anyone lived in a pretty how town

by E. E. Cummings

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Last Updated September 5, 2023.

This poem by E. E. Cummings, written in the poet's characteristic style, tells the story of two people, a man he calls "anyone" and a woman, the man's lover, he calls "noone." Obviously, the naming choices here are significant -- Cummings places these people in "a little how town," a phrase which, while it does not make literal sense in English, seems to suggest a sort of everyplace: these people are not necessarily individuals, but representatives of individuals. At the same moment that nobody may seem to care about us—when anyone died, "noone stooped to kiss his face"—someone who is "noone" to the rest of the world may be everything to the person they love.

The other residents of the town follow the same pattern; they are "someones" and they fall in love with their "everyones." While we all seem to move along the same trajectory, our lives are vitally important to the people with whom we are intertwined, and at the same time unimportant, except in a generic sense, to those around us.

As life progresses, nobody else recognizes that noone comes to love anyone "more by more," because everyone else is "reap[ing]" the same journey themselves. Anyone and noone live together, loving each other in a way nobody else notices, until anyone dies, and it affects noone enormously and everybody else barely at all.

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