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“Mimsy Were the Borogoves” by Lewis Padgett

The short story Mimsy Were the Borogoves, written by Henry Cutter and Catherine Moore, has always been considered as one of the most prominent examples of American science fiction. The main reason, why this novella attracts so much attention of critics is its deep symbolism, and intricate ideas, which the authors convey through literary allusions, stylistic devices, and even the development of the plot. It stands to reason, that this work can be analyzed from different perspectives but probably, it is more prudent to discuss Mimsy Were the Borogoves in close connection with Lewis Carol’s masterpiece Alice in Wonderland, because to some extent the views, expressed by Henry Cutter and Catherine Moore, are reminiscent to those of Carol.

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One should bear in mind that this work may be interpreted in drastically different ways, and the message may not always lie on the surface, however, it seems that the main theme of this story is the way in children and adults perceive reality. In particular, the writers place special emphasis on the fact that children may sometimes be much more serious in their actions than their parents are. Furthermore, throughout the text, Cutter and Moore try to show that very often, the behavior of adults reminds that one of their offsprings, but it may have rather detrimental effects on the lives of others.

In order to substantiate this argument, we may draw some textual evidence. First, we need to consider the way in which the authors portray adults in this story. One of the most prominent examples is the description of Unthahorsten, who acts rather inconsistently, and even cruelly. This scientist, who is experimenting with a time machine, reminds an infant, playing with his toys. The only thing is that these toys are extremely dangerous. The writers find a very interesting way to depict this character. They say, “Disgusted, Unthahorsten decided to make no more time machines. But the mischief had been done. There two of them, and the first”(Cutter, 1). The word mischief becomes crucial in this case because it indicates that this person is nothing else but a grown child, who does not fully realize the consequences of his deed and does not want to take responsibility for them. Such attitude is typical of many adults, and throughout the story, this motif reoccurs several times, especially if we are speaking about the symbol of toy, which should not be understood only in its literal meaning.

On the one hand, we can speak about the playthings, which Unthahorsten sends to the past. He does not even understand the seriousness of his action, in his opinion, the instruments that he has sent to the past can be easily disposed. Although the authors do not explicitly state their argument, we may deduce that they also hint at some man of power, in whose hands achievements of science may turn into rather dangerous toys. To some extent, Unthahorsten is one of them.

We should also mention Dennis and Jane Paradine, who also do not seem to take much interest in their offsprings. Only when they notice soothing unusual in Denis behavior, they finally pay attention to him and Emma. One may even call their attitude towards the children as irresponsible because a child requires permanent attention, and we can hardly observe it in Jane and Dennis.

Another issue, which Henry Cutter and Catherine Cutter explore in this novella, is the way children and adults perceive the world. Sometimes, the writers contrast them. They try to prove that children are able to think unconventionally, off the beaten track, and adults often lose this ability, which they later call “x logic” (Cutter, p 17). It is something that Dennis Paradine and others cannot fully understand, because they have lost it long ago. What seems irrelevant and “random” to adults, often makes perfect sense to children, and they are able to cope with those tasks that are entirely beyond their parents skills.

However, the most peculiar feature of this story is its constant references to Alice in Wonderland. It would not be a far-fetched conclusion that Uncle Charles and Alice Liddell is the allusion to Lewis Carol and his character. Apart from that, even the name of this novella is derived from Carols work Jabberwocky , in which the famous writer tries to show all the inconsistency or even absurdity of the adult world. We may even draw parallels between these works because Henry Cutter and Catherine Cutter show the childrens journey into the world of their parents.

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To conclude, Henry Cutter and Catherine Cutter show that the way in which children think is sometimes more logical than many adults believe. Moreover, they are more attentive to the world and find notice many things, entirely invisible to their parents. Yet, the main theme of this story is the irresponsibility of adults and their propensity to play games, which may ruin the lives of other people, like for instance, Unthahorsten or the Paradies.


Henry Cutter. Catherine Cutter. “Mimsy Were the Borogoves” Web.

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