You are old father William – Lewis Carroll
The poem ‘You are old father William’ appears in Lewis Carroll’s book Alice’s adventures in Wonderland. This is recited by Alice in chapter V.
The poem is a parody in which the writer humorously describes the generation gap between a veteran/ an experienced person and his supercilious, arrogant, pompous and haughty son. In this poem, the son is very age-obsessed because he keeps reminding his father how old he is. The son repeatedly tells the father that he is old and asks him why he does the things that the son does now. But according to the father his age is not a matter at all. Despite the main fact which is the age mentioned by the son the father seems pretty content with the fact he is getting older and at the end seems annoyed with his son. Yet the son is trying to condense, the father in a demeaning manner, saying that he is too old to be doing what he does. He keeps reiterating the expression “you are old” to make him feel belittled, apathetic to his father's feelings. But, while the son is taking his youthfulness as a weapon the father reacts with his age where the son gets defeat at the end. The father proves that even at his age, he is more robust and vivacious than his son. This is because he had to work hard, and fight for his rights, which is also why he is living a comfortably prosperous life today. It is true the fact that the father is quite plump but he is still buoyant and live. So he gives a message to the son, ‘though you are disable or old or whatever you have to be mobile to survive in the world.’ Furthermore his grey locks are the outcome of his veteran ship. Shaking his grey locks he tells the value of money. By saying ‘One shilling a box', he shows that although they couldn’t afford much, they managed to fulfill their needs to the best extent with what they had, and learned to save money. Later on we see how he fought for his rights. ‘with my wife’ here symbolizes the whole society. He struggled for good causes, and this strengthened his personality, with the strength of the jaw representing his strength to bear hardships. And as he says, this strong personality ‘has lasted the rest of my life'. Balancing an eel in the 7th stanza represents the strong concentration and determination which the father possesses. . Moreover the son's arrogance slowly turns into reverence for his father's various virtues and his tone changes from disdainful, to inquisitive.
The father realizes his limits here. He has prepared his son with the basic knowledge he needs, and knows that the son now needs to face the competitive world on his own and learn more through his own experiences. Hence, he stops answering, and dismisses further queries in a humorous way, saying “Be off, or I'll kick you down the stairs”. The son has to now face the outside world soon, voluntarily, before he is forced out so late, that it ruins his life. The father draws a parallel between this logic, and the two ways of going down the stairs – walking voluntarily down them, or being pushed down painfully.