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How does connotation work to develop the theme in the poem "in Just-" by e.e. cummings?

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jabkab | Student, Undergraduate | eNotes Newbie

Posted July 28, 2009 at 7:39 AM via web

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How does connotation work to develop the theme in the poem "in Just-" by e.e. cummings?

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mrs-campbell | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted July 30, 2009 at 2:04 PM (Answer #1)

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e.e. cummings had very interesting and unique ways of expressing himself, and "in Just-" is no exception to his typical style.  He likes to break grammar rules, bending them to create the structure, tone and impact he felt was most effective in conveying his sentiments.  In this poem, the grammar is rushed and muddled, just like springtime, which he suggests "is mud" and "puddle-wonderful."  The words are garbled together, just like mud is, and grouped together in tight clusters, just like puddles are.  So, the structure of the poem's words themselves suggest an underlying meaning, or the connotation of springtime's abundant puddles, mud and happy confusion and abundance of joy.  So, don't look over his actual structure when discussing connotation--the structure itself indicates spring's essential elements that he discusses in the poem.

Also, look at a key few words within the poem.  The word "wee" is used a couple times.  It's not a very "mature" word, not very profound or poetic in its nature.  But it is heavy with connotation.  The technical, literal denotation of the word wee is probably just an expression of emotion used to indicate joy or elation at quick movement.  However, connotation refers to the emotions, feelings, and other associations that come to mind when using a word.  So, imagine the circumstances one uses "wee" in:  a child being swung between adults' arms, a child sweeping down a slide, and adults when they are pushing children in strollers, swings, or other things.  All of the connotations are associated with children playing, having a very fun time.  And, part of his poem about springtime refers to the joy of spring, the newness of it all, how the new growth is in its infancy and giddy on its own thriving life.  This is just like kids are in the connotative situations where "wee" is uttered.  He also uses it right before the children of his poem, "eddieandbill" and "bettyand isabel" enter the poem, playing joyous and imaginative childhood games.  So, connotation with this word serves to bring to mind the gushing life of springtime, and the elation and joy of childhood games and playing.  It adds emotion and depth to the poem.

Those are just a couple ideas of how connotation works to develop the theme of the joyous abandon of childhood and springtime.  I hope that they help.  Good luck!

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