Study Guide

anyone who lived in a pretty how town Stanza 2

By Edward Estlin Cummings

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Stanza 2

Lines 5-8

Women and men(both little and small)
cared for anyone not at all
they sowed their isn't they reaped their same
sun moon stars rain

  • Okay, here we go. It looks like we've got something to grab hold of here. Now there are women and men showing up, and these women and men are "both little and small." There's still some sort of Dr. Seuss thing going on here…
  • So what about these women and men? Well, it turns out they don't care about anyone. But wait a second. Do they not care about anyone in general, or do they not care about the specific "anyone" who seems to be the main character of this poem? So far, the only anyone we've heard mentioned is the specific "anyone" who lived in this pretty how town. So it looks like the women and men of anyone's town don't really care about him. 
  • The women and men of anyone's pretty town "sowed their isn't" and "reaped their same." Well, if we check out our farming dictionary, we'll find that to "sow" means to plant seeds and to "reap" means to harvest those seeds after they've grown. So, what do these women and men plant and harvest? Well the poem says that they sow their "isn't" and reap their "same." This kind of weird abstract language might remind us of stanza 1, where we found out that "anyone" sang about the things he didn't do and danced about the things he did. 
  • Now, how do the women and men sow their isn't and reap their same? Well, if you think about it, a seed is something that will one day be a plant but isn't quite yet. So, in other words, a seed can symbolize something that hasn't happened yet, or something that doesn't exist yet. And if women and men are sowing these seeds together, maybe the poem is talking about children instead of crops. After all, a child doesn't exist (it isn't) until the parents "sow" it together. 
  • So if the sowing refers to a general sense of potential, or more specifically children, what does E.E. Cummings mean by "reaped the same"? 
  • Think about it this way: when you plant a bunch of seeds, what do they grow up into? Plants. And do the plants all look completely different? Nope—just imagine a cornfield—all of the plants look the same. So, the women and men plant the seeds of potential and raise them into plants that all look the same. 
  • But if you peel back one more layer of Cummings' symbolism here, you get something that might be depressing. If the seeds sown by the women and men actually symbolize children, then E.E. Cummings is being pessimistic when he says that these children all grow up to be the exact same. Now it sounds as if Cummings is criticizing the pretty little town where parents don't care about anyone and raise kids that are all alike. It kind of sounds like a boring suburb at this point, but it's a suburb without any creativity because all the kids are the same and there's no community because the parents don't care about anyone. 
  • Line 8 mirrors the earlier line about the seasons passing by saying "sun moon stars rain." So Cummings is telling us that the stuff going on in the "pretty how town" keeps going in a circle over and over. It's not moving forward or backward, but just in the same circle.

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