This analysis of Lewis Carroll’s poem “All in the Golden Afternoon” is divided into three sections – context, rhyme scheme and rhetorical devices, and themes.
Context: This poem depicts the story of how Lewis Carroll composed Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland on a boat-trip from Oxford to Godstow during the summer of 1862 and in the company of the three Liddell sisters and one Reverend Robinson Duckworth.
All in the Golden Afternoon Analysis by Lewis Carroll
Alice and her two sisters Lorina and Edith spent much of their free time with Lewis Carroll as well as Reverend Robinson Duckworth. During the summer, this group would often take meticulously planned expeditions up the Isis branch of the Thames river, along with heaping picnic baskets and lessons in the art of rowing. It is during one of these excursions that the first real telling of Alice’s Adventures took place. The story would have faded away with the setting sun, as so many made-up stories do, had not Alice insisted that the tales be written down especially for her.
The first copy of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (then known as “Alice’s Adventures Under Ground”) was thus a handwritten volume given personally to his special friend, Alice Liddell. When the story was about to be published as an actual book, Carroll added this poem as a preface. He thought that his tale was a bit frightening for sensitive, young children, and he hoped that the poem would soften the fearfulness of the story.
Rhyme Scheme and Rhetorical Devices: Each of the 7 stanzas in this poem follows the same simple rhyme scheme – ABCBDB.
In line 6 of the 2nd stanza, the poet uses the device of metonymy. This rhetorical device consists of the substitution of the name of an attribute or adjunct for that of the thing meant. Here the poet uses the word “tongues” to mean “voices”.
In lines 3 and 4 of the 4th stanza, the poet uses the device of transposed sentence. Poets often change the sequence of words in their lines in order to maintain the rhyme scheme chosen by them for that particular poem. Here the poet writes “The dream-child moving through a land/ Of wonders wild and new” instead of writing “The dream-child moving through a land of wild and new wonders”, the latter being the more grammatically correct of the two.
In line 2 of the 5th stanza, the poet uses the device of metaphor. This rhetorical device is used when a covert comparison is made between two different things or ideas. Here the poet compares his mind with a well, and instead of water, this well is filled with imagination.
In line 1 of the 7th stanza, the poet uses the device of apostrophe. This rhetorical device is used when a poet addresses his or her poem to an absent or silent audience. Here the poet speaks directly to Alice Liddell but we do not see her responding to him.
In lines 3 and 4 of the 7th stanza, the poet uses the device of personification. This rhetorical device is used to bestow human qualities on something that is not human. Here the poet personifies Childhood by giving it the ability to dream and Memory by giving it the ability to make music.
Theme of All in the Golden Afternoon Analysis by Lewis Carroll
- Young VS Old: The poet implicitly compares his old age to the youth of the Liddell sisters. They are energetic and enthusiastic during the boat trip. They are the ones who row the boat. They may lack experience, but they are undaunted when it comes to steering the boat. On the other hand, the poet is tired and weary and wants to while away the summer afternoons by relaxing. When the girls demand that he tell them a story, he feels feeble and unable to muster up the energy to do so. He only complies out of love for his little friends.
- Prima, Secunda, Tertia: The oldest of the Liddell sisters was called Lorina, and she is referred to as ‘Prima’ meaning the first among equal. Alice, being the middle child, is referred to as ‘Secuda’. Edith, being the youngest of the three children, is referred to as ‘Tertia’.
- Imagination + Reality: By speaking about both Childhood and Memory, the poet acknowledges how the time he had spent in real life with the Liddell sisters (and especially Alice) has inspired him to write about Wonderland. It is reality that has fuelled his imagination. When he reflects on the boat rides with them, he knows that his little friends’ demands have been the only motivation for him to compose what later became a classic in children’s literature.
- The process of literary composition: The poet compares literary composition with a pilgrim plucking flowers from various lands and making a wreath out of them. Similarly, Carroll’s work is the sum of all his experiences with the Liddell children. Each story he has told them has contributed in some way to the creation of Wonderland.
Hope you enjoyed All in the Golden Afternoon analysis by Lewis Carroll. You can also take a look at All in the Golden Afternoon summary here.
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