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Jabberwocky

Jabberwocky

by Lewis Carroll

Stanza 4 Summary

Get out the microscope, because we’re going through this poem line-by-line.

Lines 13-14

And, as in uffish thought he stood,
The Jabberwock, with eyes of flame
,

  • Here we have another clear plot point, and it happens to be the beginning of the climax of the poem: the Jabberwock itself appears.
  • The hero has been standing in uffish thought – what could that mean? Uffish sounds a little like huffy, which could mean "impatient." That's possible. Or, given the context we have up until this point, it could just be a strange word for dreamy. After all, our hero has been searching for a long time, carrying a big sword. He's probably at least a little weary, and when you're weary, thoughts can go a-wandering.
  • The Jabberwock gets a nice, scary detail here. We're told that he has "eyes of flame." This makes him seem like a dragon (at least, inasmuch as we tend to associate mythical creatures and flames with dragons).
  • The flame detail also cements the Jabberwock's place in the story as villain. If you think about it, the biggest good vs. evil story we have is that between Heaven and Hell. And what's Hell made of? Fire.

Lines 15-16

Came whiffling through the tulgey wood,
And burbled as it came!

  • Here comes the monster – and our mystery verb is whiffling. What could it mean? It sounds a bit like whistling, but the last time we checked, dragon-ish creatures didn't whistle while they attacked you. But! Whistling can also mean "to move very fast," which is much more likely.
  • We also have a mystery adjective, tulgey, which describes the woods that our hero and villain are about to duel in. Might be derived from bulge? As in, something grotesque, enlarged? This is possible and would give the woods a dark, big feeling to them that would make the encounter even more sinister.
  • The Jabberwock also burbles as it approaches. We understand burble, in today's vernacular, to mean the kind of noise that a baby would make – soft, nonsense sounds. This is obviously not the case here.
  • So what could it mean? Maybe it's more akin to growling. In any case, it doesn't seem like the beast would suddenly be making baby noises. We can safely assume that burbled, in this case, is a more threatening word than we're used to.

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