Mimsy Were the Borogoves

09 Feb

A line from Lewis Carroll’s “Jabberwocky,” from Through the Looking Glass, and the title also of a short story by “Lewis Padgett” (pseudonym of Henry Kuttner and C. L. Moore). A short story that I recently just finished reading here. The first thing that became apparent upon reading it was that it was likely typed by someone with inadequate editing skills, for there were several spelling errors and random symbols (such as “[“) present, as well as an improper understanding of some punctuation and quotation rules. But perhaps the authors themselves were guilty of this sin, though I doubt it – I have read other Kuttner, at least, and he did not do this.

But regardless, it was a very enjoyable read. One of the first thematic things that peopped out at me was the apparent submissiveness of the mother-figure – Jane – with regards to her husband or Dr. Holloway. Additionally, the husband is frequently referred to by his last name, while his wife is not – another interesting aspect of a patriarchal society. Considering this was written a fair while ago, this is not unusual – the fact that I noticed this gender disparity first off perhaps is more of a testament to the state of my own psychology than to the authors’ intentions.

In terms of the actual story, it was a well-conceived science fiction short story; a (presumably) post-human from the far future as an idle experiment sends some of his son’s former toys back in time to Earth (in two boxes), then leaves the experiment when they do not return to him. The toys, however, find their way into the hands of earth children – one to an acquaintance of Lewis Carroll, who utters the opening stanza of “Jabberwocky” as a result of these toys (which allows the other children to transcend when Carroll puts it verbatim into his poem), and the other box ends up with Scott and Emma, the children of Jane and Dennis Paradine. The toys are highly instructive in a non-normative way of thinking (that Holloway deems “X”), and the tale ends with the children mastering concepts completely alien and superior to normative thought, and presumably transcend to a place better suited to their lines of thought (Carroll’s associate mentions that her stanza is the “key” to “escaping”).

The tale also includes some elements of horror in that the childrens’ thought processes are completely alien to us – and as exemplified by the parents and the child psychologist Dr. Holloway – what is alien to us we fear. The fear the parents had for their children is ultimately realized when the children “escape” and vanish forever. The focus on the difference between child and adult psychology is central to the tale, and examines it in a fascinating way – as adults are set into their paths, only children could master these toys that taught people to think in different ways. And in the end, all that they were were toys. The idea also of the younger child – Emma – being able to master new concepts  (such as “X” thinking) far more quickly than Scott was also interesting, and made for some interesting – if unsettling – circumstances.

I won’t say more – but the story is well worth reading!

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Posted by on February 9, 2011 in Readings


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