be this wise old caterpillar. He made the caterpillar to be someone or something to look up to, which is no mistake in my mind. There is also another interpretation to be held. If the caterpillar was truly trying to epitomize a profound character, back in the 1800’s cigars were very common. Therefore, he could be using the smoke as a status symbol. I find that very hard to believe. But the interpretations are endless.

Is the caterpillar just a wise old man or a crazed character revealing the atrocities that can be committed by influential characters in Carroll’s work?

First image courtesy of:

Second image courtesy of:



  1. Thanks everyone for your opinions. I appreciate how you view Alice as well. It gives me more insight to ponder later.

  2. While it is very possible that the caterpillar could be a drug refrence, that could also not be the case at all. The hookah would have been a fairly new object to the people of England so, this could reflect how the english people feelt about strange new ideas and objects. I do agree whith the part where you talked about the multiple real world references and, that is why I think that about the hookah and the caterpillar.

  3. I like how you discussed about how Carroll’s drug references and how they impressionable they are among young ones. Although I do believe that you are right on one level about Carroll’s use of drug references, however I can’t say that it makes sense in this case. Let’s take a step back for second and ponder a bit. In some cultures, using drugs, like smoking a hookah or peace pipe, has been a way of escaping reality for a period time. It’s mainly done in religious, or spiritual acts.

    I think what Carroll meant by, when the Caterpiller was smoking the hookah, was that he was trying to become “one with nature” (if you want to put it that way). And once achieving that, he has become more calm and able to concetrate better. Which is allowing him to reach an enlightenment.

    So, when Alice approached him, looking all lost and confused, the Caterpillar started off the conversation with “who are you?” Meaning, he wants to help guide her into finding herself and become at ease. However, she being rather arrogent to him, which has set his chi off and made him angry. In a cacoon, Carroll symbolized the Caterpillar more as a wise sage trying to guide Alice to a “path of enlightenment.”

  4. What interested me the most about your post was your mention of the caterpillar on a throne. I loved how you looked at this from two perspectives. That he might be placing wisdom on a throne. The wisdom of the ages of the adult world or perhaps, as old men are often seen wise and contemplative sitting on the top of their mountain. or on a more disturbing note is Carroll exulting a darker side of the caterpillar. All very interesting thoughts, thanks for sharing.

  5. I love your title “The Crazy Caterpillar”! It got me thinking “is the Caterpillar crazy?” or since he is in Wonderland nothing can be considered crazy.

    As for your thoughts on smoking … I know many children’s parents who smoke on a regular basis. Yes, smoking is bad for your health yet does that mean that their parents are bad if they smoke? Sometimes if a child inhales enough smoke for a long period of time, they are just prone to smoke. Although there are many ways for people to stop smoking, they just have to choose to do so.

    Could the Caterpillar be like a wise old Owl? The Owl can only say “who?” yet many people view the animal as the wisest of them all. Perhaps Carroll does show the Caterpillar as the effects of smoking. Could the Mad Hatter and the March Hare be examples of the effects of drinking?

    Feel free to check out my teams blogs !

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