White Rabbit

White Rabbit

Grace Slick & Jefferson Airplane

One pill makes you larger
And one pill makes you small
And the ones that mother gives you
Don't do anything at all
Go ask Alice
When she's ten feet tall
And if you go chasing rabbits
And you know you're going to fall
Tell 'em a hookah smoking caterpillar
Has given you the call to
Call Alice
When she was just small

When the men on the chessboard
Get up and tell you where to go
And you've just had some kind of mushroom
And your mind is moving low
Go ask Alice
I think she'll know

When logic and proportion
Have fallen sloppy dead
And the White Knight is talking backwards
And the Red Queen's "off with her head!"
Remember what the doormouse said:
"Feed your head…feed your hear.”

Meaning?

The late ‘60’s and early ‘70’s were a time of naiveté, innocence, confusion, hard decisions, stress and thought provocation.  White Rabbit acknowledges that advice from older generations does not seem to make sense in the present ('60's/'70's) world.  Young people were more open to look to unconventional solutions. Everyone was looking for better answers or explanations and looking in some unfulfilling places (like drugs.)  This song seemed to offer some very good advice using an "Alice in Wonderland" analogy.  Alice was naive, innocent and looking for answers.  In pursuit of her answers she follows unfamiliar elements to an unreal world.  As she wanders through this world looking for answers she experiences and learns many lessons.  White Rabbit advises us to ask Alice (who has already tried the “unreal” route looking for answers) before we accept, try or count-on alternate sources of answers.  Don’t take drugs is the ultimate message of this song.  Keep learning and acquiring knowledge to fill your head with a better understanding of the real world is the best course for us to follow and not get 'lost' down a rabbit hole.  Open our eyes to see and live in the real world with all of its imperfections; not to retreat into a world made up of wishful, unrealistic 'trips'.  Don't wish for things to be better...work for them to be better.

Facts behind the song.

Grace Slick penned the song while taking copious amount of drugs (remember, this was the thing to do back in the day – drugs were used to expand the mind, not run from problems.)  The hookah-smoking caterpillar of "Alice in Wonderland" is a reference to opium use common in Victorian England, but the Mad Hatter has nothing to do with drugs.  At the time "Alice" was written, hatters used mercury to help process cloth.  Prolonged exposure to mercury causes brain damage, which people believed was madness.  The Mad Hatter character is an exaggeration of this insanity, and the whole Mad Tea Party is a parody of Victorian manners.  The Mad Hatter is not tripping on drugs; he is maddened by mercury.  Here, and elsewhere in the Alice books, Lewis Carroll (a mathematician and logician) uses a bizarre backwards-twisting logic to make the ridiculous seem real and the real seem ridiculous.  He is not writing about drugs; he is having fun with illogic.

Lewis Carroll was a pen name for the Reverend Charles Lutwidge Dodgson who was a mathematics professor at Oxford.  The dean at the time was Henry Liddel, who had three daughters one of which was named Alice.  When Alice was six, he made up a story on a boat ride one day and he came up with Alice's Adventures Underground (which was he original title of the first book.)  When he went to publish it, he added two chapters and the original illustrations were drawn by him.  The first copy went to Alice and it was red with a rabbit on the cover.

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