E.E. Cummings is one of the most famous poets of the twentieth century. His unique style with both the language of his poems as well as the format have broke through frontiers in the poetry world. His poems often contain a childlike tone, as well as a biting wit which add to the appeal of the work. One of his most well know poems, "anyone lives in a pretty how town"Ã¯Â¿Â½ was written in such a manner. However, beneath the charming "exterior"Ã¯Â¿Â½ of the poem, lies a deep meaning. This poem was written to express Cummings' disdain with society's attitude toward individuality, and their apathetical approach to life.
This poem of E.E. Cummings' clearly portrays his philosophy on life. A major influence on the poem was Cummings fury with the static, pompous, and dull people surrounding him. The poet took his interpretation of hate from Dante, saying that "hate is but love perverted."Ã¯Â¿Â½
He then applied this interpretation to the living dead around him. Because he believed that their behavior was not the result of a force, such as evil, but rather a willful distortion of good, he was able to react with rage against those who acted in this fashion. Cummings poured energy into praising and celebrating lovers and those who grow, while at the same time exploded against those with no respect for individuality.
The first stanza of the poem sets the tone as well as the themes and motifs for the entire piece. It introduces the subject of the poem, "anyone"Ã¯Â¿Â½. When viewed as general, "anyone"Ã¯Â¿Â½ is not referring to someone in particular, but rather anybody who happens to live in this town. However if viewed on a more specific level, "anyone"Ã¯Â¿Â½ is the hero of the poem. He is referred to in such a manner to make clear the townspeople's lack of regard for him. This characteristics of this town are explored in the rest of the line, "in a pretty how town"Ã¯Â¿Â½. By shifting the phrase of "how pretty a town"Ã¯Â¿Â½ and placing "how"Ã¯Â¿Â½ as an adjective show the idea that the particular way of doing things instead of the feeling behind the action is what matters most (Lane 100). The syntactic dislocations in line two also help set the poem in motion. There is a juxtaposition of "floating"Ã¯Â¿Â½ and "bells"Ã¯Â¿Â½, "up and "down"Ã¯Â¿Â½ to provide a musical tone to the words. The church bells symbolize cycles: day and night, birth and death, peace and war. Line three continues this effect with the cycle of natural growth, "spring, summer, autumn, winter"Ã¯Â¿Â½. The rhythm suggests the passing of time. The last line of the stanza shows how imperative action is to "anyone"Ã¯Â¿Â½. He sang and danced, revealing his respect and love for life (Friedman 105).
In the next stanza "women and men"Ã¯Â¿Â½ are introduced as being "both little and small"Ã¯Â¿Â½. Instead of being big and small, the normal description of physical attributes, they are "little and small"Ã¯Â¿Â½, with no individuality or emotions. Not only did they harbor no love for the hero, they loved no one else either. The townspeople wasted their lives and in time "" "they sowed their isn't they reaped their same/sun moon stars rain."Ã¯Â¿Â½ The same emptiness descends upon their children The children "guessed"Ã¯Â¿Â½ that a girl named "noone"Ã¯Â¿Â½ was in love with "anyone"Ã¯Â¿Â½. However, as they grew and observed the lack of emotion displayed by the adults their awareness faded. And once they were under the impression that no one loves anyone, the children forgot their intuitive feeling "that in truth noone"Ã¯Â¿Â½ loves "anyone"Ã¯Â¿Â½. In fact this is an essential piece of the poem. It is "noone"Ã¯Â¿Â½ who fills the gap in "anyone's"Ã¯Â¿Â½ heart. Crying with him during his hard times and laughing with him during the joyous ones bring liveliness to her lover. Like a bird brings the arrival of spring to a winter, or a breeze stirs up the stillness of summer, she fills the void. (Lane 101).
The fifth stanza reiterates the blandness of the townspeople. "Someones married their everyones"Ã¯Â¿Â½- unlike the hero and heroine of the poem who viewed love as a precious and essential gift, the nameless members of the town simply married other nameless inhabitants out of duty. The next line illustrates the difference between the hero and the town. "Anyone"Ã¯Â¿Â½ danced his did, while the townspeople "did their dance."Ã¯Â¿Â½ However these two dances differ in their nature immensely. While "anyone's"Ã¯Â¿Â½ dance was one of action and life, the "dance"Ã¯Â¿Â½ of the townspeople is monotonous. Where others say prayers at night, these characters say "nevers"Ã¯Â¿Â½. Prayers require hope, purpose, and emotion, which are all characteristics which are lacking in the members of the town. Not only do they "say their nevers"Ã¯Â¿Â½ but they "sleep their dream"Ã¯Â¿Â½ They confine themselves to empty rituals.
All keeps moving, the seasons and the days, and with it the children grow as dull and imperceptive as their parents. They forget their sense of individuality and conform. Only the snow which symbolizes the cold touch of time can begin to explain how the children forget (Clark). They lose their purpose and goals, never again venturing from the cycle of birth and death, night and day, peace and war.
In the seventh and eighth stanzas' the hero dies. The word used in the line to describe the feeling when he perished is "guess"Ã¯Â¿Â½. "One day anyone died I guess"Ã¯Â¿Â½, this truly shows how unattached the town was, and how disjointed society still is. When "anyone"Ã¯Â¿Â½ died, "noone (the only one who cared) stooped to kiss his face"Ã¯Â¿Â½ and then died as well. There was no mourning following their deaths, only busy folk who came to bury them together. But even in death the hero and heroine do not "sleep their dream"Ã¯Â¿Â½ like the townspeople they despise, rather they "dream their sleep"Ã¯Â¿Â½(Lane101).. "Anyones"Ã¯Â¿Â½ love for growth and action did not die with his body but lived on with his soul.
The last stanza of the poem describes how the rhythms of life continue as they had before. The death of a fellow person having no impact on their daily lives. However, even in the last stanza, E.E. Cummings reflects on the ideal way to live life, and the way the people in this town choose to live it. "Women and men (both dong and ding)"Ã¯Â¿Â½- "dong and ding"Ã¯Â¿Â½ typifies how people are supposed to be individuals, make their own decisions, and live their own lives (Lane 102). This issue has been constantly brought up in the poem. Differences should be embraced and respected rather than shunned as they are in this "pretty how town"Ã¯Â¿Â½.
The poem "anyone lives in a pretty how town"Ã¯Â¿Â½ illustrates Cummings disgust with society. Each word, line, and stanza symbolize an aspect of the town he despises. Cummings uses the physical form of the poem to strengthen his message that maintaining individuality is crucial and those who simply conform to others ways of thinking are not whole. His love for life, and hate towards those who fail to appreciate it are passionately depicted in this poem.