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Jabberwocky

In: English and Literature

Submitted By Dpatel1708
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Jabberwocky by Lewis Carroll

In the Anglo-Saxon culture and literature, heroes were considered to be warriors and were respected by the entire community. The hero not only had to be tough and fearless, he had to be successful on the battlefield and loyal to his lord as well. The time period of the Anglo-Saxons lasted for 600 years, from 410 to 1066, but the culture and literature of this period was not forgotten (Delahoyde). Lewis Carroll was a writer in the 19th century who included the Anglo-Saxon era in his work. After the publication of his novel, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, he published another novel named, Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There. His poem, “Jabberwocky,” is a poem from the novel, Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There (Delahoyde). This poem is still known to be one of his famous poems. The poem is about a father who is tells his son to be beware of a monster named “Jabberwocky” that wanders around in the woods. In the poem, Carroll mentions several dissimilar and unusual creatures that do not exist in the real world. Carroll’s style of writing is very unusual in this piece of work and it only influences the readers to laugh at the definitions of the words. In his mind boggling poem, “Jabberwocky,” Lewis Carroll uses unusual diction to mock the Anglo-Saxon heroic tradition.
After the father tells his son of the monster that lives in the woods, the son goes on a search for this monster with the purpose of killing it. Upon succeeding and returning back home, his father jumps from joy and then, they both celebrate together. The storyline of this poem is very similar to the classic heroic tale of Beowulf. Both pieces of work mention a hero who went to war with a monster and came out being successful. Both poems also start off with the classic ‘once upon a time’ setting which portrays a fantasy theme. Carroll starts the poem by saying “Twas brillig, and the slithy toves,” (Carroll, 1) which gives a feeling that he’s trying to start off like how a fairy-tale would start. This is one of the many hints that Carroll throws at the audience of him relating this poem to the heroic tradition of the Anglo-Saxons.
Just like the monster in Beowulf, Carroll also includes a creature that doesn’t exist in the English literature and only exists in one’s imagination. The poem also shows that the narrator says the “Borogoves” (Carroll, 3) which are thin shabby-looking birds, were “mimsy” meaning they were clumsy or miserable (Carroll, 1). Just in the first two lines, Carroll includes several made-up words which do not make sense if read for the first time. The poem mentions the words, “brillig,” “wabe” and “gimble” (Carroll, 1-4) which are all made-up words and have no specific meaning. Including the imaginary diction for sure influenced the audience to laugh while trying to define the words. Every reader would have somewhat of a unique meaning for each of the made up words meaning every reader would interpret this poem differently. This was another hint that displayed the relation of this poem to Beowulf. Beowulf also had several made up words in the story which did not make sense.
Additionally, Carroll also includes several onomatopoeias in this poem. For example, the phrase, “the vorpal blade went snicker-snack” (Carroll, 26), gives the reader a feeling of the action really happening. By saying “snicker-snack,” Carroll creates a comic scene and yet again, attempts to make the audience laugh with his words. He makes fun of the heroic scene of the Anglo-Saxons and makes it seem that it is all ridiculous. Another example is of the usage of “whiffling,” (Carroll, 23) as a noun and as the sound of the wind that it makes when it moves.
Lastly, he mocks the heroism of the Anglo-Saxons when he talks about the “tumtum tree” (Carroll, 19). This kind of sounds like Carroll is saying gum which means that the tree is made of candy. A tree made of candy is impossible. Anglo-Saxons’ description of their heroic warriors did not include comedy for the audience. Their tales talked about the journey of the warrior and how he became the hero of his time. This poem is heavily mocking the heroism of the Anglo-Saxons. The theme is kind of similar to an Anglo-Saxon hero, in a way that the son goes in the forest in search for the monster and comes out being successful in the battlefield. But, the made up diction makes fun of the son’s journey and of the monsters that he encountered in the forest. Also, in the Anglo-Saxons heroic tales, it talks about the struggle of the warrior in killing the monster. However, in this poem, the son was easily able to kill the monster in two steps without struggle.
Carroll uses several made up words that were put together by mixing and blending them with the intention of making fun of the classic heroic tradition of the Anglo-Saxons. Even though the language Carroll uses and the storyline he portrays in this poem is from the period of the Anglo-Saxons, there is a big difference in both tales. The warriors in the Anglo-Saxon period were taken very seriously and were given a lot of respect for their work. Heroes are still considered to be true warriors in the culture and literature of the Anglo-Saxons, and will never be taken as a joke by the people of the era.

Work Citations Delahoyde, M. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://public.wsu.edu/~delahoyd/medieval/anglo saxon.html.…...

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