Guilty Until Proven Innocent

The Queen of Hearts
She made some tarts,
All on a summer’s day
The Knave of Hearts
He stole the tarts,
And took them clean away.

That is an excerpt from a poem that is from a collection of “Mother Goose” rhymes, which Carroll used for the trial scene in Alice.

The Knave is on trial for stealing the Queen’s tarts, and now the Mad Hatter, the Duchess’ cook, and Alice are being called on to testify. Many interesting things can be determined, but I found it rather odd that the verdict was already decided. The King even says, “Consider you verdict” before the trial even begins, only to be stopped and corrected him. How the fate of the Knave is predetermined sort of puts a damper on the legal system, at least in Wonderland. Was Carroll trying to poke fun at the legal system of his time?

The predetermination basically shatters the whole meaning of the legal system, innocent until proven guilty, so why does Carroll use it this way? The evidence against the Knave is pretty much nothing, just witnesses cracking under pressure, or giving no evidentiary support towards the Queen. Notice that Alice does take a stand more, and speaks out against the Queen and her very odd rules. Not only the rules, but the questioning in general. She has grown up and is more of a lady now, than in the beginning of the story. Another interesting point, when the White Rabbit reads the poem aloud (the one that the Knave is accused of writing), how did the Knave know that no one had signed it? Yes, that is pointed out in the annotations, but I thought of that the moment the Knave said that phrase. I found it very odd, and the fact that no one caught the self-condemnation, especially since they’re trying to just throw the Knave in jail already.

This legal system is very flawed, but it is quite remarkable, at least in my opinion, that Alice can name some of the vocabulary in a courtroom. Why, when I was 7, I probably only knew judge, if that. Quite a smart little girl, don’t you think?

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