1. “There was also a Beaver, that paced on the deck, / Or would sit making lace in the bow: / And had often (the Bellman said) saved them from wreck, / Though none of the sailors knew how” (Anthology 393).
In portraying the Beaver as one who often “mak[es] lace,” a stereotypically effeminate pastime, Carroll ascribes a gentle nature to the animal. At the same time, the beaver seems to possess a mysterious yet significant power in that he/she has often prevented potential shipwrecks. Because Carroll gives so much attention to animals in Alice, I don’t think it would be too far fetched to suggest that Carroll uses the Beaver’s status as a model for that of all animals – highly important, yet frequently gone unrecognized.
2. “The loss of his clothes hardly mattered, because / He had seven coats on when he came, / With three pair of boots – but the worst of it was, / He had wholly forgotten his name” (Anthology 394).
This initially reminded me of when Alice visited the wood of no-names (AA Ch III) and temporarily forgot who she was. Carroll seems to be quite interested in self-identity or lack thereof, as the worst part of the Baker’s misfortune is that “he had wholly forgotten his name.” However, Carroll’s use of “no-name” functions differently in “The Hunting of the Snark” than it does in Alice. While in Alice, Alice’s loss of identity allows her to befriend a fawn, thus transcending cultural preconceptions of man/animal relationships, in “The Hunting of the Snark,” the Baker’s lack of a name causes no immediate results.
In fact, his name-less reality doesn’t reappear until the end of the poem just before he disappears upon finding the Snark: “They beheld him—their Baker—their hero unnamed – ” (Anthology 416). Perhaps, Carroll is making a comment on the historical reality that many heroes go unrecorded or unrecognized, lost to time. Or, perhaps the Baker doesn’t have a name because he simply functions as a medium to elicit the crews fear and perpetuate their belief in the Snark. After all, it was his haunting tale that introduced the existence of the Boojum, and the Baker’s body was never found. Did he ever exist?
3. “That the Captain they trusted so well / Had only one notion for crossing the ocean, / And that was to tingle his bell” (Anthology 398).
I’m a bit confused as to the significance of the Captain’s bell. Is it a representation of his masculinity which he indulges by embarking upon a dangerous quest in hunt of a mysterious creature?
4. “And the Bellman cried ‘Silence! Not even a shriek!’ … ‘My father and mother were honest, though poor—’ / ‘Skip all that!’ cried the Bellman in haste” (Anthology 401).
In “Fit the Third: The Baker’s Tale,” the Bellman demands absolute silence and then proceeds to rudely interrupt the Baker’s story on two occasions. I found that his complete defiance of his own rule reminded me of the Red Queen and King’s inclination for loud interjections (“Off with their heads!” AA 83, “Stolen!” AA 113). Carroll portrays the Bellman as a very impatient listener who doesn’t take good care of his crew – a poor quality in a leader.
5. “And even the Butcher felt queer. / He thought of his childhood, left far far behind— / That blissful and innocent state— / The sound so exactly recalled to his mind / A pencil that squeaks on a slate!” (Anthology 407-8).
During his hunt for the Snark, the Butcher hears a “scream, shrill and high” (Anthology 407). Thoroughly frightened by the possibility of death, he reminisces on the safety and innocence of his childhood. I’m not a bit surprised that Carroll would depict childhood as the highlight of one’s life, for at the end of Alice he portrays it as a magical time full of imagination compared to the harsh reality of adult life: “So she sat on, with closed eyes, and half believed herself in Wonderland, though she knew she had but to open them again, and all would change to dull reality” (AA 126).
Additionally, it’s interesting to note the Butcher recalls his lessons – represented by “A pencil that squeaks on a slate!” – with a sense of nostalgia, suggesting that even one’s tedious childhood lessons are preferable to adult life.
6. “While the Beaver confessed, with affectionate looks / More eloquent even than tears, / It had learnt in ten minutes far more than all books / Would have taught it in seventy years” (Anthology 410).
I was a little surprised by this line, for it would appear that Carroll is questioning the effectiveness of books. However, after some contemplation, I don’t think Carroll is diminishing academic texts/studies but rather emphasizing the importance of a passionate and good teacher.
7. “[The Beaver and Butcher] returned hand-in-hand, and the Bellman, unmanned / (For a moment) with noble emotion, / Said, ‘This amply repays all the wearisome days We have spent on the billowy ocean!’” (Anthology 411).
Among this rugged sea crew, Carroll portrays emotion as the antithesis of masculinity, for the Bellman is “unmanned” by “noble emotion.” The adjective “noble” is significant as it conveys that even well justified displays of emotion (not pathetic or undignified) remain in direct opposition to the nature of man. To me, it’s not completely clear as to whether Carroll supports such notions or if he’s creating a parody of them.