Galumphing Back: Lewis Caroll's The Jabberwocky

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“The Jabberwocky” is nonsense. Then again, so are Shakespeare’s works. Both contain words and phrases created by the authors who wrote them. Origin wise, “scuffled”, first heard in Antony and Cleopatra, is not unlike “slithy” or “gyre”. Emily Dickenson’s “I Could Not Stop for Death” is just as illogical as Carroll’s work. Both Dickenson and Carroll’s poems contain characters, which, in literal form, are non-existent in reality. One poem is just as hard to understand as another is. The difference between the three above poems, though, is that two live in the world of logical, adult understanding. “The Jabberwocky” stands out, because it thrives in childhood imagination. Carroll’s works illustrate a firm understanding of nonsense. His stories and poems thrive in fantastic worlds of imagination. Because of this, they effortlessly thrive in the worlds of children, as well. Carroll writes with the mind of a child. He understood that, “For young children, whose brains are struggling to comprehend language, words are magical in any case; the magic of adults, utterly mysterious; no child can distinguish between "real" words and nonsensical or "unreal" words, and verse like [his] brilliant "Jabberwocky" has the effect of both arousing childish anxiety (what do these terrifying words mean?) and placating it (don't worry: you can decode the meaning by the context). Lewis Carroll, in whom the child-self abided through his celibate lifetime, understood instinctively the child's propensity to laugh at the very things that arouse anxiety…” (Oates 9) As a young person, one hears this poem read to them, quite possibly in an imitation Scottish accent, by their parents. As the reader continues aloud, the young listener does not... ... middle of paper ... ...ther way, the reader has the opportunity with this poem to take hold of many things from the world of nonsense and come happily “galumphing back” (Carroll 734). Works Cited Carroll, Lewis. "The Jabberwocky." 1871. Literature: An Introduction to Fiction, Poetry, Drama, and Writing. By X. J. Kennedy and Dana Gioia. 12th ed. Boston: Pearson, 2013. 134. Print. Flescher, Jacqueline. "The Language of Nonsense in Alice." Yale University Press 43 (1969): 128-44. JSTOR. Web. 13 Nov. 2013. . Oates, Joyce C. "First Loves: From "Jabberwocky" to "After Apple-Picking"" American Poetry Review 28.6 (1999): 9. JSTOR. Web. 13 Nov. 2013. . Rundus, Raymond J. ""O Frabjous Day!": Introducing Poetry." English Journal 56.7 (1967): 958-63. JSTOR. Web. 13 Nov. 2013. .

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