Carroll delights in taking logic and turning it on his head. In Chapter V, Carroll proves that little girls are serpents in the scene with the Pigeon. Alice says she is a little girl, but the Pigeon says that she can’t be a little girl “with such a neck as that!” The pigeon says that Alice must be a serpent. “I suppose you’ll be telling me next that you’ve never tasted an egg!” Alice admits that she has tasted eggs, but defends herself by saying that “little girls eat eggs quite as much as serpents do” (48). The pigeon uses this as grounds to say that little girls are a kind of serpent.
Such uses of logic (serpents eat eggs, little girls eat eggs, therefore little girls must be serpents) abound in Alice in Wonderland. Carroll uses syllogisms to reach ridiculous conclusions. In doing this, he treats children like they are actually logical, thinking people, rather than wild things, like Rousseau’s ideal of the “perfect child.” While Rousseau believes that children would be empty, wild beasts until they are educated at twelve, Carroll believes that children will develop their own mental faculties, even without guidance from adults. Carroll’s use of logic to reach odd conclusions forces children to, in thinking for themselves, realize why the claims are false, even though they seem to be logically sound.
Carroll trusted that children could and would understand the difference between reality and fiction, nonsensical or otherwise. He speaks to children as though they are capable of adult thought, because he believes that they are. He does not speak to them as though they are less intelligent, or like they are lesser beings in need of moral and ethical instruction. It is this quality that makes Alice in Wonderland a classic work of children’s literature–the belief that children are not some mythical being that is somehow different from a regular person. Carroll writes as though children are adults and are capable of adult thought, and that makes his work not only timeless, but ageless as well.