Anyone lived in a pretty how town

Anyone lived in a pretty how town

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“Anyone lived in a pretty how town,” by E.E. Cummings, is a poem that alludes to the circle of life and how birth and death are a natural part of this cycle. This meaning is conveyed by a complex metaphor; broken down, this metaphor slides away to reveal the true social commentary behind it. This poem is an allegory; the speaker uses pronouns with unclear antecedents to mask the true meaning and add poetic flair to the simple belief he or she presents.
The first poetic device the speaker uses to convey his or her meaning in this poem is the unorthodox grammar and sentence structure. The poem starts with the lines “anyone lived in a pretty how town / (with up so floating many bells down)” (1 – 2). In this case, this improper grammar reinforces the point that is the story of “anyone” (1). As such, the “how town” (1) represents the fact that the name of the town does not need to be specified, as this happens to everyone in every town. The speaker therefore alludes that the events of this poem are natural and they happen to anyone anywhere. E.E. Cummings deliberately uses “anyone” (1) and “no one” (12) as pronouns with ambiguous antecedents to generalize the poem’s meaning to society and all people in it. In this way, the speaker uses these thoughts as social commentary.
The speaker also manipulates time to bring out his or her message. Lines 3, 8, 11, 21, 34, and 36 all contain some order of either “spring summer autumn winter” (3), as in lines 11 and 34, or “sun moon stars rain” (8), as in lines 11, 21, and 36. As the order of these seasons changes, it indicates the passage of time. This manipulation of time draws attention away from these lines and towards the lines with deeper meaning hidden within. However, there is another form of time: the progression of life. The speaker comments on the growth of children in terms of their maturity levels and how as they get older, children tend to forget their childish whims and fancies and move on. He or she says that they “guessed (but only a few / and down they forgot as up they grew” (9-10). He or she then goes on to say that “no one loved [anyone] more by more” (12), hinting at a relationship in development, foreshadowing a possible marriage.

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This possibility is confirmed in line 17, except breaking free of the straitjacket of the metaphor to a certain extent. The speaker generalizes the marriage of “no one” (12) and “anyone” (1) to “someones married their everyones” (17). When in love, they share their joys and sorrows. They cry at each other’s grief and laugh at each others’ happiness. This once again reaffirms the metaphor and confirms that this poem is indeed a piece of social commentary. All good things must come to an end however; the same thing holds true for human life. In line 25, “anyone” (25) dies. Line 26 metaphorically hints at “no one [‘s]” (26) death as well. Then the townspeople bury them. They pause for a while to mourn their death, but they quickly forget and move on with their lives. The dead quickly become a part of the past. People are so preoccupied with their own lives, that they simply do not have much time for others. They dream big, and want to accomplish much in life, but may or may not do so in the end. They “reaped their sowing and went their came” (35). The story of “anyone” and “no one”, applies to everyone as well. The last stanza then generalizes the story of anyone and no one to all of humanity. It says, just like anyone and no one, men and women are born, grow up, mature, fall in love, and then die, while others observe their peers whilst they are alive, and after these same peers are no more, they simply forget about them and move on with their own lives. Most of the time, they are preoccupied with their own lives to even stop and care about others. This mundane process detailed in this poem simply captures the monotony of the overall gist of human life. Birth, finding love in life, living life to the fullest, and death are the four stages that the speaker alludes are a part of every single person’s life, and that this is natural.
In conclusion, the speaker of this poem uses many poetic devices, such as the unorthodox structure and improper grammar, as well as the manipulation of time seen both directly and indirectly in this poem, to convey his true meaning that though this poem seems to talk about a silly little story on the surface, beneath the waves of the metaphoric ocean lies the deeper truth of humanity’s existence: that birth, death, and everything in between is the natural cycle and order of life, and that our lives are for the most part monotonous, filled with perfunctory chores, unfulfilled dreams, and infected by the sickness of similarity and lack of spontaneity.

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