A analysis of Lewis Carroll’s classic piece of nonsense city by Dr Oliver Tearle

‘The Walrus and also the Carpenter’ is a poem recited through the fat twins, Tweedledum and also Tweedledee, to Alice in Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking-Glass (1871). The precise an interpretation of the poem stays elusive, yet it stays a popular poem and a standard example of victorian nonsense verse. It may be foolhardy to effort an evaluation or an essential commentary where nonsense literature is concerned, however it’s precious delving a small deeper right into this unusual poem.

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The Walrus and also the Carpenter

The sunlight was shining on the sea,Shining through all his might:He walk his an extremely best to makeThe billows smooth and also bright —And this was odd, since it wasThe middle of the night.

The moon was shining sulkily,Because she thought the sunHad got no service to be afterwards the day to be done —‘It’s very rude that him,’ she said,‘To come and spoil the fun.’

The sea was wet as wet could be,The sands to be dry together dry.You can not watch a cloud, becauseNo cloud was in the sky:No birds to be flying overhead —There were no bird to fly.

The Walrus and also the CarpenterWere go close at hand;They wept choose anything come seeSuch amounts of sand:‘If this were only cleared away,’They said, ‘it would certainly be grand!’

‘If 7 maids with seven mopsSwept the for fifty percent a year,Do friend suppose,’ the Walrus said,‘That they can get it clear?’‘I doubt it,’ stated the Carpenter,And shed a bitterness tear.

‘O Oysters, come and walk with us!’The Walrus walk beseech.‘A pleasant walk, a satisfied talk,Along the briny beach:We cannot do with an ext than four,To give a hand come each.’

The eldest Oyster looked in ~ him,But never ever a word that said:The eldest Oyster winked his eye,And shook his hefty head —Meaning to say that did no chooseTo leaving the oyster-bed.

But 4 young Oysters hurried up,All eager for the treat:Their coats to be brushed, their faces washed,Their shoes to be clean and neat —And this to be odd, because, you know,They hadn’t any kind of feet.

Four various other Oysters complied with them,And yet an additional four;And thick and also fast they come at last,And more, and also more, and much more —All hopping with the frothy waves,And scrambling to the shore.

The Walrus and the CarpenterWalked on a mile or so,And then they rest on a rockConveniently low:And every the little Oysters stoodAnd waited in a row.

‘The time has come,’ the Walrus said,‘To speak of many things:Of shoes — and also ships — and sealing-wax —Of cabbages — and also kings —And why the sea is boiling hot —And even if it is pigs have actually wings.’

‘But wait a bit,’ the Oysters cried,‘Before we have our chat;For some of us space out the breath,And all of us space fat!’‘No hurry!’ said the Carpenter.They thanked him much for that.

‘A loaf of bread,’ the Walrus said,‘Is what we chiefly need:Pepper and also vinegar besidesAre very great indeed —Now if you’re ready, Oysters dear,We can begin to feed.’

‘But not on us!’ the Oysters cried,Turning a small blue.‘After such kindness, that would beA dismal point to do!’‘The night is fine,’ the Walrus said.‘Do you excellent the view?

‘It to be so type of you come come!And you are really nice!’The Carpenter claimed nothing but‘Cut us one more slice:I wish you to be not rather so hearing disabled —I’ve had to ask you twice!’

‘It appears a shame,’ the Walrus said,‘To beat them such a trick,After we’ve lugged them out so far,And make them trot therefore quick!’The Carpenter stated nothing but‘The butter’s spread too thick!’

‘I weep for you,’ the Walrus said:‘I deeply sympathize.’With sobs and also tears the sorted outThose of the largest size,Holding his pocket-handkerchiefBefore his streaming eyes.

‘O Oysters,’ said the Carpenter,‘You’ve had actually a pleasant run!Shall us be trotting residence again?’But answer come there nobody —And this to be scarcely odd, becauseThey’d consumed every one.

Perhaps, of every Lewis Carroll’s poems, ‘The Walrus and the Carpenter’ has actually attracted the most commentary and speculation worrying its can be fried ‘meaning’. Some commentators have construed the predatory walrus and carpenter together representing, respectively, Buddha (because the walrus is large) and also Jesus (the carpenter being the profession Jesus was raised in). That unlikely that this to be Carroll’s intention, not least because the carpenter can easily have been a butterfly or a baronet instead: he actually provided his illustrator, man Tenniel, the choice, for this reason it was Tenniel that selected ‘carpenter’.

Although that a longer poem than, say, ‘Jabberwocky’, ‘The Walrus and also the Carpenter’ is fairly easy to summarise. The two title characters, when walking along a beach, uncover a bed the oysters and also proceed to eat the lot. However we’re plainly in a nonsense-world here, a world of fantasy: the sun and the moon space both out on this night. The oysters can walk and also even undertake shoes, even though they don’t have any feet. No, lock don’t have actually feet, however they do have ‘heads’, and also are described as being in their beds – v ‘bed’ right here going past the definition of ‘sea bed’ and also instead conjuring up the absurdly comical idea of the oysters tucked increase in bed asleep.

The inquiry of gender is regularly curious in the case of rash literature. Which is the male and also which the female in Lear’s ‘The Owl and the Pussycat’? Here, the sun is presented as male and the moon female, i beg your pardon is together we can expect, offered the timeless associations in literature in between the moon and notions the pallor, beauty, and ethereal charm, all of which have also long been linked (by poets indigenous the Renaissance with to the Romantics and also beyond) through femininity. The sun is a bolder interloper, refusing to collection when night come on and also instead boldly and also presumptuously encroaching top top the moon’s patch.

Yet the two central figures, but we analyse or interpret their significance, show up to be male – the moustachioed walrus and the pragmatic carpenter, arguing Jesus, Joseph, and other handymen. Your dream is to view the sands the the beach swept away by ‘seven maids with seven mops’ – putting women into servitude in order come clear far the sand, which castle dislike for part unspecified reason.

The story that ‘The Walrus and also the Carpenter’ is, in one sense, the story of encroachment and entitlement: the sunlight upon the moon’s region or time, the walrus and the carpenters top top the oysters, which they presume come eat – due to the fact that they can. It’s therefore feasible to check out the poem as a commentary on man’s usage – or abuse, or even exploitation – of others in order to obtain what he wants: the walrus is the fat cat (to mix our animal metaphors) and also the carpenter his artisan partner whom that co-opts because that his venture, subjugating and also then feeding top top the bad oysters. Or at least, such a cool interpretation might be tenable, if the weren’t for the truth that, as we pointed out above, Carroll practically wrote a poem dubbed ‘The Walrus and also the Butterfly’.

In the critical analysis, every such readings that the poem in regards to class, gender, and modern politics operation the danger of overlooking that fact, and the more salient fact, that nonsense doesn’t favor to market itself up to conveniently graspable analytical readings. We can talk of numerous things, yet what remains are the comical images and the delightful play that language – nonsense or otherwise.

More nonsense-related fun is come be had actually with this pick of Edward Lear’s best poems and our collection of fascinating Lewis Carroll facts.

The writer of this article, Dr Oliver Tearle, is a literary critic and also lecturer in English at Loughborough University. The is the writer of, among others, The secret Library: A Book-Lovers’ Journey v Curiosities that History

and also The good War, The garbage Land and the Modernist lengthy Poem.

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Image: john Tenniel’s illustration because that Lewis Carroll’s ‘The Walrus and also the Carpenter’ (1871), via Wikimedia Commons.