How is "Fame" by Charlotte Mew a modernist poem? What are the key features that mark it as modernist?

Expert Answers
Karen P.L. Hardison eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Some Modernist characteristics that appear in Mew's poem "Fame" are fragmentation of personality, ambiguity, meaninglessness, attempts to reconstitute a defragmented world, symbolism.

Mew's poetic persona demonstrates a fragmented personality in the vision poem ("Sometimes in the over-heated house, but not for long, /.../ I see myself among the crowd,...) when she separates from her present self and envisions her former self "among the crowd" of indistinguishable and indistinguished faces. This fragmentation of personality is enforced when ambiguity arrests our attention when there is no clear antecedent to "it" in "If I went back and it was not there?" Is "it" fame, her previous "crowd," or "The din, the scuffle, the long stare" of "the heavenly places"?

Though the fragmentation is intensified, the ambiguity is reconciled somewhat when the persona questions leaving "Fame," then personifies "Fame": "Yet, to leave Fame, still with such eyes and that bright hair! /.../ Take in her stead... ." The dream that the persona wants to take to the "tossed bed" she shares with "Fame" dramatizes the meaninglessness of the persona's experience since the dream--ostensibly a good and valuable thing--is a "frail, dead, new-born lamb," with "dead" sandwiched in between words typical of a pastoral convention. The "dead" dream in the moonlight is the Modernist attempt to repair the fragmentation and meaningless of life yet the attempt meets with the fate of dramatically painting the very fragmented meaninglessness the persona sought to repair.

The "tossed bed"; the "dream"; and the "moon's dropped child" represent the strong symbolism in the poem and epitomize the thematic emphasis of Modernist writers.

One little dream, no matter how small, how wild.
Just now, I think I found it in a field, under a fence -
A frail, dead, new-born lamb, ghostly and pitiful and white

Access hundreds of thousands of answers with a free trial.

Start Free Trial
Ask a Question