William Carlos Williams: Poems Characters

William Carlos Williams: Poems Character List

Elaine (From 3 Stances)

Elaine is described as 'poised for the leap she / is not yet ready for,' a revelation of her tendency to go ahead with something perhaps without ample preparation or sparing enough thought to the outcome of her decision or action. This revelation of Elaine's character trait is complemented with a nostalgic scene of Elaine's subtle rebellion, 'her bare toes / starting over the clipt / lawn where she may / not go.' It's a sensory image that many readers may be able to relate to - bare feet in the grass, yet here it is mentioned that Elaine is not meant to go onto the grass. This imagery creates a child-like mood of rebellion that doesn't really have a serious consequence, and gives a less heavy tone to the opening description of Elaine's tendency to be a bit rash. Williams notes that this feeling of bare toes in the grass 'emphasize summer,' which again gives a family-feel to this poem and a relaxed atmosphere is created after the somewhat serious earlier revelations of Elaine's character.

In the next few stanzas, Williams further suggests that Elaine is possibly a young child, as the description of 'the curl of her blond hair,' reminds the reader of children with their "cow's-lick," or messy hair, and 'the tentative smile,' gives a cheekiness to her characterization. She is described as 'beginning to flex / wrists/ set for the getaway,' in response to 'the adult plans laid / to trap her calves,' a child-like escape plan from the adults trying to curb her rebellion of standing in the grass.

Erica (from 3 Stances)

Erica's head can be held between the speaker's fingers and when he reveals that he' bowed in approval /at the Scandinavian /name they'd given,' to Erica, the reader may think this poem refers to a new-born baby. The assumption that the speaker is the father, or even mother of the child however, is confused by the verb 'given,' and personal pronoun 'they,' as it puts the naming process into the hands of an outsider in the poem. It is revealed that this name was chosen 'after [Erica's] father's forebears,' creating further questions as to the situation depicted surrounding Erica's character. The speaker then reveals, 'the rest remains a / mystery,' which encapsulates the thoughts of the reader as they attempt to figure out the meaning of this poem.

As the speaker continues, 'your snub nose spinning / on the bridge of it / points the way / inward,' it becomes apparent that Erica may not be a human child, and the musical connotations of the opening stanza 'the melody line is / everything / in this composition,' becomes increasingly relevant, yet the mystery of Erica's characterization, whether an example of personification or anthropomorphism, or simply literal, is not made evident in the poem alone.

Emily (from 3 Stances.)

Emily has long legs, and is directly addressed in this poem. They are meant to 'carry high / the small head.' 'The dance,' is given as her 'genius,' and the speaker wishes it to carry her far, 'the cleft in [her] chin's curl permitting,' of course.This description of Emily is not transparent and may be one of a child with a cleft palate or one of an inanimate object made to seem like a human through personification.


Berket is described as 'in high spirits,' in this poem, although it is mentioned that this scenario takes place on ,'A day on the boulevards chosen out of ten years of /Student poverty!' The contrast between the financial situation of Berket and his emotion and feeling gives him strength of character. However, after proclaiming "Ha,oranges! Let's have one!" which is depicted through direct speech, in order to bring the scene to life, Berket, 'made to snatch an orange from the vender's cart.' Now his characterization as a thief makes the reader question Berket's true character, yet Williams' characterization, in revealing Berket's personality, happiness and vitality despite his financial situation in the poem's opening, allows the reader to refrain from regarding him as evil, or purely a crook.

The next stanza reveals that, 'so clever was the deception, so nicely times, [...] That the rumour of the thing has come down through / Three generations.' Therefore Berket's character is not only significant singularly, but reveals a tradition of family interaction, values and heritage.

Wu Kee (from The Young Laundryman)

Wu Kee is presented as physically appealing to the ladies. He is 'young,' as well as, 'agile,' and he seems in good health, being 'clear-eyed / And clean-limbed.' Williams gives a somewhat sensual or sexual description next, trying to appeal to the women for their 'indulgence.' He states that Wu Kee's 'muscles ripple / Under the thin blue shirt,' and continues to play on the sexual imagery with the adjective 'naked,' to describe his feet, stating that they 'shift and / Find new postures continually.'

Perhaps the writer's last semi-imperative request in the last line of the poem The Young Laundryman, 'Your husband's shirts to wash, please, for Wu Kee,' perhaps is suggesting an excuse to observe Wu Kee that won't make the husband's of these women suspicious or jealous, as the laundry in this context is most likely part of their role in their marriages.

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