"Please would you tell me...why your cat grins like that?"
"It's a Cheshire-Cat," said the Duchess, "and that's why..."
The Cheshire Cat was another addition for the printed version of Alice and is now one of the best known and best loved of all the Wonderland creatures. Almost every illustrator chooses to represent it and it is present in almost every film version, beginning with the very first Alice in Wonderland film in 1903. The Cheshire Cat is another character that employs the “flawed logic” of Wonderland, especially in his argument to prove that he is “mad,”
"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 Cat draws bad conclusions from faulty assumptions, but when Alice tries to call him out, he changes the subject. The result is once again a frustrated Alice.
"How are you getting on?" said the Cat, as soon as there was mouth enough for it to speak with….Alice put down her flamingo, and began an account of the game, feeling very glad she had someone to listen to her..."
The Cheshire Cat is sometimes interpreted as a guiding spirit for Alice, as it is he who directs her toward the March Hare’s house and the mad tea party, which eventually leads her to her final destination, the garden. The Cat also seems to have some sort of privileged knowledge of the workings of Wonderland, which combined with its ability to immaterialize is certainly spirit-like. It is also through the Cheshire Cat that we learn the essential secret of Wonderland: it’s mad!
The Cheshire Cat also reappears in Chapter 8
Click on one of the illustrators in the right hand column to see how illustrations of the Cheshire Cat have changed over time. Mervyn Peake's is especially ferocious and interesting. Ralph Steadman wrote this about his Cheshire Cat: "THE CHESHIRE CAT makes an ideal TV Announcer whose smile remains as the rest of the programme fades out" (TextBookRUs.com). I think my favorite is Alison Jay's cross-legged orange tabby.
There are many interesting versions of the Cheshire Cat on film. One of the most popular, Disney’s 1951 Cheshire Cat, is a trouble-maker whose hi-jinks in the film get Alice into trouble as well, causing the Cat to sometimes be categorized as a “Disney Villain.” The rendition of Harris' 1985 Cheshire Cat (played by Telly Savalas) is shockingly bleak and strangely tinged with hints of a sexual predator (Brooker 214). Also noteworthy is Jonathan Miller's 1966 version of the Cheshire Cat, which only speaks when it is invisible, in keeping with the "realistic" portrayal of Wonderland.
Alice and the Cheshire Cat
Disney's Alice in Wonderland, 1951
Alice and the Cheshire Cat
Jonathan Miller's Alice in Wonderland, 1966
Alice and the Cheshire Cat (Telly Savalas)
Harry Harris' Alice in Wonderland, 1985
Alice meets the Cheshire Cat (Stephen Fry)
Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland, 2010
Article on the Cheshire Cat on WikipedaClick here to learn the origin of the phrase "Grin like a Cheshire Cat"
Back to Chapter 6 Hypertext ->
Back to Chapter 6 Hypertext with Images ->
< Back to Chapter 6 Footnotes Index >