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Humpty Dumpty in Lewis Carroll's "Through the Looking Glass"

Term Paper 2001 16 Pages

English Language and Literature Studies - Literature

Excerpt

Contents

I. Introduction

II. Structure of Chapter VI. in Through the Looking Glass
II.1 Humpty Dumpty's appearance in the beginning
II.2 Humpty's shape and Names and meanings
II.3 Humpty Dumpty's position
II.4 Talking about age
II.5 Belt or cravat
II.6 Un-birthday discussion and Calculation
II.7 Words and their meaning
II.8 The Jabberwocky
II.9 Humpty's poem
II.10 Alice's face

III. Conclusion

IV. Bibliography

I.Introduction

I guess, nearly everybody knows about Alice's Adventures in Wonderland from their childhood experiences. This book, and Through the Looking Glass, were written by Charles Lutwidge Dodgson who is better known by his pen-name Lewis Carroll. His main contribution is to be found in children's literature.

In my following work I will concentrate on the scene between Alice and Humpty Dumpty. Because Humpty Dumpty is very well known especially by british children, he is one of the main characters in the book Through the Looking Glass. Many children are able to tell the little nursery rhyme about him, which goes:

"Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall:

Humpty Dumpty had a great fall.

All the King's horses and all the

King's men

Couldn't put Humpty Dumpty in his

Place again."[1]

For this is the chapter which is unique in the linguistic sense, I divided it in several parts to analyze it best. These are the topics of which Alice and Humpty speak.

II. Structure of Chapter VI.

II.1 Humpty Dumpty's appearance in the beginning

In the end of chapter V. in Through the Looking Glass, Alice bought an egg in the sheep's shop and "set the egg upright on a shelf".[2] But as soon as she did this her whole surrounding began to change from the shop into a more natural area, namely a forest. Humpty Dumpty is the "result of this metamorphosis".[3]

Alice recognized that "the egg only got larger and larger".[4] This is the beginning of chapter VI. in Through the Looking Glass. And, as everybody should know, eggs usually do not grow larger since they are not living creatures. That is why it is evidently not a normal egg, but rather a creation belonging to Fantasy Literature. Only there it is possible that animals and other creatures can speak or are dressed like human beings. As Alice comes closer to the egg she sees that "it had eyes and a nose and mouth".[5] And surely knowing the nursery rhyme of it, Alice identifies the egg as Humpty Dumpty himself.

Like in the nursery rhyme, Humpty Dumpty sits on a wall. But it is "such a narrow one that Alice quite wondered how he could keep his balance".[6] This obvious parallel to the nursery rhyme lets the reader foresee that there must happen something with Humpty Dumpty in the continuing chapter. The narrow wall is a hint which, I'm quite sure, also little children understand in the right way.

The utterance "And how exactly like an egg he is!"[7], once more clarifies the personification of Humpty Dumpty - although he is just an egg. But since he has got a name in the nursery rhyme Alice tends to personify him.. Actually, he considers himself as a person, too. Nevertheless, in his shape and vulnerability he is an egg.[8]

Having said this to Humpty Dumpty he begins to speak for the first time. He does not understand how Alice ever could call him an egg. So she tries to justify herself in replying that she just said he looked like an egg. Alice did not ever say he is an egg. That makes a big difference to her.[9]

For Humpty Dumpty does not really start a conversation with Alice, she softly murmurs the nursery rhyme about him to herself. I will not repeat it because you can find this rhyme on my introduction page.

II.2 Humpty's shape and Names and meanings

Humpty Dumpty could not hear Alice's utterance and asks her to tell him her name and her business. After having said her name to Humpty Dumpty he wants to know what it does mean. Alice was not quite sure that names must mean something.[10] She could have thought, "In real life proper names seldom have a meaning other than the fact that they denote an individual object, whereas other words have general, universal meanings".[11] For Humpty Dumpty, "a name is not a mark, but a cluster of descriptions".[12] He says his name means the shape he is - therefore he sticks to the ancient theory that sign and signified belong together.[13] So why do we not call him "The Egg"?[14]

Since Humpty Dumpty's shape evokes a picture of plumpness and roundness the name "Egg" would fit much better. But because his name is an arbitrary one, it can be associated with lots of proper adjectives and meanings. And, furthermore, Humpty's name should be a riddle for the reader.[15] Everybody soon will be able to understand the future or other circumstances if names are motivated. But here, you have to make up your own ideas about what Humpty Dumpty's name could possibly mean.

In the next part of the conversation, if it actually deserves to be called so, Alice asks Humpty,"Why do you sit here all alone?". He answers, "Because there's nobody with me!". This is one of the numerous examples for a joke or riddle in the Alice-books. You could also say it is a kind of nonsense. Seeing that the answer is so clear, Humpty Dumpty is in a way offended. At the same time he acts like a little child when saying Alice shall ask another one for the solution of her question.[16]

Humpty Dumpty - and this can be recognized through the whole chapter of Through the Looking Glass - takes words very literally. And "Literalism [...] is a notorious characteristic of nonsense".[17]

[...]


[1] Lewis Carroll: The Annotated Alice. (London: Penguin, ²1970), p. 262.

[2] Lewis Carroll: The Annotated Alice. (London: Penguin, ² 1970), p.259.

[3] Jean-Jaques Lecercle: Philosophy of Nonsense: The Intuitions of Victorian Nonsense Literature. (London: Routledge, 1994), p.135.

[4] Carroll: The Annotated Alice..., p. 261.

[5] ibid., p. 261.

[6] Lewis Carroll: The Annotated Alice. (London: Penguin, ²1970), p. 261.

[7] ibid., p. 262.

[8] see Jean-Jaques Lecercle: Philosophy of Nonsense..., p. 140.

[9] see Lewis Carroll: The Annotated Alice..., p. 262.

[10] compare Lewis Carroll: The Annotated Alice. (London: Penguin, ²1970), p. 263.

[11] Martin Gardner. In: The Annotated Alice. (London: Penguin, ²1970), p. 263.

[12] Jean-Jaques Lecercle: Philosophy of Nonsense: The Intuitions of Victorian Nonsense Literature. (London: Routledge, 1994), p. 143.

[13] compare Antal Bokay: "Alice in Analysis: Interpretation of the Personal Meaning of Texts". In: Rachel Fordyce and Carla Marello (eds.): Semiotics and Linguistics in Alice's Worlds. (Berlin; New York: de Gruyter, 1994), p. 90.

[14] Paolo Boldrini, Manuela Nocentini and Piero Ricci: " 'Was it Cat I saw?' :The Vanishing Sign". In: Fordyce;Marello: Semiotics and Linguistics..., p. 47.

[15] Jean-Jaques Lecercle: Philosophy of Nonsense..., pp.144-145.

[16] Lewis Carroll: The Annotated Alice. (London: Penguin, ²1970), p. 263.

[17] see Lecercle: Philosophy of Nonsense..., p. 148.

Details

Pages
16
Year
2001
ISBN (eBook)
9783638540261
File size
482 KB
Language
English
Catalog Number
v60319
Institution / College
University of Kassel
Grade
1
Tags
Humpty Dumpty Lewis Carroll Through Looking Glass Lewis Carrolls Alice-Books

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Title: Humpty Dumpty in Lewis Carroll's "Through the Looking Glass"