As I was getting too big for Mr. Wopsle's great-aunt's room, my education under that preposterous female terminated. Not, however, until Biddy had imparted to me everything she knew, from the little catalogues of prices, to a comic song she had once brought for a halfpenny. Although the only coherent part of the latter piece of literature were the opening lines,

When I went to Lunnon town sirs,
Too rul loo rul
Too rul loo rul
Wasn't I done very brown sirs?
Too rul loo rul
Too rul loo rul

— still, in my desire to be wiser, I got this composition by heart with the utmost gravity; not do I recollect that I questioned its merit, except that I thought (as I still do) the amount of Too rul somewhat in excess of the poetry. (Dickens, 100)

Decorative Initial Carroll's Alice and Dickens's Pip both struggle as children to decode the language of adults. Both children memorize tracts of poetry that serve some purpose (of which they're not sure), and when someone tampers with linguistic truths (as happens in Alice in Wonderland quite often) the world seems to lose its entire shape and logic. Pip feels that the poem Biddy brings him as an excess of “Too rul," but dismisses this criticism as deficiency on his own part, therefore accepting the nonsense phrases as a higher language of a higher class. Contrarily, Alice receives constant prodding from the members of Wonderland to reevaluate the words she says, as everyone guards themselves like Humpty Dumpty, who warns her “If I'd meant that, I'd have said it." The difference between Pip's struggle and Alice's, then revolves around the fact that Pip tires to learn the nonsensical forms of language while Alice tries to accommodate how nonsensical forms intrude upon her language. Dickens, therefore, characterizes Pip as a determined student, hungry “for information," whereas Carroll presents Alice as a constantly foiled student whose lessons do not hold when tested.


Victorian Web Overview Charles Dickens Great Expectations

Last modified 1996