anyone lived in a pretty how town Summary
by e. e. cummings

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anyone lived in a pretty how town Summary

"anyone lived in a pretty how town" tells the story, in nine stanzas, of a couple, "anyone" and "noone," who seem to live in a small town very much like other small towns. The names they are given support this idea: anyone and noone could be anyone and everyone. They are two ordinary people living an ordinary life.

At the beginning of the story, anyone is in the "spring" of his life; he "danced" and "sang" and generally behaves like a happy young man. Around him, both women and men simply carry on with their own business, with little care for anyone else, whatever the weather—"their same" is always there for them to be looking to, "sun moon stars rain."

anyone becomes attached to "noone," who "loved him more by more" as time goes on. Children occasionally guess this, but their attention is soon diverted from it by other things, their own concerns. As "up they grew," they seem to have less and less time for other people.

Meanwhile, anyone is everything to noone. She "laughed his joy she cried his grief," and everything about him is "all to her." The two people go unremarked by those around them, but they are of fundamental importance to each other.

Around the pair, others are doing the same thing and having the same experience—"someones married their everyones," in occasions marked by dancing and joy. Their lives are monotonous, but to many, this is "their dream," quite enough for them.

Eventually, anyone dies, and while nobody else around them is bothered much, noone certainly is, stooping to "kiss his face" and, by implication, dying too, unable to live without him. Those around them are "busy," burying the pair side by side with little apparent ceremony.

Meanwhile, the world goes on with the regularity of a bell ringing, "dong and ding," with others living lives which are very important to them but unremarkable to everyone else.

Summary

(Masterpieces of American Literature)

“Anyone lived in a pretty how town” is a poem in which Cummings’s wordplay is especially effective. The poem contrasts “anyone” and “noone” with “someones and everyones,” the first pair being the hero and heroine who love each other, the second pair being the anonymous mass of nonbeings who live lives of quiet desperation, as another New Englander, Henry David Thoreau, once lamented. Eventually “anyone” and “noone” die, but their lives have been meaningful and enriching; the rest of the townspeople—the “someones and everyones”—continue to live, though their existences, like those of the Cambridge ladies, are characterized not by life but by living death.

In the first stanza, Cummings reveals a number of technical innovations. In addition to his inventive use of the pronoun “anyone,” he plays with the phrase “a pretty how town,” suggesting that the saying—“how pretty a town”—conceals something not so pretty after all. The second line is a syntactical jolt: “(with up so floating many bells down).”...

(The entire section is 738 words.)