Study Guide

pity this busy monster,manunkind

by e. e. cummings

pity this busy monster,manunkind Summary

Summary (Masterpieces of American Literature)

“Pity this busy monster,manunkind” is a poem that emphasizes Cummings’s belief in nature and his opposition to those things—science, technology, and intellectual arrogance—that he believed attack the purity of nature. In the opening lines, Cummings makes it clear that man is un-kind—as opposed to being “mankind”—when he or she engages in “progress.” In this case, “Progress is a comfortable disease, one which uses electrons and lenses to “deify one razorblade/ into a mountainrange;lenses extend/ unwish through curving wherewhen till unwish/ returns on its unself.” For Cummings, progress contrasts with nature, as he suggests when he writes, “A world of made/ is not a world of born.”

The speaker in this poem, as revealed in the last line, represents progress but suggests the promise of nature; “We doctors,” he or she says, “know a hopeless case.” Hopelessness is the human-made cycle of progress, scientific progress. There is a way out, however, as the speaker points out in the concluding lines of the poem: “listen:there’s a hell/ of a good universe next door;let’s go.” Unlike this universe, composed of negative Cummings-created words such as “unwish” and “unself,” the next-door universe consists of wishes and selves—that is, real emotions and real individuals. Those realities, for Cummings, are the true realities.