by Naomi Shihab Nye
Famous Theme of Society and Class
You can figure out a lot about a society if you know what its members deem to be famous. Do they focus on spectacular athletic feats? Are they obsessed with the courage demonstrated in a battle? Do they sing praises to the wise elders of the community? Do their monuments point to a fascination with nature, or their own accomplishments? "Famous" touches on both human societies and the 'society' of nature.
Questions About Society and Class
- Can fame (both celebrity fame and the fame Nye speaks of) be isolating? Or does it give you a closer connection to society?
- Can the line about boots and shoes be read as a reference to the inequality of human societies—as in blue collar vs. white-collar jobs?
- Is there a power hierarchy in this poem? Are rivers more important than fish? Are cats more powerful than birds? Are cheeks more significant than tears?
- The first three lines of the poem deal with some degree of tension within nature. Do these predatory relationships reflect the sometimes-vicious forces that exist within human society? Are famous people the prey of society? Or is society the prey of the famous?
Chew on This
Nye is telling us all about the downsides of fame in this poem. It's predatory, as with the cat and the birds, and creates divisions (like those between the boots and the dress shoes).
The seventh stanza refers to society's obsession with celebrity, wherein people "love" certain celebrities, hang posters of them on their walls, obsessively research their lives, and generally feel as though they "know" the celebrity.