Jabberwocky Summary

In plain English, "Jabberwocky" translates to "Babblement," with "jabber" meaning to speak rapidly but with little sense and "wock" being an old Scottish word for "voice." Jabberwock literally means Babble-Voice, but in the context of this poem the Jabberwock is a fearsome enemy, like the Bandersnatch, who steals (snatches) meaning from words with useless banter ("bander").

  • In the first stanza, the speaker sets the time ("brillig," the broiling and grilling done in preparation for dinner) and the place (the "wabe," the side of a hill). It's on this hill that the speaker tells his son, "Beware the Jabberwock!" The Jabberwock here stands in for anyone who uses language senselessly.
  • The son unsheathes his "vorpal" sword. "Vorpal" is a portmanteau combining "verbal" and "voracious," making the "vorpal" sword a "voracious word-sword." In effect, the son is using his knowledge of language to fight those who would abuse the language. The Jabberwock approaches the son anyway.
  • The son runs the creature "through and through" with the vorpal blade. He brings the creature's head back to the speaker, who proclaims, "O, frabjous day!" and takes the boy in his arms. The poem ends with the speaker repeating the first stanza verbatim. 


(Poetry for Students)

Jabberwocky cover image

Lines 1–4: Carroll explicitly defined certain words when the first stanza of this poem was published as a poem in its own right as...

(The entire section is 2771 words.)