Study Guide

Maggie and Milly and Molly and May Quotes

  • Youth

    maggie and milly and molly and may
    went down to the beach(to play one day) (1-2)

    From the beginning, we hear the speaker's young and playful voice listing a bunch of names that sound alike and rhyme. These girls are the epitome of youth and fun, especially since their main objective is to play. Little do they know they'll soon stumble upon some of our most coveted universal truths (of course, knowing that would defeat the whole purpose of fun).

    milly befriended a stranded star
    whose rays five languid fingers were; (5-6)

    It's a lot easier to identify with nature directly when we're young and our imaginations are still healthy and intact. Older folks tend to forget all about the importance of imagination and how simply looking at a starfish might remind us of ourselves in some way. This starfish has fingers like a person, and the speaker's use of personification seems to make milly look a little less lonely.

    and molly was chased by a horrible thing
    which raced sideways while blowing bubbles:and (7-8)

    There are boogie monsters at every turn when we're kids and more often than not we're not quite sure what to make of them. The same is true here as molly is chased by a weird-looking creature that's blowing bubbles at her. The speaker doesn't call it a crab because molly herself probably has no idea what to call it either. Nature's frightening creatures also seem to symbolize the kinds of scary things we all encounter in our adult lives that we usually handle in the same way molly does: by running away.

  • Exploration

    and maggie discovered a shell that sang
    so sweetly she couldn't remember her troubles,and (3-4)

    Maggie gets to the beach presumably feeling a little troubled by something, but because of her discovery those troubles seem to disappear. The speaker seems to be saying that stepping out for a second to explore nature can often provide some wonderful therapeutic opportunities. No need for an expensive psychiatrist, a shell works just fine.

    may came home with a smooth round stone
    as small as a world and as large as alone. (9-10)

    Then there's may, who finds something so simple. At first glance maybe we're wondering what's so special about a plain stone. But then we realize that it's those simple things that often reveal some real insight into ourselves and the world. No matter what you find while exploring the world, you're bound to discover something that'll get you thinking.

    For whatever we lose(like a you or a me)
    it's always ourselves we find in the sea (11-12)

    What really takes the cake during all of this exploration is the fact that no matter what you find at the beach, you're going to learn something about yourself. The speaker makes it seem like it's impossible not to. The sea is way too big and vast to look at without having something come to mind that's enlightening in some way.

  • Man and the Natural World

    and maggie discovered a shell that sang
    so sweetly she couldn't remember her troubles,and (3-4)

    In the manmade world, maybe maggie's troubles seem really important and significant. But out in the natural world, those troubles just seem to disappear, which suggests that maybe they aren't so important after all. Man has a way of magnifying trifling matters, while nature has a way of bringing those same troubles right down to earth where they belong.

    milly befriended a stranded star
    whose rays five languid fingers were; (5-6)

    The natural world and people don't seem so far apart in these lines. The speaker personifies that starfish and bridges the gap between man and nature in a way that's comforting to milly. Even loneliness doesn't seem to be exclusive to man alone. A stranded starfish can look just as lonely, which makes any lonely person feel like they're not alone in their experience.

    may came home with a smooth round stone
    as small as a world and as large as alone. (9-10)

    A small thing like a stone sure seems to carry an entire world of possibilities, in terms of how we can perceive it. In one light, maybe it looks small, but in another light, we might liken that stone to the world itself. The planet, after all, must look pretty small in an infinite universe. Nature lets us know that the world is never so black and white so as to permanently fix anything in a neat little definition.