General Information

Lewis Carroll‘s famous narrative poem “The Walrus and the Carpenter” hails from Through the Looking Glass and What Alice Found There (1872). This poem could have been entitled “The Walrus and the Butterfly” or “The Walrus and the Baronet” just as easily as Sir John Tenniel, the illustrator, was allowed to choose who the Walrus was walking with as all three fit Carroll’s rhyme scheme and meter. “The Walrus and the Carpenter” alternates between iambic tetrameter and iambic trimeters, forming an ABCBDB scheme. It has been largely cited in popular culture, from Dogma to O’Henry’s Cabbages and Kings. I have found allowing my students to compare the interpretation in Dogma with the Disney depiction generates a useful discussion of power dynamics and how they function. As the most famous stanza (on cabbages and kings) derives from Shakespeare’s Richard II and as the ballad has traditionally been used to record and disseminate history, we also profited from discussing Carroll’s satirization of Victorian and possibly even American society (on Columbus Day).