Cheshire Cat Quotes
While all the characters of “Alice in Wonderland” by Lewis Carroll are unique and weird, as the very story tells us about the world of dreams, Cheshire Cat takes a special place in the minds and hearts of the readers. We’ll never know if Lewis Carroll really meant to make the Cat a kind of spiritual mentor for Alice, but this is a very common interpretation of his character.
While Caterpillar is distant, though wise, Cheshire Cat appears more like street-smart and also the readers have a feeling that he understands the laws of the world of dreams like no one else. His famous quote “We’re all mad here” explains a lot about Cat’s character: being aware that one is mad puts them much higher on the scale of sanity and general touch with reality.
Another famous trait of Cheshire Cat, except his brilliant quotes, is his ability to appear and disappear, leaving only his smile floating in the air. Not only this ability saves him from the rage of the Queen of Hearts, but it is also very unusual even in such a strange world as Wonderland. This ability to be present in the world or not only enhances the impression about the Cheshire Cat as a being of different origin than the rest of the cast, someone, who knows very well that he is a part of the dream, and who can use it to his own benefits.
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The later reinterpretation of the story, like the movie “Alice in Wonderland”, “American McGee Alice” or a short story “Golden Afternoon” by Andrzej Sapkowski, also exploit the image of the Cheshire Cat, giving him the role of a supernatural and superior being, either benevolent or neutral, but still a kind of a strange and sarcastic guarding angel of Alice. Let’s have a look at some of Cheshire Cat quotes to understand what makes this character such a rich source of inspiration for the authors all over the world.
`Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?’
`That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,’ said the Cat.
`I don’t much care where–‘ said Alice.
`Then it doesn’t matter which way you go,’ said the Cat.
One of the most famous quotes from all the book became so popular not just because some of us considered it funny when we read “Alice in Wonderland” for the first time in our childhood. Actually, several major human philosophies are based on this principle, just interpreting it in different ways: Buddhism takes it straight, with its concept of Emptiness no one should care where to go, because it doesn’t matter at all.
Many Pagan religion are based on the concept of the path that a person shall choose and, if the path is right, all the Universe will aid that person on their way. Or, if it is too much for a child book, you may read it literally and understand that one of the best quotes from “Alice in Wonderland” has a solid logic, still being incredibly odd.
This quality – combining the infallible logic with complete madness and speaking about obvious things from completely different side – is common for all the Cheshire Cat quotes. This makes him look like an old wise mentor who teaches his apprentice through riddles and paradoxes, doesn’t it?
`But I don’t want to go among mad people,’ Alice remarked.
`Oh, you can’t help that,’ said the Cat: `we’re all mad here. I’m mad. You’re mad.’
This is the second most famous of Cheshire Cat quotes and here Lewis Carroll grants us truly a gem. As we said before and as some psychiatrists proved, understanding that there is something wrong with your mind gives you a big chance to get better. Of course, if you want to, because the Cat seems to be fully content of his state of being mad.
Moreover, when Alice protests, saying that she is fine, Cheshire Cat replies that otherwise she would never come to Wonderland. So, Wonderland is a place for mad beings and the Cat is the only one aware of it. Sounds rather creepy. We see that along with this awareness the Cat has much more control over the reality of Wonderland than anyone else, or, it’s better to say, over himself in this reality. He can appear and disappear as he pleases, becoming invulnerable to anything and anyone inside the Wonderland.
Seems like he enjoys being mad, but understanding that all the Wonderland is a dreamy land of delusion lets him not take it (and his own madness) too seriously, enjoying it without serious consequences. From the point of view of psychology, it can be said that Cat is the only one who can control his delusions and keep at least partially healthy contact with reality. This makes him the ruler of his dream, not its hostage.
`I don’t like the looks of it: however it can kiss my hand if it likes`
`I’d rather not` remarked the Cat.
One of the less famous quotes of the Cat is no less characterizing. He is a Cat after all, he comes and goes, likes and dislikes anyone as he pleases. And, as any cat, he can perfectly show his disapproval without stopping being adorable. Before in the story, Cheshire Cat compared himself to a dog, saying that a dog isn’t mad (indeed, there is not a single dog in the story!) but he is.
The Cat talk about some of his defining character traits, but this is the situation where he really shows what means to be a cat. Unlike dogs, Cheshire Cat doesn’t recognize any authorities: he sticks with Alice because he wants to and, despite the royal family poses the real danger to anyone else, his answer still is full of polite sarcasm (think about the cat that doesn’t want to be petted and its reaction to your attempts!). Despite this Cheshire Cat quote doesn’t have any deep philosophy beneath it (or so it seems at least), it still shows some of the defining traits of the character.
‘And how do you know that you’re mad?’
‘To begin with,’ said the Cat, ‘a dog’s not mad. You grant that?’
‘I suppose so,’ said Alice.
‘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 Cheshire Cat quote we talked about before – the one where he compares himself to a dog – looks like this. Here we can see the type of logic that characterizes young children, mentally challenged people and all the inhabitants of the Wonderland. Every statement separately is perfectly logical, but together they form a chain that feels very odd.
The dogs aren’t mad (mostly), that is true. Dogs also react differently than cats and express their emotions in different ways, that is also true. The problem appears when we realize that these two statements are not at all connected one to another, but the Cat uses them as if they are.
It is also the logic of a dream: when we are dreaming we can feel that completely different and separate thing form a perfectly logical pattern we try to grasp in vain when we are awake. Cheshire Cat knows how the dream logic works and, together with other, more famous quotes of this character, we feel that he uses it with full awareness of his actions. He just lives according to the laws of a dream and exploits them to use for his own advances.
`I’m not crazy, my reality is just different than yours`
This is one of the best quotes of the character. We remember that before Cheshire Cat said he is mad in an absolutely casual way. Here comes the mind-blowing thing: he is mad, but he is not crazy. The difference between these words in context can be understood, yet not without effort. Being mad means following the dream logic inside of the dream, where everyone and everything else is mad. But it would be crazy to apply the laws of the “real” reality to the dream, because it is different. Insanity doesn’t equal stupidity.
Another layer of this Cheshire Cat quote is that he knows that his reality isn’t the only one (some of the real-world people also do and they are called wise and enlightened). Moreover, he is self-aware enough that he separates his reality from the other person’s one and doesn’t try to make Alice use the rules of “his” reality, the Wonderland, just giving her some usual advice. As a contrast, lots of the other characters treat Alice as stupid or annoying when she tries to explain the events around her using the measures of the real world.
The Cat is the only one who accepts Alice’s right to have her own reality as basic one and even her right to be not only mad but crazy, e.g. using the axioms of her native world to understand the dream world that operates on a different basis.