Murdering the Time

The Mad Hatter at Central Park.In Alice in Wonderland, the Hatter (ostensibly not mad yet) is sentenced to death by the Queen of Hearts for “murdering the time” with the song he attempts to sing at her celebration. He escapes death, as many of the characters in the tale do, but not the attention of Time. Time is so angry with the Hatter for “killing” him that Time halts time itself, imprisoning the Hatter in time, at six p.m., the time for tea.

I can’t prove my hypothesis, but I assume that the Hatter went mad after being frozen in time and having to do the same things over and over and over again. What variety could he have found in tea time? Different table settings? New desserts? Were those options even available to him? By the time Alice meets him, he is completely mad and incapable of normal conversation. He tells nonsensical poetry, asks unanswerable questions, and randomly yells, “Tea Time!”

It’s not only the Hatter who is mad. His compatriot, the March Hare, seems equally so. He doesn’t appear to have been at fault for the incident with the Queen nor is he the object of Time’s wrath, yet he remains with the Hatter. He is, like the Hatter, frozen in time and going or possibly already gone mad. Why else would he stay with the Hatter, stuck at tea time, unless something were slightly askew in that head of his?

If the Hatter and the March Hare seem mad, perhaps it’s because we forget how relatable they are. How often do we get stuck in a routine, doing the same thing and writing the same words day after day after day? We become tired of that routine. We complain about it. Sometimes, we do something about it. We find a way to make our routine fun again. We make changes, sometimes drastic ones, to it. We add a new activity to our lives to balance the tedium. We ask for input regarding our writing. Other times, we don’t do anything. We decide to drink the same tea, to eat the same desserts, to use the same serving ware, and to have the same, pointless conversations. Isn’t that mad? Isn’t that “murdering the time”?


  1. wherescate says:

    I never thought of routines and being stuck in time as being related to the Hatter, but you are exactly right. Sometimes life can become so routine and often we look past that, and then wonder why we are unhappy or why we aren’t moving forward. Every once in awhile, something needs to change to spice things up.
    Thank you for sharing this!

    •  @wherescate Thank you for the comment! 
      I’m afraid if you stay around Write Right for any length of time you’re going to discover that I’m a bit of a literature nerd. 

      • wherescate says:

         @Erin F. You’re welcome! I need to stick around! There is nothing wrong with being a literature nerd. Reading helps writing!

  2. It’s funny because sometimes I crave routine.  My life has been anything but routine since I moved to China and now back;  but then I’m reminded by wise friends and good blogs like this – the danger and yoke that can spring from routine.  But because of my very-much-non-routine life, I have found myself with characteristics similar to that of the Hatter….ie randomly yelling. 

    •  @Jacob Yount I love routine, too. I think it has something to do with being a perfectionist and slightly obsessive compulsive. 
      Perhaps the real lesson is learning to control how we respond to either routine or non-routine times. We can go mad like the Hatter, or we can choose a different route. If I stick with the Alice in Wonderland motif (It’s the theme for the entire week.), I might choose the Cheshire Cat’s response. He’s strange, but I’m not sure that he’s mad. I write about him on Friday.

    •  @Jacob Yount Is randomly yelling like randomly talking to yourself? I seem to have a problem with talking to myself.

      •  @Erin F. Randomly talking or yelling, similar in weirdness, but the yelling comes at a louder yelp and tends to startle those closest to you;  in proximity or relationship 🙂 – no ..I don’t really yell…or try not to I mean.. :S
        Randomly talking to yourself – sometimes we are our own best friend…or worst enemy.
        You were right about the routine or lack thereof ~ it’s up to us to make it a routine exciting or a non-routine manageable.   

        •  @Jacob Yount It’s hard to make a routine exciting when you’re the one stuck in the routine, but I suppose that’s where perspective is needed – either a new one or the perspective of another person.

  3. And the best way to un-murder time is to break the routine, like going on vacation, whether an actual one or one that breaks the routine.