This article summarizes, analyzes, and evaluates the poem "anyone lived in a pretty how town" by E. E. Cummings.

“anyone lived in a pretty how town” by E. E. Cummings


This poem is about an average town which describes the life of ordinary people in an ordinary town, who fall in love, get married, and then die. “Anyone” and “noone” grow closer and “laughed their cryings and did their dance.” Everyone else in the city didn’t care for “anyone” and simply “reaped their sowing.” The poem shows the life of a couple within the seemingly oblivious town. This work also tells about the repetition and mindlessness of some the masses lives without emotion or change.


E. E. Cummings suggests that the average person lives his or her life without growing and evolving. The first line and title of the poem classifies the subject as “anyone.” Later in the poem the speaker uses the pronoun ‘he’ to represent “anyone” so the reader can assume that anyone is a boy. He speaks as if the character is one person, but he is actually speaking about any vague person. The rhythmic poem creates a cadence of trudging along in an endless cycle by writing the lines to flow fluently and reflect on each other. Cummings also creates this revolution through the cycling of the seasons in the line “spring summer autumn winter” and the weather in the line “stars rain sun moon.” This rearrangement of order suggests that life is continuous and the majority of the town lives in a boring existence. Cummings poetry is most unique because of syntax. He rearranges words to give them different meanings or parts of speech. To illustrate this point look at the title and first line, “anyone lived in a pretty how town.” Pretty can either describe how or town. Also, how can describe the town depending on the readers interpretation of how.


Conformity leads only to a sense of meaningless. E.E. Cummings’ poem “anyone lived in a pretty how town” expresses the importance of individualism. The poem initially seems vague, incomprehensible, and simple. The only thing that seems to make sense is the simple rhyme scheme and easy reading of the poem. However, the poem is effective because it forces readers to begin to look closer at the unusual syntax so they can determine what the ambiguous phrases indicate. Cummings original word order allows him to play with the meaning of phrases more than most authors can. The repetition in lines 28-30, “little by little and was by was/ all by all and deep by deep/ and more by more” can either be taken literally or figuratively. If taken literally the readers might assume that the town acted in short and concise steps, but if taken figuratively they might come to the conclusion that the town is simply repeating their actions over and over in a repetitive and pointless cycle. Another example of this ambiguity is line seven, “they sowed their isn’t they reaped their same.” Readers are free to decide whether same is referring to the usual reaping, or whether it is referring to the isn’t that they sowed. These equivocal statements make the poem interesting because it allows readers to interpret according to their own life experiences. Cummings often uses repetition of key phrases to show important points. An example of this reiteration is, “children guessed (but only a few/ and down they forgot as up they grew…” He later again states that children forget. This frequent occurrence of phrases forces readers to evaluate why Cummings found the thought so important to repeat. One possible reason is that Cummings cleverly shows the theme of cycles through the cycling of significant phrases. Cummings avoids the use of blatant statements to convey meaning and instead effectively uses odd syntax and ambiguous sentences.

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  • Hichul Chung on Apr 30, 2012

    When i first read, i was so confused. I didn’t know what it was saying ,but after i read and read and read. i kept reading and i started to understand. This poem had meaningful meanings and powerful metaphor that changes people’s idea of living. This poem will always live a big part of my life. And i am doing a project about the poem and it was the hardest one of 50 poems…. i am only in 7th grade.

  • Bri on Aug 15, 2012

    im in college and had to read this Poem and didn’t get it thank God I Came here

  • jimmy guidel on Sep 14, 2012

    idk im guessing he is gay but it could be different

  • kurdistan on Jan 13, 2013

    tommorw i have wxam about it :(

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