Before 3-1 Click the mouse button or press the Space Bar to display the information. To read a poem about the lives of average people To identify and analyze rhythm in a poem To write a few paragraphs describing the effect of connotation and denotation in a poem
Before 3-2 Edward Estlin Cummings was born in 1894 and died in 1962. Click the Speaker button to hear more about E. E. Cummings.
The Poet’s Themes “Cummings was a lyric poet, ready to sing of love, the moon, the stars, and the beauties of nature,” wrote one critic. Although Cummings’s poems are innovative in style, they explore traditional poetic subjects such as love, the natural world, and death. Cummings was also, however, a master of satire. He coined the word “mostpeople” to describe people who follow the crowd. Cummings believed that individuals can only discover who they truly are if they don’t worry what “mostpeople” think. Before 3-3 BACKGROUND
Before 3-5 FOCUS ACTIVITY Click the mouse button or press the Space Bar to display the information. List Ideas Describe this person and his or her way of life. For example, what does he or she wear, do, think, and say? What is the “average” or “typical” person of your age like? Setting a Purpose Read to learn how one speaker describes the “average” person’s life.
Why does Cummings repeat, with a variation, the names of the four seasons in lines 3, 11, and 34? Does it relate to the other repeated line: “sun moon stars rain”? Reading 3-A Click the mouse button or press the Space Bar to display the answer. Navigation Toolbar A BA B A Active Reading Interpret Both sets of repeated lines focus on the changelessness of the universe. The seasons repeat themselves in an endless cycle. The sun, moon, stars, and rain are constant elements of life.
What do these lines contribute to the theme of the poem? Reading 3-A2 Click the mouse button or press the Space Bar to display the answer. A Active Reading (cont.) Interpret They suggest that life goes on without change through generations.
Reading 3-B Literary Elements B Rhythm Think about the rhythm of the poem. Note the stressed and unstressed syllables. Is the rhythm of the poem regular or irregular? The rhythm is irregular. Click the mouse button or press the Space Bar to display the answer.
Responding 3 Contents Personal Response Analyzing Literature Literary Elements Literature and Writing Click a hyperlink to go to the corresponding content area.
Personal Response 3 PERSONAL RESPONSE What reactions did you have as you read this poem? Explain.
What is the name of the main character of the poem and what is the name of his wife? What do their names suggest to you? Analyzing 3-1 The main character is anyone; his wife is noone. Their names suggest both anonymity and universality. RECALL AND INTERPRET Click the mouse button or press the Space Bar to display the answer.
According to the speaker, what do “women and men” do? What seems to be the speaker’s attitude toward these people? How can you tell? Analyzing 3-2 Click the mouse button or press the Space Bar to display the answer. Men and women (other people) do not care for anyone; they spend their lives in negative (“their isn’t”) or conforming (“their same”) activities. Such words imply the speaker’s disdain for them. RECALL AND INTERPRET
What does the speaker say about what children know? What happens to them? What might Cummings be trying to convey about the difference between children and adults? Analyzing 3-3 Click the mouse button or press the Space Bar to display the answer. The children guess that noone loves anyone. As they grow, they forget it. This suggests that children are more in touch with true emotion than are adults. RECALL AND INTERPRET
What happens to the two main characters at the end of the poem? How do the townspeople seem to react to this event? What lesson about life do you think Cummings is trying to communicate with this poem? Analyzing 3-4 Click the mouse button or press the Space Bar to display the answer. Anyone dies and noone shortly follows him. The townspeople seem indifferent to their deaths. Cummings may suggest that only in personal relationships do people find satisfaction and love and that isolation, alienation, conformity, and indifference are the norms. RECALL AND INTERPRET
Analyzing 3-5 EVALUATE AND CONNECT Click the mouse button or press the Space Bar to display the answer. What two series of words are repeated in the poem? What might the poet have meant to emphasize through the use of repetition? Like the refrain in traditional ballads, Cummings repeats, with variation, two phrases signifying the changelessness of life: “spring summer autumn winter” and “sun moon stars rain.”
Analyzing 3-6 EVALUATE AND CONNECT Click the mouse button or press the Space Bar to display the answer. The words in lines 2 and 24 don’t seem to make much sense. How do these words contribute to your impression of the town? Possible answer: Cummings might envision the “pretty how town” situated in a valley (“down”) above (“up”) which the sound of “many bells” floats. The bells echo the children’s growth (“up they grew”). Together, the impression is of a pristine and lovely setting.
How does the poem’s depiction of the “average person” compare with your idea of the “average person”? Based on your comparison, would you say the poem also describes people of today? Analyzing 3-7 EVALUATE AND CONNECT
In this poem, Cummings uses unconventional word order and few capital letters and punctuation marks. In your opinion, how do these techniques contribute to the impact and meaning of the poem? Analyzing 3-8 EVALUATE AND CONNECT Click the mouse button or press the Space Bar to display the answer. Possible answers: The lack of such conventions creates a barrier to their understanding. The style forces readers into a special attentiveness and results in increased appreciation.
Literary Elements 3-1 In poetry, rhythm is the arrangement of stressed and unstressed syllables. LITERARY ELEMENTS Rhythm can convey meaning by emphasizing certain words and phrases. It can also add a musical quality to a poem and help set the tone. Regular rhythm has a predictable pattern, while irregular rhythm has no definite pattern. Although “anyone lived in a pretty how town” has irregular rhythm, the particular arrangement of stressed and unstressed syllables plays an important role in the poem. Click the mouse button or press the Space Bar to display the information.
Literary Elements 3-2 LITERARY ELEMENTS Click the mouse button or press the Space Bar to display the answer. Which lines seem to have the same or nearly the same rhythm? Which have rhythm that is quite different? The lines vary in length from four to twelve syllables. All the first lines and all the second lines of the stanzas are rhythmically similar. Lines 8, 21, and 36 consist of four stressed syllables.
Literary Elements 3-3 LITERARY ELEMENTS Click the mouse button or press the Space Bar to display the answer. What do you think the differences in rhythm emphasize? Two of these three lines end a stanza. Line 21 begins stanza 6 and is the only first stanza line with a rhythm different from other first lines. This line signals the emotional turn of the poem.
Literature and Writing 3-1 What Does It Really Mean? In choosing words, poets consider both the denotation (literal meaning) and connotation (suggested meaning). In a few paragraphs, describe how the difference between the denotation and connotation of the words little, small, same, and never might affect the reading of the poem.
Literary Elements Transparency 3-2 The rhythm gets less bouncy by the end of the stanza. Line 3 suggests the passage of time, and it sounds more like separate words in prose than a line of poetry.