In Edgar Lee Masters' Spoon River Anthology, how old is Hamilton Greene?

1 Answer | Add Yours

shake99's profile pic

shake99 | Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

Posted on

Edgar Lee Master's Spoon River Anthology contains a number of poems about the make-believe people of Spoon River. Poem 110 is entitled "Hamilton Greene." Although his precise age is not given, we know that he is at least middle-aged, and possibly elderly, because he is looking back on a life that included being a judge and a senator. 

The most interesting aspect of this poem is the fact that Greene says of his "mother," Frances Harris:

From my mother I inherited 

Vivacity, fancy, language

However, if you read the previous poem in the anthology, "Elsa Wertman," you will discover that Frances Harris was not actually his mother at all. Instead, Elsa is his true mother, unbeknownst to everyone except Elsa, Frances, and his father Thomas Greene.

This changes the reader's view of Thomas Greene, who is described by Hamilton as "honorable" and "valiant." According to Elsa in her poem, as a young immigrant servant, Thomas Greene sexually pursued her in the kitchen one day, resulting in her pregnancy with Hamilton. While she does not specifically claim that he raped her, she does state that as he kissed her she "turned her head." The reader is left to wonder exactly what happened. 

At his age, the fact that he is still clueless as to his true parentage seems a bit tragic. He has accomplished so much, but he doesn't know his true mother. 

Sources:

We’ve answered 318,917 questions. We can answer yours, too.

Ask a question