Charlotte Mew: Poetry Characters

Charlotte Mew: Poetry Character List

Madeleine, “Madeleine in Church”

Madeleine is the narrator of a poem which is characterized by a fragmented style of verse which is a visual representation of her confused state of mind while in church. Her narration describes the iconography adorning the interior of the church while her words express a jumble of thought, memories and spiritual questioning going on deep inside her interior psyche.

The Farmer, “The Farmer’s Bride”

The farmer is more clearly delineated in this poem than his wife not just because it is the farmer who provides the interior monologue which characterizes the bulk of Mew’s verse. The reader comes away with a much clearer portrait of the farmer on the basis of his narration than it does the young bride he married due precisely to the fact that the farmer himself has no clear picture of her. She is conveyed to the reader by the farmer most through metaphor that literally dehumanizes her as a symbolic rendering of the fact that he fails to see her as individual.

The Cousin’s Friend, “The Quiet House”

“The Quiet House” is narrated a young woman a year after an unidentified traumatic sexual incident with a friend of her cousin’s. A brother and sister as well as her mother have died. Another brother has been run out of the house after crossing their father who has been humiliated in a lost lawsuit. The big house is lonely and quiet and though she cannot remember much about the friend of her cousin, he is an invasive and dominant in her unwanted memories as he was with his unwanted attention enforced upon her.


The title character of this poem is very clearly inspired by the poet’s own life. She had a brother and siser who were institutionalized in an asylum for the severely mentally impaired and indeed Ken’s imperfection is beautifully described in metaphor:

“I think I hardly found a trace
Of likeness to a human face
In his. And I said then
If in His image God made men,
Some other must have made poor Ken—"

The poem comes to a sudden, abrupt and heartbreaking close with the speaker recalling the moment when Ken was taken away to the asylum, calling after the narrator who cannot bear to look but cannot escape the image of his eyes.

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