THE HUNTING OF THE SNARK

IMG_0250

Author: Lewis Carroll (1832 – 1898)
Downloaded: wikisource via iBooks

Introduction

Charles Lutwidge Dodgson was an English author, mathematician, logician and pioneer in the then-new field of photography. Little is known about his childhood. He studied in Christ Church, Oxford. He attained a First Class Honour Moderation in Mathematics in 1852 and graduated with a BA with a First in Mathematics and a Second in Classics in 1854 and an MA in 1857. He was appointed as a lecturer in mathematics in Christ Church in 1856, a post he held until 1881. The appointment required Carroll to take holy orders in the Anglican Church and to remain unmarried. He was made a deacon in 1861 but he managed to resist being ordained as a priest.

Dodgson wrote a number of books on mathematics using his real name. But today, he is remembered for 3 works he wrote using the pseudonym Lewis Carroll: Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (1865), Through the Looking Glass And What Alice Found There (1871) and the poem The Hunting of the Snark (1874), all considered classics of the so-called nonsense literature genre.

What is the story about?

A colourful set of characters set out to hunt a snark. Or is it actually a boojum?

Themes

Lewis Carroll has given us some of English literature’s most enduring characters and created wonderful new words.

His creations include White Rabbit, Dodo, the hookah-smoking Caterpillar, the grinning Cheshire Cat, March Hare, Hatter, and The Queen and King of Hearts (Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland), Jabberwocky, Tweedledum and Tweedledee, Humpty Dumpty and a different queen, the Red Queen (Through the Looking Glass) and the Snark (The Hunting of the Snark).

Words that Carroll invented include nonsense words such as snark and boojum (The Hunting of the Snark) and portmanteau or blend words such as chortle, galumph and mimsy (Through the Looking Glass). In Through the Looking Glass, Humpty Dumpty defined portmanteau to Alice: “there are two meanings packed up in one word” (p 187).

Finally …

Like the twin Alice books, there is no need to read too much into The Hunting of the Snark. While his literary works can be enjoyed at face value, Dodgson’s personal life remains an enigma.