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!
Go ahead, think of your own childhood. Was it a labyrinthine Hunt for an indefinable Snark? Was it an interminable stretch of anapaestized nonsense? Did you secretly wish that you could just softly and suddenly vanish away? Of course, Victorian childhood was an entirely different matter. The uprearing and education of children in those days was a Gradgrindish matter of Facts and just the Facts, harrumph, harrumph!
Look here! The Beaver and Butcher are busy at their lessons right now, this is a perfect opportunity to observe how one can transmute Nonsense into Facts in an approved pedagogical manner with minimal expense to the taxpayer.
The Butcher is an idiot man-child, we can safely ignore him for the nonce but the Beaver is a tougher nut to crack, as we educators like to say! She seems to be constructing an origami crane according to the diagram being sketched out upon the squeaky slate by a disembodied hand. Referring to the previous stanzel of last week, we see the same hand employed with its fellow hand in the casting of a shadow, the shadow of an immense and threatening bird, the dreaded Jubjub!
The overly excitable amongst us might think that all of this is some species of symbolic play which you rather fancy, but Mister Gradgrind, the proprietor of this particular school, will have none of that. He will point out to you, after the necessary light flogging conducive to Victorian pedagogy, that you are not to fancy, no, you are to Fact! Fact, Fact, Fact!
If the artist responsible for this drawing had wished to depict a Jubjub Bird, he would have done so. In fact, Mr. Gradgrind adds (idly re-adjusting your thumbscrew), this business of human and castorian hands manipulating Jubjubian references which are typologically generating additional motifs of birds, childrens’ play and postlapsarian anxiety is not a Fact at all! If it was, the Jubjub, a patently imaginary creature, would have to exist, QED.
After a bit more pedagogically necessary fiddling about with alligator clips and car batteries, Mr. Gradgrind will point out, with a world-weary smile, that this is how it always begins, that someone starts supposing that one thing actually means another, and so on and so on and before you know it, we’re living in a Snarkian Multiverse where the very fabric of language and logic itself is ripped asunder by the unleashed superpowers of Symbolic Metaphor.
And if you dare to point out to him that language itself is symbolic metaphor, why, he’ll give you a flogging that you’ll never forget. Cheeky thing, the bliss and innocence of childhood is too good for the likes of you! And that’s a Fact!
Next week: Winston Smith substitutes for Mr. Gradgrind
Michael McNeff's short film adaptation of The Hunting of the Snark has recently launched a Kickstarter campaign here. The film was narrated by Sir Christopher Lee and features over 150 visual effects shots. The movie is almost complete and funds raised will be used to finish up the visual effects. By pledging just $5 you can get a digital download of the film and a making of documentary. Let's face it, if you shelled out $20 to watch any of the visual atrocities that Hollywood has inflicted upon us of late, then Michael's Snark at $5 is a steal. And your brain cells will thank you afterwards.