This is an explanation of the meaning of the poem "Maggie, Milly, Molly and May" by E.E. Cummings.

(Due to the duplication of other content, I cannot add the poem to this analysis)

 As we go through each verse, notice the literary devices, esp. alliteration, Cummings uses in each stanza (i.e. Maggy, Milly, molly, may; shell, sang; blowing, bubbles, etc.)

 This first stanza is pretty straightforward: four girls go down to the beach to play. Note that “to play one day” is in parenthesis, which is probably utilized for a more poetic verse. 

          In the second stanza, Cummings begins to use his characters to reflect his own thoughts or actions. Maggie seems to have a lot on her mind, and going to the beach helps soothe her troubles. Similar to how everyone has that one place where they are able to relax and find peace within themselves.

          This next stanza shows that Milly is thoughtful of others and is reflected in Milly’s acquaintance with the stranded sea star. Likewise, we all have helped someone in need and may have became good friends in the end because of your actions.

          Next, in the fourth stanza, it can be inferred that this “horrible thing, which races sideways and blows bubbles”, is a crab. This crab seemingly represents the “bad” side of the sea as Molly is terribly frightened by it, thus running away. This is analogous to how people run away from what “horrible” things that may come in life, rather than trying to overcoming their fears.

         In the fifth stanza, it portrays how May has so much more to come in her life, but is still very young, leading to “small as the world”, but finds herself locked away due to her loneliness, leading to “large as alone”.

The stone can also be a metaphor to May, who is “smooth” “round” and pretty, but in such a big world, barely anyone is able to see her positive attributes. Yet, there will always be someone in this world who will come to recognize the stone’s beauty (in this case, its May) just like how someone will eventually come to see May as something special.

      To wrap things up, this poem is used to describe E E Cummings and the events that may have reflect his life and the different aspects of the sea that he sees himself in. However, with the final line of “it’s always ourselves we see at the sea”, Cummings may also be generalizing the poem to reflect the reality of the reader as well.

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  • Elizabeth on Aug 5, 2012

    This poem is one of my favorites, and I found this to be very insightful and well written. Thank you for sharing!

  • Greg on Nov 3, 2012

    The last line is “it’s always ourselves we find IN the sea” not at. Because of this line and every other one with my interpretation, I think this poem is about their suicide.

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