Study Guide

Maggie and Milly and Molly and May Youth

By E.E. Cummings

Youth

Maybe you remember the good ol' days, when your family used to take you to the beach and everything seemed so simple and fun. Even if you didn't grow up near a beach, you likely had some sort of nature retreat nearby that captured your imagination. Maybe there was a magical tree you used to climb, or a park where goblins and fairies were never too far away. "maggie and milly and molly and may" explores those same experiences of our youth, when the world looked so magical and sometimes scary at the same time. We might not remember those days as clearly as we used to, but our speaker's here to remind us of the kinds of hidden truths that nature reveals to us when we're young (and even old).

Questions About Youth

  1. How does the speaker create a younger sounding voice? What kinds of devices does he use?
  2. Why do all of the girls have similar sounding names? Is there something they all seem to have in common at the beach?
  3. Why is molly so afraid of the bubble-blowing crab? What's the speaker trying to suggest about fear and youth in that stanza?
  4. What's the significance of play in the poem? Why is having fun so central to the poem's theme of youth and the discovery of truth?

Chew on This

Since our speaker sounds like a kid, maybe having fun is the key to discovering the hidden truths that adult seriousness often overlooks.

The ocean is not just a postcard backdrop here; it's a magical world of adventure. "maggie and milly and molly and may" shows us that having a young and curious spirit is essential to discovering not only oneself but also the larger world.

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