An Interpretation of My Sweet Old Etcetera by E.E. Cummings'
Length: 839 words (2.4 double-spaced pages)
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"my sweet old etcetera" is part of E.E. Cummings' "is 5" collection of poetry, which was published in 1926. This poem and most of Cummings' other poetry was known for its typographic innovation. One will definitely notice that there are only two capitalized letters in the whole piece and not one period. The only punctuation mark present is the comma, creating pauses in the speech. Basically the whole poem is a big run-on sentence. "my sweet old etcetera" was written, as well as most of Cummings' other poetry, to have visual effectiveness and content as well as literary effectiveness and content. After all Cummings was a painter and an artist. He wanted people see the poetry, not just read it.
In order to understand what the poem is all about, one might rewrite it and break it up into readable, complete sentences. One must also place appropriate syntax and punctuation where it needs to be. Of course, one has to remove all of the "etcetera"s in order to make a sentence that makes sense. I believe that this is a story in which E.E. Cummings is telling. It is about an experience he is having while at war and how it is effecting his family during this time.
The language is not flowing because the typography, the lack of syntax and punctuation makes it confusing. The word "etcetera" was thrown in here and there, but why? This made it very difficult to understand to get the whole picture, because the word's various positions caused an interruption. The word "etcetera" means "a number of unspecified additional persons or things." or "unspecified additional items". I believe Cummings wanted to say more within the poem but thought he could get his poem across by inserting "etcetera" in various places. He also might have been trying to make a statement by telling the world, "you don't have to get a point across by using a lot of detail sometime, you don't even have to use complete sentences..or even sentences at all for that matter."
my sweet old etcetera
aunt lucy during recent
war could and what
is more did tell you just
what everybody was fighting
Cummings maybe talking to himself at this point, telling himself that his Aunt Lucy did warn him about the war and why they would be fighting it. A lot of boys and men go into war all excited about it not realizing what war will do psychologically and physically. They don't understand what war is all about.
isabel created hundreds
hundreds) of socks not to
mention shirts fleaproof earwarmers
etcetera wristers etcetera, my
These lines are telling us about his sister's work in making all of these things for the hundreds and hundreds of men that are going to warm. They are all items that keep humans warm. One would have a warm feeling when reading this. If you are wondering what "wristers" are I cannot tell you what they are because I could not find the definition. They are probably things that go around the wrist to keep them warm
mother hope that
i would die etcetera
bravely of course my father used
to become hoarse talking about how
it was a privilege and if only he
By placing "etcetera" between "die" and "bravely" the reader is tricked for a second. We are led to believe that his mother really hoped that he would die. Cummings probably did this to represent the pause in life after someone close dies. In these lines we learn that his father talks a lot about the honor in dying in battle and how he wished he could die bravely.
self etcetera lay quietly
in the deep mud et
eyes knees and of your Etcetera)
While his mother, father, sister and aunt are thinking of him, he is lying somewhere in the mud, maybe in a trench. Most likely he has just started to fall asleep and is dreaming of his loved ones and drifting off to sleep. These last few lines have the best visual effect as any other lines in the whole poem. The reader visually sees the words "falling" as the words say that he dreaming. It has a greater effect on the reader than just writing a sentence that says, "He fell asleep." The whole poem could be his dream. When one dreams we sometimes skip to different scenes and sometimes we dream in fragments, even sentences are in fragments sometimes. When I am reading this poem all I can think of when he says "etcetera" is when Jerry Seinfeld says, "Yadayadayada." I am guessing that the "Your" at the end is his family, but I have no idea what he means when he says "your Etcetera". I guess he is using it to represent everything he thinks about when away from his family, allowing the reader to "fill in the blanks." Yadayadayada!