Study Guide

my father moved through dooms of love Philosophical Viewpoints: Individualism

By E. E. Cummings

Philosophical Viewpoints: Individualism

my father moved through dooms of love
through sames of am through haves of give, (1-2)

We're going to zero in on the "sames of am" part of this quote, because it sure seems like a way of talking about conformity to us. See how Cummings turns the "to be" verb "am" into a noun? It's like he's saying the "am" is what we each are. Get it? So, when the speaker talks about his father moving through "sames of am," he's talking about his dad dealing with a world where a lot of people are all alike. Cummings pulls this same trick with a couple other "to be" verbs as well in this poem.

drove sleeping selves to swarm their fates (11)

Here, the speaker seems to be saying that his father helped people wake up to their personal potential. You could interpret the idea of "sleeping selves" as the individual potential that the speaker's father helped people find. It's interesting that he uses the word "fates," though. Usually, when the idea of fate comes into the picture it takes away the power of the individual to make personal choices. What do you think? Can we truly be empowered individuals if all our actions are predetermined?

than he to foolish and to wise
offered immeasurable is (39-40)

Looks like one of these mutant "to be" verb-nouns strikes again. Like the "am" in line 2, "is" becomes an embodiment of the self. It gets super-awesome this time—immeasurably so, in fact. Also, just like in line 11, the speaker is saying that his father helped people find their individual spirit. So, you could say this line kind of blends the ideas from the previous two quotes in this section.

to differ a disease of same,
conform the pinnacle of am (59-60)

A couple things from earlier in the poem boomerang back at us here to sum up this theme. One, we've got the word "same" again like with the "sames of am" from line 2. It looks like it again is being used to talk about conformity and definitely not in a nice way. It's compared to a disease. (Gross. Where can we get vaccinated?) We also notice that the word "am" comes back. This time the "to be" verb-noun is called a pinnacle, which gets across the idea of the awesome power of individualism that's constantly threatened by the icky disease of conformity.

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