The White Rabbit is a well-known character from Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Since appearing in this popular children’s story, the White Rabbit has been used and reused as a symbol in different contexts, usually signifying chasing, being late, and curiosity. Now, the White Rabbit also plays a small but significant role in The Matrix franchise.
In The Matrix, Neo was told by Trinity to follow the White Rabbit, which he did after seeing a tattoo of a white rabbit on Dujour’s shoulder. He follows her and ends up discovering the truth behind his “reality” and the truth about The Matrix. The White Rabbit thus symbolizes one’s insatiable curiosity, as Neo followed the symbol in order to find out the truth that had been promised to him.
In the continuation of this article, you’re going to find out everything you need to know about the White Rabbit, both within the context of The Matrix franchise, but also in general. You’re going to find out what the White Rabbit symbolizes and how that relates to the narrative of The Matrix.
What Is the Meaning of the White Rabbit in The Matrix?
If you remember the beginning of 1999’s The Matrix, you’ll probably remember the scene where a “white rabbit” is mentioned. In case you don’t remember, here is a quick reminder:
During the movie, Trinity tells Neo to “follow the white rabbit.” Later that night, Neo ends up in a sleazy nightclub, where he ends up spotting a very peculiar white rabbit tattoo on the shoulder of a partygoer named Dujour, and, remembering Trinity’s spooky instant message, he follows her.
This eventually leads Neo to Morpheus, who will end up revealing the truth behind the Matrix and their reality to Neo, prophecizing that he was “The One”, the Messiah that is supposed to free the people from the Matrix.
So, what does the white rabbit mean in The Matrix? Neo had no clue what the rabbit was nor what it would reveal to him, and yet he followed it and ended up finding out the truth behind the Matrix and the lie behind their reality. This means that the white rabbit symbolizes one’s curiosity and the actions we are willing to undertake to satisfy it, which is in accordance with the image’s general symbolism.
What Is the Symbolism of the White Rabbit?
In his article “Alice on the Stage,” Carroll wrote: “And the White Rabbit, what of him? 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.
I think the White Rabbit should wear spectacles. I’m sure his voice should quaver, and his knees quiver and his whole air suggest a total inability to say ‘Boo’ to a goose!”goose!”
Overall, the White Rabbit seems to vacillate between pompous behavior toward his subordinates, such as his servants, and groveling, obsequious behavior toward his superiors, such as the Duchess and the King and Queen of Hearts, in stark contrast to Alice, who is reasonably polite to everyone she meets.
The White Rabbit’s perpetual tardiness is an allusion to Oxford time, the tradition at Oxford (and especially at Christ Church, where Carroll taught) of having events start five minutes after the scheduled hour.
The White Rabbit has been featured in a variety of adaptations, both in literature, movies, music, and comic books. Some of these authors have used the same character, some have simply reworked the original, while others just referenced Carroll’s original story. Be that as it may, the White Rabbit has been a symbol for more than a century now and there are several ways of interpreting the character.
Due to his insistence on carrying a clock and rushing, he is sometimes used as a symbol for tardiness, running to get somewhere on time, or the likes. He has also been used as a symbol for chasing something or someone, as Alice chased the White Rabbit down the rabbit hole to enter Wonderland.
And there is also the interpretation of Grace Slick, an American musician who wrote the “White Rabbit” song (see below), who said that the White Rabbit “is about following your curiosity. The White Rabbit is your curiosity.”
Significance of the “White Rabbit” Song
The link provided above is “White Rabbit”, a song by the psychedelic rock group Jefferson Airplane, released in February 1967 on their album Surrealistic Pillow. It was also released as a single which reached No. 8 on the Billboard Hot 100. The song was composed by Grace Slick in late 1965, early 1966, then performed with her group The Great Society in 1966 before fostering Grace’s integration.
The first version was recorded by The Great Society in 1966 during a public concert, ‘GREAT SOCIETY – LIVE AT THE MATRIX’. The lyrics refer to a drug, specifically LSD, and its hallucinogenic effects. With its enigmatic lyrics, this song was one of the first on this theme not to be censored by radio stations.
The song draws a parallel between a trip and the imaginary world of Lewis Carroll. The references to Alice in Wonderland are numerous, with mentions of Alice, the white rabbit (song title), the queen of hearts (Red Queen), the dormouse (dormouse), and the caterpillar smoking the hookah (hookah-smoking caterpillar).
Lewis Carroll was also quite popular at this time: references to his work can be found in The Beatles’ “I Am the Walrus”, and he was also a source of inspiration for Syd Barrett and the Pink Floyd debut album, The Piper at the Gates of Dawn, released the same year as Surrealistic Pillow.
On the official Jefferson Airplane website, it can be read that “Grace [Slick, the author of the song] always said that White Rabbit was a slap in the face for parents who read their children stories like Alice in Wonderland – where Alice uses various substances to transform herself – and who did not understand why their children were growing up to try drugs.”