May 4 is widely accepted to be the day Alice fell down the rabbit-hole into Wonderland. I don’t think it really was May 4! I’d love to know everyone else’s thoughts on the matter! Here’s my theory:
In Pig and Pepper, the sixth chapter of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Alice decides to visit the March Hare instead of the Hatter. Her reasoning? “I’ve seen hatters before,” she said to herself; “the March Hare will be much the most interesting, and perhaps as this is May it won’t be raving mad–at least not so mad as it was in March.”
In Chapter 7 A Mad Tea-Party, the Hatter, while lamenting his broken watch, asks Alice, “What day of the month is it?” Alice considered a little, and then said, “The fourth.”
That may sound rather cut and dry, but I don’t believe Alice travels to Wonderland on May 4. In fact, I find it very curious that this is accepted as common knowledge. My reasoning? Both the month and the day of the month are revealed when Alice is already dreaming! Recall your own dreams for a moment. How often do the specifics of your dreams mirror your real life? Something like…never? My dreams tend to follow a path like this: I can’t find a college classroom, my brother and I play with stuffed animals in the basement of the house I grew up in, my husband loses his toothbrush at our old apartment and my best friend and I are in a Las Vegas casino without our wallets. These vignettes, of course, span about thirty years of my actual life. If, in the dream, a fellow college student or drunken casino patron were to ask me what day it is, my answer most certainly would not match what day it is in the real, waking world.
Now, it is true that the real Alice’s birthday is May 4. Alice Pleasance Liddell, born on May 4, 1852, was Lewis Carroll’s inspiration for Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and was also the recipient of the first version of the book, which was written down especially for her. Carroll stuffed the book with all sorts of references to people and places and things that Alice would recognize, and I believe the birthday shout-out is just one more example of that. I don’t believe it is to be taken literally that she was in Wonderland on May 4.
Other tidbits that support my theory? Given Alice’s penchant for talking to herself nonstop, wouldn’t she have mentioned that it was her birthday at some point in the book? AND, in the first chapter of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, we learn it is a hot day in the real world. So hot that Alice doesn’t feel like doing anything and feels “sleepy and stupid.” The average May temperature in Oxford, where the real Alice lived, is only 52 degrees Fahrenheit (11-ish Celsius). That hardly sounds hot enough to make one sleepy and stupid!
(The preceding is from a blog I posted on Looking-Glass Day, November 4. If you’d like to read the whole thing, it’s at http://aliceiseverywhere.com/alice-in-wonderland-dates/ )
From the top, the illustrations of Alice and the rabbit hole are by Millicent Sowerby (1907), Disney Alice (1951), Greg Hildebrandt (1990), Maria Kirk (1904), Camille Rose Garcia (2010), Peter Newell (1901)