The White Rabbit is the first Wonderland character Alice encounters. He is mentioned in chapters 1, 2, 4, 8, 11, and 12 from “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland”.
Alice follows him when he hurries into his hole and thereby enters Wonderland. He appears to be late for his job with the Duchess. While walking through Wonderland, Alice comes upon his house where the White Rabbit, still in a hurry, mistakes her for his housemaid Mary Ann, and orders her to get his gloves and a fan. When she grows and gets stuck in the house, the Rabbit orders Pat to get her out. In the end we discover that the White Rabbit is a herald in the Queen of Heart’s court.
The White Rabbit is nervous and always in a hurry. However, he is confident enough about himself to contradict the King of Hearts.
Because Alice follows him, he gets things moving again whenever he appears during the story. In a way, he is some kind of a guide through Wonderland for her, only unintentionally.
The White Rabbit doesn’t have a name; he is just being referred to as ‘the white rabbit’. In Tim Burton’s 2010 movie, he has been named Nivens McTwisp.
Carroll himself describes the White Rabbit as follows:
“Was he framed on the ‘Alice’ lines, or meant as a contrast? As a contrast, distinctly. For her ‘youth,’ ‘audacity,’ ‘vigour,’ and ‘swift directness of purpose,’ read ‘elderly,’ ‘timid,’ ‘feeble,’ and ‘nervously shilly-shallying,’ and you will get something of what I meant him to be. Ithink the White Rabbit should wear spectacles. I am sure his voice should quaver, and his knees quiver, and his whole air suggest a total inability to say “Bo” to a goose!”
Dean Liddell, Alice’s father, might have been an inspiration for the White Rabbit. The Dean was always running late as well; when Alice was a child, there was no west entrance to the Christ Church Cathedral and the Dean would normally have had to leave the Deanery, walk along Tom Quad, around the Cloisters and into the Cathedral through the south door. Therefore he was notorious for being late for services.
(Want to dress up as the White Rabbit? Check out my White Rabbit costume ideas!)