Lewis Carroll describes the White Rabbit as being “elderly, timid, feeble, and nervously shilly-shallying.” The rabbit also is rude to anyone he deems inferior and grovels before those who are superior. He has no weight to him; he is all white fluff.
Despite his nature, the White Rabbit sometimes is perceived as being the most logical creature in Wonderland. Disney certainly portrays him as such (I always have thought Disney’s depiction makes him seem pompous.). He has an actual sense of time, albeit the sense of a procrastinator. He dismisses the Dodo’s idea that they burn down his house in order to rid it of the “monster,” the giant-sized Alice.
None of that makes him logical. His very nature is illogical. The White Rabbit doesn’t know what he’s doing most of the time. He shilly-shallies. He procrastinates, as evidenced by his exclamation, “I’m late! I’m late!” He spends most of his time pursuing insignificant things, such as the attention of the fickle Queen of Hearts. He can’t distinguish between his maid Mary Ann and Alice even though he must have seen Alice when she followed him down the rabbit hole. Perhaps he didn’t. He was occupied with all those insignificant things.
I could dismiss the White Rabbit. He’s never been one of my favorite characters in Alice in Wonderland. To do so would be to neglect the lessons he offers in terms of being a writer and a decent human being. The first lesson is to be polite to everyone, regardless of who they are. The second is not to grovel. That doesn’t lead to anything except an inability to form and to articulate one’s own opinion. The third? The management of time. The fourth and final lesson is to determine what things are and are not significant and to devote one’s time and attention to the things that are.
What do you think of the White Rabbit? What do you think we can learn from him?