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by Lewis Carroll

Jabberwocky Perseverance Quotes

How we cite our quotes: (line) or, if referencing Looking Glass, (page)

Quote #1

He took his vorpal sword in hand;
Long time the manxome foe he sought— (9-10)

This might be a combination of perseverance and bravery. As we noted in the "Violence" section, the son hardly replies before taking up his weapon, and then heading straight into the woods. The key here is, of course, "long time." While this phrase is only two words, and while the story in the poem is extremely compressed, those words give us a clear sense that our protagonist has been out there for a while. He doesn't give up, he just keeps searching. This is in keeping with the adventure epic after which this poem is modeled. After all, how interested would we be if he just wandered into his backyard, killed the Jabberwock, and then wandered back inside? The struggle makes the story more interesting. And perseverance is key to getting through the struggle.

Quote #2

So rested he by the Tumtum tree,
And stood awhile in thought. (11-12)

Our hero has been tromping around long enough that he needs a break, but he doesn't nap. He stands and thinks, which is a different kind of perseverance altogether. In the adventure epic, we tend to think of determination as the willingness to slog through miles and miles of distance. Sometimes the "planning" part gets left out – and here's where maybe our protagonist has a bit of an edge. Tired, he stops moving through the woods, but he continues to think. If we do a little imaginative or interpretive legwork, we might well say that he's planning his next move. Being careful. Being strategic. This is brainy perseverance – despite his physical weariness. His mind doesn't give up.

Quote #3

One, two! One, two! And through and through
The vorpal blade went snicker-snack!
He left it dead, and with its head
He went galumphing back. (17-20)

Again, the severe time-compression of this poem makes the "Perseverance" theme difficult to talk about in some regards, but here's a subtle chunk of it. We don't know one crucial thing here: how difficult the fight was. But, given the history of the form and the fact that it was originally titled "A Verse of Anglo-Saxon Poetry," we can make some assumptions about the protagonist's character. The listing quality of the first two lines – characterized by counting and a series of "ands" – give us the sense of repeated action, not a once-and-done slaying. So there is, indeed, a suggestion of length to the fight. And then, after the battle is over, the hero returns all the way home, dragging the head of (what we assume is) a much larger animal with him. That's what the word galumphing suggests a kind of not-very-graceful, slow movement. So while this whole fiasco has only taken up maybe six lines out of 28, we can extrapolate some real determination on the protagonist's part. We just have to be willing to imagine some time passing.

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