Alice in Wonderland
Alice is sitting with her sister outdoors when she spies a White Rabbit with a pocket watch. Fascinated by the sight, she follows the rabbit down the hole. She falls for a long time, and finds herself in a long hallway full of doors. There is also a key on the table, which unlocks a tiny door; through this door, she spies a beautiful garden. She longs to get there, but the door is too small. Soon, she finds a drink with a note that asks her to drink it. There is later a cake with a note that tells her to eat; Alice uses both, but she cannot seem to get a handle on things, and is always either too large to get through the door or too small to reach the key.
While she is tiny, she slips and falls into a pool of water. She realizes that this little sea is made of tears she cried while a giant. She swims to shore with a number of animals, most notably a sensitive mouse, but manages to offend everyone by talking about her cat’s ability to catch birds and mice. Left alone, she goes on through the wood and runs into the White Rabbit. He mistakes her for his maid and sends her to fetch some things from his house. While in the White Rabbit’s home, she drinks another potion and becomes too huge to get out through the door. She eventually finds a little cake which, when eaten, makes her small again.
In the wood again, she comes across a Caterpillar sitting on a mushroom. He gives her some valuable advice, as well as a valuable tool: the two sides of the mushroom, which can make Alice grow larger and smaller as she wishes. The first time she uses them, she stretches her body out tremendously. While stretched out, she pokes her head into the branches of a tree and meets a Pigeon. The Pigeon is convinced that Alice is a serpent, and though Alice tries to reason with her the Pigeon tells her to be off.
Alice gets herself down to normal proportions and continues her trek through the woods. In a clearing she comes across a little house and shrinks herself down enough to get inside. It is the house of the Duchess; the Duchess and the Cook are battling fiercely, and they seem unconcerned about the safety of the baby that the Duchess is nursing. Alice takes the baby with her, but the child turns into a pig and trots off into the woods. Alice next meets the Cheshire cat (who was sitting in the Duchess’s house, but said nothing). The Cheshire cat helps her to find her way through the woods, but he warns her that everyone she meets will be mad.
Alice goes to the March Hare’s house, where she is treated to a Mad Tea Party. Present are the March Hare, the Hatter, and the Dormouse. Ever since Time stopped working for the Hatter, it has always been six o’clock; it is therefore always teatime. The creatures of the Mad Tea Party are some of the must argumentative in all of Wonderland. Alice leaves them and finds a tree with a door in it: when she looks through the door, she spies the door-lined hallway from the beginning of her adventures. This time, she is prepared, and she manages to get to the lovely garden that she saw earlier. She walks on through, and finds herself in the garden of the Queen of Hearts. There, three gardeners (with bodies shaped like playing cards) are painting the roses red. If the Queen finds out that they planted white roses, she’ll have them beheaded. The Queen herself soon arrives, and she does order their execution; Alice helps to hide them in a large flowerpot.
The Queen invites Alice to play croquet, which is a very difficult game in Wonderland, as the balls and mallets are live animals. The game is interrupted by the appearance of the Cheshire cat, whom the King of Hearts immediately dislikes.
The Queen takes Alice to the Gryphon, who in turn takes Alice to the Mock Turtle. The Gryphon and the Mock Turtle tell Alice bizarre stories about their school under the sea. The Mock Turtles sings a melancholy song about turtle soup, and soon afterward the Gryphon drags Alice off to see the trial of the Knave of Hearts.
The Knave of Hearts has been accused of stealing the tarts of the Queen of Hearts, but the evidence against him is very bad. Alice is appalled by the ridiculous proceedings. She also begins to grow larger. She is soon called to the witness stand; by this time she has grown to giant size. She refuses to be intimidated by the bad logic of the court and the bluster of the King and Queen of Hearts. Suddenly, the cards all rise up and attack her, at which point she wakes up. Her adventures in Wonderland have all been a fantastic dream.
The Plague by Albert Camus
The book is divided into five sections, each of which tells of a distinct period in the plague’s takeover of Oran, the port city in northern Algeria where the story is set. Part 1 describes Oran as it was before the plague and just after the disease has taken hold. Bernard Rieux, the town doctor, notices a dead rat in the hallway of his apartment building one ordinary morning, and thereafter, nothing in his or anyone’s life in Oran is normal. Thousands of the town’s rats die, then cats and dogs, and finally the disease starts to infect people. Jean Tarrou, a visitor trapped in Oran, keeps a journal about the plague’s effect on the people of Oran, and it includes stories about characters like Joseph Grand, an insignificant city worker, and Cottard, a man who is mysteriously happy about the outbreak of the plague. By the end of this section, the people of Oran are forced to realize their dull and habitual ways may be gone for good. The town gates are shut, and Oran is now a prison cell, where no one can go out or come in.
Part 2 of the book tells what happens when the plague becomes “the concern of all of us.” (67). In this section, the townspeople struggle to fight their individual battles against the plague and the suffering and separation it forces them to endure. Characters like Raymond Rambert, who begins negotiating with smugglers, try to imagine ways to escape the city and meet up again with their loved ones. Father Paneloux, the town priest, preaches a fiery sermon that claims that God has sent the disease upon the people of Oran as a punishment for their sins. Tarrou starts voluntary sanitary squads in town, and many people, including Grand and Rambert, volunteer to help.
By the beginning of Part 3, “the plague had swallowed up everything and everyone. No longer were there individual destinies; only a collective destiny, made of plague and the emotions shared by all.” (167). In this short third section, the narrator tells us of the worst period of the disease, the brutally hot summer months when the plague kills so many people that there’s no space left to bury them. The town crematorium is burning bodies at top-capacity and everyone in the city suffers terrible feelings of pain and exile.
In Part 4 there is more attention paid to the emotions of some of the main characters. Cottard is still strangely cheerful about the plague. Rambert’s getaway plans seem ready to go through, but the journalist has a last-minute change of heart and decides to stay in Oran to help fight the disease. Many of the story’s main characters, including Dr. Rieux, Joseph Grand, Jean Tarrou, and Father Paneloux, are affected profoundly when they witness the death of a young child. After this experience, Paneloux gives a second sermon, and it shows far more sympathy for the suffering people of Oran. One evening, Tarrou explains his life philosophy, which centers on a passionate opposition to the death penalty, to Dr. Rieux. Grand falls ill and seems certain to die of the plague, but makes a sudden and miraculous recovery. The same “resurrection” happens to a woman in town, and by the end of this section, the rats, alive now, have begun to resurface in the city.
In the final section, the plague leaves just as suddenly as it came. After a public announcement that the epidemic seems to be over, a big celebration is held in the streets. Then the gates are opened, and families and lovers–including Rambert and his wife–are reunited. Cottard, despairing that the plague has gone and left him alone with his suffering again, has a crazy shooting fit, which ends with him being dragged away by the police. At this point, Dr. Rieux reveals that he is the story’s narrator. Though he has suffered greatly, and now finds out that his own wife is dead, he says he hoped to retell the book without it being his story. He wanted to “take the victims’ side,” sharing with them the feelings of love, exile, and suffering that all felt during the time of the plague. The book ends with the haunting observation that although the plague bacillus can go into hiding for years and years, it never dies or disappears for good.
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