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Themes

Carroll first published a bit of "Jabberwocky" as a kind of satire of Anglo-Saxon verse, which might well be the "manliest" poetry there is (in addition to being the earliest in English). Think Beowulf: a man goes out to fight a monster. While it's more complicated than that, Beowulf set the tone for centuries to come, and Carroll knew it. "Jabberwocky" is all about conquest, which has traditionally been considered the domain of the masculine. The fact that the protagonist, after hearing the dire warnings given him by his father, picks up his sword and heads out into the woods anyway, is one of those brave-but-maybe-unreasonable things that heroes tend to do in adventure tales. "Jabberwocky" is no exception.

Questions About Men and Masculinity

  1. Why do you think it is that men are typically associated with killing things with swords?
  2. Couldn't the hero of "Jabberwocky" have been female?
  3. How does this poem construct "the man" as a whole?
  4. What are some other ways to define masculinity that are perhaps less violent? Can you find any instances of this in the poem?

Chew on This

Try on an opinion or two, start a debate, or play the devil’s advocate.

The protagonist in the poem is stereotypically masculine.

The heroic figure in "Jabberwocky" – male and nearly foolhardy – is in keeping with the adventure epics after which the poem is modeled.

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