Literary Analysis Of E.E. Cummings’ “Anyone Lived In A Pretty Town”
Edward Estlin Cummings, also known as “e.e. cummings,” was born October 14, 1894 in Cambridge Massachusetts where his father was a noted Congressional minister and a professor who taught sociology at Harvard University. From early age his parents encouraged Cummings to devote himself to poetry, especially his mother. He devoted himself to writing poetry and painting considering himself an artist and a poet. After Cummings graduated from Cambridge Latin High School in 1911, he went on to major in Greek at the Harvard University eventually earing his master’s degree in 1916. During his time at Harvard Cummings also studied art and worked on the Harvard Monthly, a literary journal. In 1917 Cummings volunteered for the American Red Cross unit and was sent to France, during this time Cummings was arrested by French authorizes for suspicion of treason due to letters he had written, he was release in December 1917 and returned to the United States residing in Greenwich Village section of New York City where he lived more most of his last years of life. Throughout the 1920s, he contributed to The Dial, perhaps America’s greatest literary journal. E.E. Cummings received a number of awards during his life time, most of which were toward the end of his career: The Dial Award (1925), Academy of American Poets fellow (1950), Guggenheim fellow (1951), Charles Eliot Norton Professor at Harvard (1952-53), and the Bollingen Prize in Poetry (1958). He later died in New Hampshire in September of 1962.
Eventually, everyone lives the same life, leading most people not to care what others think. In E.E. Cumming’s poem “anyone lived in a pretty how town” the poem paints a picture demonstrating people in their everyday lives where they would seem to be involved but find everyday lives of others repetitive and monotonous. The theme of the poem is that though everyone is involved with everyone else, most people do not really know or, in fact, care what their neighbors are really like. One will notice this though Cummings use of diction and imagery in the poem.
Diction is the word choice a poet uses in his or her writings to express themselves. In the poem “anyone lived in a pretty how town” E.E. Cummings uses diction to get the message across to the reader. According to critic Lewis Turco he states that although the poem begins with a rhyming couplet the next two lines do not follow, he goes on to give examples of which words rhyme and which do not;
The third stanza does the same thing, but the forth goes back to the pattern of the first – though if one looks closely, one will see that the last lines ends with the word “her,” which light-rhymes with line 3 stanza , “winter”. An examination of the poem will disclose many other effects on the sonic level, including assonance (“how town”); alliteration (“spring,” “summer,” “sang”); consonantal echo (the m sound of stanza 2); cross-rhyme (“stir” and “her”); and internal consonance (“bird” and “stir”).
Cumming word choice for “anyone lived in a pretty how town” was unique, the beginning of the poem contrasts “anyone” and “no one” with “someones and everyones”. According to critic Marjorie Smelstor she states that in the poem the hero falls in love with the “no one” which then they have their celebration of life rivals that of her lover, as they live life and the rest of the town lives death, the cycle of nature continues.
In the poem E.E. Cummings uses imagery to illustrate the theme of the poem. The poem which is a love story with “no one” who is a woman and “anyone who is the man go about their lives get married, as life went along townsfolk lived their ordinary lives. “someones married there everyones” children grew up, “anyone” and “no one” grew older. Soon enough “anyone dies I guess” since no one payed no attention eventually “no one” dies as well and “busy fold buried them side by side”. Life went on; people continued what they do throughout all the seasons along with the rising and setting of the sun moon and stars. One can vividly imagine a man and woman getting married, growing old, and then dying together from this poem. Along with in line three where the poem says “spring summer autumn winter” and “sun moon stars rain”, illustrating as stated earlier that throughout the seasons and the rising of the sun moon stars and rain, everyone still went about their day as any other.
In conclusion, E.E. Cummings managed to illustrated a love story though vivid images and unique wording to get the poem “anyone lived in a pretty how town” sending the message that mankind can both choose to care and not to care, love or not to love, and choose who is important and who is not important at all.
- Cohen, Milton A. ‘E. E. Cummings Sleight-of-Hand: Perceptual Ambiguity in His Early Poetry, Painting and Career.’ Poetry Criticism, edited by Robyn V. Young, vol. 5, Gale, 1992. Literature Criticism Online, |MCYCNH611850038&v=2.1&it=r&sid=LCO&asid=ffbc5d76. Accessed 15 Nov. 2019. Originally published in University of Hartford Studies in Literature, vol. 15, no. 1, 1983, pp. 33-46.
- Goldfarb, Sheldon. “E. E. Cummings.” Salem Press Biographical Encyclopedia, 2019. EBSCOhost, search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&AuthType=ip,sso&db=ers&AN=88829991&site=eds-live.
- Schwartz, Steven, and STEVEN SCHWARTZ. ‘CUMMINGS, e(dward) e(stlin).’ Encyclopedia of World Literature in the 20th Century, edited by Steven R. Serafin, Gale, 3rd edition, 1999. Credo Reference, https://go.openathens.net/redirector/swtjc.edu?url=https%3A%2F%2Fsearch.credoreference.com%2Fcontent%2Fentry%2Fgalewl%2Fcummings_e_dward_e_stlin%2F0%3Finsti
- Smelstor, Marjorie. “Anyone Lived in a Pretty How Town.” Magill’s Survey of American Literature, Revised Edition, Sept. 2006, p. 1. EBSCOhost, search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&AuthType=ip,sso&db=lkh&AN=103331MSA16199830000618&site=eds-live&custid=swtexas.utionId%3D5019. Accessed 20 Nov. 2019.
- Turco, Lewis. “Anyone Lived in a Pretty How Town.” Masterplots II: Poetry, Revised Edition, Jan. 2002, pp. 1–2. EBSCOhost, search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&AuthType=ip,sso&db=lkh&AN=103331POE10769650000028&site=eds-live&custid=swtexas.
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Edward Estlin Cummings, also known as “e.e. cummings,” was born October 14, 1894 in Cambridge Massachusetts where his father was a noted Congressional minister and a professor who taught sociology […]