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“Tender Buttons” by Gertrude Stein – a fragment analysis

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NOTHING ELEGANT”A charm a single charm is doubtful. If the red is rose and there is a gate surrounding it, if inside is let in and there places change then certainly something is upright. It is earnest.” (G.S., TB., pg3)Gertrude Stein is best known for her experimental modernist unique style. The uniqueness lies in the fact that contrary to men writers then, she sought to find beauty and the power of the word in simple sentences, using extended metaphors formed of every day common words.

In Tender Buttons, Stein focuses on her experimental style , trying new ways of eliminating grammar and syntax and using words without their meaning, in a circular , encrypted poetry. She explores Objects, Food and Rooms; in short, her every day life and love that she shared with her companion.

Stein says she writes for herself and for strangers, that is she writes for anyone who wants to listen but she will not be influenced by critics. Her work meets both modernist and postmodernist traits.

Her main concern was to describe how we see things. The cubism theory which highly influenced her, stated that people cannot say what they see.. they just say what they were taught to say. That is why painters like Picasso wanted to reproduce a face or a thing from each and every angle one might see it, for a better accuracy , using geometrical shapes. Also Picasso stated that the more the audience was shocked meant that the more people were losing their original perceiving power.

By using imagist means, Gertrude Stein creates the same thing. She forces the reader to reread a poem, free his mind from any traditional or cultural restraints in order to understand the text. By using less grammar and syntax, her poems are full of images.

She treats things, smell, sound as individual objects, defying the word- order or word-meaning rules. Stein tried to break free from the “patriarchal poetry”(modernist trait) , where everything was related to another thing, the poetry writing was a process filled with rules and a hierarchy.

The most intriguing part of Tender Buttons is the first part, Objects, where she proves her wonderful skills, by using fragmentation and deconstruction( a trait of postmodernism) , in order to shock, defy norms, and bring a new poetry to the world. She denies narrative, logic some may say, punctuation, using instead a narrative of continuum, decontextualisation and a private discourse through which to describe her passion.

In “Nothing Elegant” she explains the very same thing. Even the title alludes to the fact that her style is there not to shock as much as to focus on the common, every day pleasures of life.

Explaining how a rose surrounded by a fence can inverse his place with the fence, and that would make it look “earnest”. Because red represents passion and rose beauty it can be explained that the rose can signify art, new, fresh art – which she promoted, while the fence is the society and traditional ways of creating art. She thus explains that stepping out of the fence, out of the traditional patterns one will create a new style, a different art, beauty is not limited and has no rule. Beauty can be found in small objects, personal things – what matters is to see and appreciate them.

WORKS CITED:Gertrude Stein, Tender Buttons, 1914

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