For 10/20 Fabulous History Part 1

1. “Trimmer’s textual conversations, Fyfe notes, were ‘controlled by the parent’” (Anthology 739).

The Wikipedia entry comments that Trimmer’s works emphasized hierarchy in concordance with social standing and age. In contrast to parental authority, the power of a child prevails in Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. The fact that Trimmer apparently solidifies the command of parents in her books causes me to seriously consider the adult role, or lack thereof, in Alice. Alice’s parents never appear, and even the adults in Wonderland do not present themselves as parental figures. The most notable “parent” in Alice is the Duchess who does a truly horrible job of caring for her baby. I cannot say that I know without a doubt what Carroll’s true intention was when writing Alice (other than appeasing little Liddell), but I’m fairly confident that it wasn’t to maintain the status quo between parents and children.

2. “One of the reasons Trimmer believed fairy tales were dangerous was because they led child readers into a fantasy world where adults could not follow and control their exposure to harmful experiences” (Anthology 742).

This passage made me laugh because Alice is a fictional representation of her fear – a young girl enters a fantastical world without adult guidance and proceeds to follow her curiosity wherever it may lead her. In many ways, Trimmer seems like the opposite of Carroll, for she disliked “scenes of death” (Carroll has a murderous queen) and “characters who were insane” (Carroll has the mad Hatter). I’m excited to explore how her work may connect with Carroll’s.

Alice enters Wonderland alone
Alice enters Wonderland alone

3. “‘We shall enjoy ourselves very much while we bring up our little family,’ said he; ‘But I dare say it will be a great deal of trouble. I would do it all myself I could, but you see I cannot, do what I will, work hard enough to supply all our nestlings with enough to eat. So you must help too’” (Anthology 756-7)

Wikipedia was right! By the end of the second page, Trimmer’s text already seems to be “question[ing] … [the ideologies] surrounding gender and the family,” for the father bird, the supreme provider of the family during the 18th century, concedes that he cannot take care of their multiple children without the mother’s aid (737). In fact, the mother needs to leave the home to find sustenance for the children, as well.

4. “‘Come, my dears,’ he said, ‘let us see what kind of nurse I can make; but an awkward one, I fear’” (Anthology 763).

Trimmer continues to challenge the traditional perceptions of gender roles in the family, as the father bird willingly acts as a “nurse” to his young chicks, while the mother leaves to gather more food. However, I wonder if Trimmer could have reproduced the same actions in a human setting, where a man took care of the children’s basic needs. I think it would be easier for an 18th century reader to accept a male bird, distanced from the human form, as a “nurse” than to accept a human man as a care taker, for he would most likely delegate such duties to a nanny or female servant.

It's quite difficult to find 18th century images with a man holding a baby.
It’s quite difficult to find 18th century images with a man holding a baby.

5. “‘I once had a trouble of the same kind before I married you,’ said the father robin” (Anthology 785).

I was a bit puzzled after I read this line about the robin father being previously married. After all, Trimmer explicitly distinguishes the differences between real life and this “series of Fables,” as she says it in the prologue (745). If she wanted child readers to view the story as particularly fictional, why would she attribute such a humanistic word as “married” to mated animals? Did her desire to promote the teachings of the Church of England (i.e. children within wedlock) supersede her motivation to distinguish animals from humans? I believe so, for the story tells us that the father’s previous “wife” died – one of the few church-approved reasons to remarry.

Screen Shot 2015-10-18 at 8.15.33 AM

6. “‘Oh, why will men and boys be so cruel and thoughtless?’” (Anthology 791).

Trimmer seems to be singling out men here. Another example of her slightly feminist attitude, perhaps?


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