Last Updated on March 11, 2020, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 343
As "Chaplinesque" is not a narrative poem, it does not have characters in the same way that a piece of fiction or a narrative would. However, the poem does have a speaker, and it also characterizes both the social outcasts of the world, as represented by the Little Tramp, as well as society as a whole.
The speaker of the poem could be Hart Crane, the author himself. However, assuming the author to be the speaker can lead to assumptions that are not supported by the poem and cause readers to miss information that could lead to more valid interpretations. That being said, the speaker of the poem identifies himself as one of the outcasts that is described by the title as "Chaplinesque" through the use of the first-person plural pronoun "we." The speaker claims to know from firsthand experience how people who are judged and alienated by the world "can still love the world" and find it in their hearts to care for the "famished kitten on the step."
The Little Tramp
The poem alludes to a character played by Charlie Chaplin called "the little Tramp." In the era of silent films, The Tramp was Chaplin's most popular film, and he reprised the character many times. With the title as well as with references to "too ample pockets" and "warm torn elbow coverts," to loving starving kittens and "pirouettes [with a] pliant cane," the poem calls up images of Chaplin's Tramp, using this character as a symbol for all such societal outcasts. Despite his low social position, the little Tramp follows his heart. Thus, he is not a character of the poem in the typical sense—but the text's many allusions to this character are vital to an understanding of the poem.
Finally, there is the rest of society—those who alienate these "others" and who count their money, caring only for material gain. They lack the innocence of the tramps, so to speak, and they do not see much of the beauty and laughter in the world as a result.
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