Step #3 – Jabberwocky

Posted on: April 2nd, 2012 by

Step #3 in our Poetry in Performance Process

Making Sense of the Whole

Now that you’ve completed Step #1 & #2 – you’ve heard (or read) “Jabberwocky” for sense, and you’ve been in the poem, as the poem’s persona – it is time to step out of the poem again. Here, we begin the process of making sense of the poem’s narrative and, hence, the journey its persona takes each time the poem is read.

In Step #3, connotative assumptions about the poem are allowed, or even encouraged.

First, let us look at the poem’s perspective and world.

“Jabberwocky” is told in the 3rd person, using a 3rd person narrator. This means that the poem is told by a storyteller.

“Jabberwocky” takes place in the country, in the woods.

Now, let us look at the poem’s characters.

“Jabberwocky” has three major characters: 1) the Jabberwock, 2) the son who goes hunting for the Jabberwock, and 3) the father who warns his son about the Jabberwock.

    1. The Jabberwock is one creature among several about which the father warns the son.
    2. We know the son primarily through his actions, through his taking up of the sword to hunt the Jabberwock to his bring the head of the Jabberwock home.  The father’s descriptions of the son, however, provide valuable insights.
    3. We know the father primarily through his words, although the narrator provides some extra information near the end of the poem by saying that the father “chortled in his joy.”

Now, let us tell the poem’s story, acknowledging as we do that different storytellers will come to different conclusions about a story in the same way that different lawyers come to different understandings about a crime that may have, or may not have, been committed.

Initially, we are introduced to an incomprehensible world, a world full of wonder, surprise, and mystery.  Creatures abound, and those creature behave bizarrely, and savagely, but we don’t know to what end.

Then the story zeros in on a father warning his son about the dangers of this strange, yet wonderful world.  The Jabberwock is the most threatening, with his fierce jaws and dangerous claws; but other creature lurk as well in nature, ready at the slightest moment to launch their attack.

Without hesitation, or encouragement, decides to confront this danger; he grabs his weapon and goes off looking for the Jabberwock.  He has little luck, however, and eventually the son must rest.  As the son rests, his mind begins to wander, filling with random thoughts.

It is while the son is in this “uffish” state of mind that the Jabberwock attacks.  Fortunately for the son, the attack is not swift and surprising, but slow and noisy, even if it is fierce.

The son is able to awake from his meditation, grab his sword, and swing it, back and forth and in and out, cutting the Jabberwock into several pieces.  After grabbing the creature head, he returns home, apparently ready to show his father his accomplishment.

Initially, the father is unaware of the son’s success; thus, he asks the boy if he has succeeded.  The son must then show the father the creature’s head.  Celebration ensues.

Even with the death of the Jabberwock the world of the poem is unchanged, giving the impression that even though the boy proved his worth by slaying the Jabberwock, other Jabberwocks still lurk in the woods, ready to do their damage to the next unsuspecting visitor.