Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass
by Lewis Carroll
Character in: Looking-Glass World
Humpty Dumpty is just who he sounds like – the egg-shaped man from the nursery rhyme you probably learned as a child. In Lewis Carroll's version, Humpty Dumpty is a wordsmith, obsessed with making the most of his vocabulary and not only reciting but explaining poetry to Alice. He's obsessed with being able to force meaning to happen. When he uses a word, he makes it mean whatever he wants, saying that he can always pay it extra on the weekend. His attitude reminds us that, even though it can be manipulated, meaning can't be forced. Even when Lewis Carroll writes a poem almost entirely using his own made-up nonsense words, "Jabberwocky," he still has to use the sounds and connotations that already exist in language. For all his cleverness, Humpty Dumpty doesn't understand this. Plus, he always ends up falling off that wall and breaking into a million tiny pieces.