Study Guide

anyone who lived in a pretty how town Death

By Edward Estlin Cummings

Death

If there's one thing Cummings wants you to be aware of in "anyone lived in a pretty how town," it's the fact that death exists and that you are going to die someday. Cummings seems to think that reminding us about our coming deaths will make us less self-absorbed and more likely to care about the world around us. Cummings is critical of the way that modern Americans have turned their backs on ideas of community and neighborliness so that they can just focus on themselves and their own children. He thinks that this selfishness happens when people start thinking that their kids are their legacy and that they'll never have to die if they keep having kids. But Cummings is here to remind us that this is all just a fantasy. There's no escaping the fact that, someday, every trace of your existence will be gone from the world. Cheered up, yet?

Questions About Death

  1. Do you think Cummings is right in thinking that death can remind us to be good to one another? Why or why not?
  2. Do you think the theme of death serves a good purpose in this poem, or is it too dreary? Why?
  3. Why does Cummings connect his idea of death to the changing of the seasons?

Chew on This

In "anyone lived in a pretty how town," E.E. Cummings reminds us that there's no point in being self-involved because, well, we're all going to die.

E.E. Cummings obsesses about death because he just really hates the modern American way of life.

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