Lewis Carroll was the pen name of Charles L. Dodgson, the renowned Victorian author and mathematician. The eldest of 11 children, Carroll was rather adept at entertaining himself and his siblings. He also pursued photography, often choosing children as the subject of his portraits. One of his favourite models was a little girl named Alice Liddell, the daughter of the Dean at Christ Church College where Carroll had studied, and who who later became the basis for Carroll’s fictional character, Alice.
Carroll primarily wrote comic fantasies and humorous verse that was often very childlike. Carroll published his most famous children’s novel Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland in 1865, followed by its sequel entitled Through the Looking Glass in 1872.
“All in the Golden Afternoon”, the prefatory poem in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland is one of Carroll’s most famous works. The poem is divided into 7 stanzas. Each of these stanzas is again made up of 6 lines. Hence, the entire poem consists of 42 lines in total. The speaker of this poem is Carroll himself, and his words are addressed to the three Liddell sisters whom he has taken on a boat ride.
All in the Golden Afternoon Summary by Lewis Carroll
Stanza 1: In this stanza, the poet describes what kind of day it is when he has gone sailing with the Liddell girls. He says that the golden sunlight is shining down on them, and it is a rather lazy afternoon. They are sailing along at a relaxed pace. The two oars with which the boat is being rowed are both operated by the small hands of one of the sisters. Since none of them has much experience with sailing, no display of skill is either shown by them in the rowing, nor is it expected by the poet. However, the hands rowing the boat do not admit that they do not know much about which direction they are going in. Instead, the little girl in question is acting as a confident guide to the others in the boat, assuring them falsely that she knows where they are going.
Stanza 2: In this stanza, the poet says that the three girls are teaming up together and being cruel to him. AT this time of day, and when the weather is so fine, an old man like him needs to rest and relax. In fact, he is so tired and weary that he feels his breath will not even be able to move the smallest feather with its weak force. In this position, it is hard for him to talk. And yet, the Liddell sisters are asking him to tell them a story, and almost begging in order to get what they want. He is defenceless in this situation, for his voice is only one against those of the more demanding three.
Stanza 3: In this stanza, the poet describes how the oldest of the sisters commands him to begin the tale he will be telling them. On the other hand, the second sister says that the story should make a lot of sense and regale them all. Finally, the third sister takes it upon herself to interrupt the poet very frequently as he tells them the story. Hence, all the sisters are candid and open in their attitude towards the poet, and none of them hesitate to voice their demands and requests to the poet.
Stanza 4: In this stanza, the poet describes how the sisters become absolutely silent once he starts telling the main part of his tale. As he describes the adventures of a child in a dreamland which is full of never before experienced wonders, the little girls cannot help but imagine every incident he tells them ardently, as if they are watching those things happen before their very eyes. When the poet describes how the child in his story talks to animals and birds, the Liddell girls almost believe the story to be true.
Stanza 5: In this stanza, the poet describes how it was getting more difficult to sustain his imagination and extend the story every minute. As a result, he became weary and tried to talk about other things, promising to continue the story the next time they all met. However, the little girls do not agree to this. They shout out happily that it is already ‘next’ time, that is, it is already time for him to finish the story.
Stanza 6: In this stanza, the poet says that the tale of Wonderland was composed entirely at those times that he went sailing with the Liddell girls and told them stories to entertain them. Every story he told was woven together to form the narrative of this children’s book. Now that the story is complete, the afternoon has passed and the sun is setting. Both he and the children are happy as they ride home.
Stanza 7: In this stanza, the poet singles out Alice Liddell and talks to her. He asks her to take one the stories he had told the children and to bind it up with her dreams and her memories. If she does so, then she will end up composing something as beautiful and exotic as the wreath of flowers made by a pilgrim after plucking flowers from the faraway lands that he has journeyed to. In other words, the poet acknowledges Alice to be his muse and inspiration. He has been able to write Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by fusing together his memories of their afternoon boat rides and his dreams about her.
Hope you enjoyed All in the Golden Afternoon Summary by Lewis Carroll. You can also take a look at All in the Golden Afternoon analysis here.
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