Wanting her to be familiar with Lewis Carroll’s chapter on Humpty Dumpty in Through the Looking Glass, I had my visiting 10-year-old granddaughter read it with me. Afterward we discussed what we had read. She commented, “Well, I didn’t know Humpty Dumpty was like that! I thought he was a nice egg.”
Humpty’s arrogance is obvious. He is furious that Alice should know a rhyme about him. He emphasizes, as they discuss it, his importance to the King who, Humpty is certain, will not allow any harm to come to him. He discounts Alice’s name with the argument that a name must mean something—tell something about the shape or character of a person. And he is quite proud of his own. (Incidentally, the name Alice means ‘of noble birth; princess.’)
The conversation continues unsatisfactory as Humpty dismisses all of Alice’s mannerly attempts to befriend him. He expounds on his control over his environment, boasting that he makes words work hard for him and uses them to mean whatever he wants them to mean.
He tells of orders that he gives others, outraged when they are not immediately obeyed. He recites a poem he has made about the demands he made of some fish. We are left wondering what is going on at the end of his poem where he finds that the door leading out of his house is locked and he cannot open it.
I wonder if we’re not a little like Humpty—a little too proud of ourselves. A little too smug about our control over our environment. A little too boastful of our work ethic. A little too disdainful of others who haven’t quite accomplished what we have.
I wonder where this arrogance comes from. And I wonder if this arrogance might be locking us in our own homes—in our own shells