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Analysis of “Jabberwocky” by Lewis Carroll

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“Jabberwocky” by Lewis Carroll is a nonsense poem with a good amount of fantasy imagery. The overall theme of the poem is heroism. It is supported by the repetition of nonsense words and the use of sound devices in the poem. Carroll takes the reader along on this boy’s quest to kill a beast, called the Jabberwocky, and when the boy returns back home to be honored. Throughout the poem, Carroll uses a lot of cacophony to build up suspense for the reader. Thus when the boy killed the Jabberwocky, he seemed excessively heroic. For instance, some of the cacophony used are “slithy, gyre, gimble, frumious, uffish, and outgrabe.” Although all of the cacophonies that were used by Carroll are not authentic words, it is unpleasant to read and hear. These words that Carroll created were not meant to have a specific meaning but rather to stir emotions and imagery in the reader. For example, the line, “Did gyre and gimble in the wabe,” does not give an accurate description of the plot. Carroll leaves the work to the reader’s imagination.

The nonsense words that Carroll used are key aspects in illustrating meaning within the whole poem. The words give the poem a sense of absurdity. Carroll made up and selected these certain words so he could present the story in an exciting and fascinating way. The reader does not have to completely understand the nonsense words to understand the story because the structure of the poem is easily understood by the sound devices. The cacophony creates a nasty but thrilling setting, which gives the poem a fantasy-like essence. Carroll takes the reader through a creative journey. The nonsense words are also imaginative terms. The reader must use their own creative minds to guide themselves through the story. For example, imaginative terms like “mome, vorpal, manxome” are the main significance of the poem. These words help keep the poem fantasy-like and exciting alongside with give real meaning to the poem.

Even though the poem does not follow the English language in its entirety, the use of a unique, fictional language works just as well. The framework of “Jabberwocky” is on the basis of old English poetry. These elements help create a story in the nonsense poem. Also the presence of a narrator through the entire poem allows the poem to have meaning. Some of Carroll’s made-up terms look similar to words in the English language. A small amount of the made-up words are verbs, while most of them are adjectives and nouns. The fashion in which Carroll places the nonsense words together makes everything come together clear and concise. Also the made-up words are sound devices because it represents certain sounds, which further expresses the poem as nonsense verse.

For instance, ugly words such as “galumphing”, “uffish,” are used in order to increase the ferocity of the Jabberwock for the reader. In real English language, words that are suitable in place of those are deep, fury, swinging, and etc. The poem has the same beginning and end verse. The meaning might not be as clear at first but it does contain an undisclosed meaning. This repetition symbolizes that the world has not changed and remains the same even through the portrayal of events. Once the “Jabberwocky” was annihilated, life goes back to the same way as it was before. This is one of the many methods Carroll used to depict meaning in the story.

At the end of the story, the boy was successful in his long quest to dispatch of the Jabberwock. He arrived back home to a heroic welcome by his father. Carroll uses some nonsense words to show the joyfulness of the boy. It seems like the nonsense word “galumphing” is closely related to the real English word triumphing. If we take a close look at each nonsense word in the poem, we could see majority are a weird combination of two real English words.

Readers can grasp the different meanings disguised in poems by clearly looking at the poetry structure and the techniques used by the writer. In “Jabberwocky”, the meaning is not as clear right off the bat, but it will be once the reader successfully understands the way and how the nonsense words are used. Carroll went to a great length to keep the reader using their own imagination from the beginning to end. His great technique of nonsense verse was the foundation of the poem. Also the structure of the poem causes the reader to feel amused when reading. Carroll basically takes the reader on an adventurous journey in a fairy tale land.

Works Cited

Carroll, Lewis. “Jabberwocky.” Through the Looking – Glass and What Alice Found There.

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