Cummings was kept in prison while abroad in France. Discuss his book, The Enormous Room, as it relates to both prison and the mind of the author.

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E.E. Cummings, best known for his poetry, wrote The Enormous Room (1922), a sort of travelogue autobiography of his imprisonment in France, where he had been an ambulance attendant during WWI. The “enormous room” is a metaphor for the contradiction of being in France, a vast country, and still being imprisoned by the restrictions on freedom of thought. While in the real prison (for various unfounded charges, including sympathy for the German cause), Cummings used his mind and imagination to expand his freedom beyond the prison walls of his physical environment, thus making his cell, his room, enormous. When he was freed (through political pressure brought on the government through his father’s influence with the Woodrow Wilson), he pursued his writing career; his poetry, which uses but breaks the rules of grammar and the English language, has often been seen metaphorically as expanding out of the “prison” of grammar to the “enormous” possibilities of expression. The book itself is a highly imaginative “journal” of travels Cummings actually made, as well as flights into the “enormous room” of his imagination.

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The Enormous Room

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