1

I have to write a summary of the poem 'Jabberwocky' by Lewis Carroll. There is a person in it who is talking but is not the narrator. What do I call this character?

  • 2
    Alice didn't understand it either - all she could be sure of was that somebody killed something. But the only reported speech in the poem isn't from that "somebody" - I've always assumed it's the Jabberwock-slayer's uncle, for no particular reason. – FumbleFingers Apr 10 '15 at 17:27
  • 1
    @FumbleFingers The chortler is the hero's father, surely? "Beware the Jabberwock, my son ..." – StoneyB on hiatus Apr 10 '15 at 17:36
  • 2
    @StoneyB: I'm sure Victorian uncles used "My boy!" and "My son!" at least as freely as we do today, even if I can't quite imagine a Victorian football fan shouting "Go on, my son!" in quite the way we often hear nowadays. I may be wrong, but I suspect the usage is particularly common in SE UK, and maybe significantly less common in America. – FumbleFingers Apr 10 '15 at 17:46
  • 1
    You could just refer to him as the "unnamed speaker" or "unknown speaker"...? Or you could declare that, for the purposes of your paper, you will refer to him as "Fred". (Although it could also be a her, in which case I'd recommend "Wilhelmina".) – Hellion Apr 10 '15 at 18:29
  • Calling unrelated young men "son" is also common in the American South; consider the cartoon character Foghorn Leghorn as the stereotype. A Victorian might even stretch to use it to get the rhyme with shun. – Barmar Apr 10 '15 at 21:26
1

Only two stanzas of the poem "Jabberwocky" have direct quotations in them—the rest is narration. Here are the two pieces that contain those quotations:

"Beware the Jabberwock, my son!

The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!

Beware the Jubjub bird, and shun

The frumious Bandersnatch!"

...

"And hast thou slain the Jabberwock?

Come to my arms, my beamish boy!

O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!"

He chortled in his joy.

These excerpts indicate that the speaker is male (owing to the line, "He chortled...") and that he has a relationship of some intimacy with the Jabberwock's future slayer, whom he refers to in the first stanza as "my son" and in the second as "my boy"). But beyond that, there is no clue as to the speaker's identity.

To distinguish the person who is responsible for the direct quotations from the narrator of the rest of the poem, I would call the former the "quoted speaker" and the later "the narrator," but I would also dedicate a sentence to explaining which parts of the poem belong to each personage.

  • Couldn't the one chortling in his joy also be the slayer/son/beamish boy? – skymningen May 11 '15 at 7:36
  • @skymninge: I would characterize that interpretation as "not impossible." However, considering that the unidentified speaker has just been quoted as saying "Callooh! Callay!" in the preceding line—and considering that three lines of the four-line stanza are occupied by his remarks—I'm strongly inclined to attribute the chortling to that speaker. – Sven Yargs May 11 '15 at 18:47

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.