June 9, 2009
Me up at does: The Alternate Perspective
E.E. Cummings invites readers to “put yourself in someone else’s shoes” in his 1963 poem, Me up at does. Though short and, when evaluated according to traditional English sentence structure, “grammatically incorrect,” the poem exhibits the same basic elements found within any other form of poetry. Included in these elements is a speaker who narrates the poetry to the audience; the author’s unique selection of words, otherwise known as diction; an original use of syntax; the inclusion of various forms of figurative language; the incorporation symbols and allegorical elements into the poem; the use of symbolism requiring an imagination of each individual reader; and, of course, an underlying theme, which this author leaves to our own interpretation. This seemingly-simple poem actually provides a variety of themes for exploration in seeking to determine the author’s overall meaning behind the composition of E.E. Cummings’s Me up at does.
Me up at does introduces us to a 3rd person (limited) speaker, by which the audience is able to view the situation from the eyes of the narrator; but this knowledge of the ongoing situation is limited only to the information provided by the speaker themselves. We are then briefly introduced to the two major characters (and only characters, for that matter) in the poem— the narrator and the mouse. We can extrapolate many details of the situational structure presented in the poem- the narrator had set a “mouse trap” (likely within his own home) to poison and kill the mice living amongst him; the mouse, innocent and helpless, has recently consumed some the poison; as the mouse’s life is coming to a rapid end, it is able to send an unspoken message while staring up at the narrator; the message tells the speaker of his proclaimed innocence and struggle to understand what he did differently than anyone else (especially the narrator) to deserve such a punishment, especially such a punishment as harsh as death. The primary and most obvious conflict presented in Me up at does is that of the character struggle between the poem’s narrator and the poisoned, quickly-ailing mouse. In this particular poetic conflict, we can draw the conclusion that the mouse’s character takes on that of the protagonist— the mouse is identified as the “good guy” in this poem because he is presented as the innocent victim who has been unrightfully discriminated against without reason. The mouse could also be considered the static character in this poem because his character does not really change from beginning to end; he is more of a role-player used to provide a means for delivering the author’s message. Therefore, the antagonist (who is held accountable for the bringing about of conflict) can be identified to the character of the poem’s speaker, who is accountable for initially setting up the mouse trap and is ultimately responsible for putting a harsh and undeserved end to the life of the mouse. The narrator is also likely considered to be the more dynamic character of the two; this is because he or she is the one who shows the most notable demonstration of change by or within a character in the poem. While the mouse does not have much time or ability to change his poetic character before dying, the narrator has the ability to consider and dwell upon the attention that the mouse brought to his wrongdoings; not only during the time period presented within the poem, but also during the remainder of his or her [ongoing] life afterward. However, the struggle between the protagonist and antagonist analyzed above is not the only conflict developed amongst the characters within Me up at does. E.E. Cummings leaves open the potential to evaluate another struggle developed; this alternative poetic conflict is that by which the narrator faces an internal struggle with his own actions, and the possible feeling of regret and...
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