E. E. Cummings

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Student Question

Can you explain the poem "Nobody loses all the time" by E.E. Cummings?

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"Nobody Loses All the Time," by e.e. cummings, is--on a superficial level--the tale of the author's Uncle Sol.

Sol is a perennial loser.  He starts off as a vegetable farmer, but his chickens ate all the vegetables.  So, he became a chicken farmer, "till the skunks ate the chickens."  Sol then became a skunk farmer "but the skunks caught cold and died."

Sol finally gives up, "drowning himself in the watertank."  He now becomes something of  pathetic joke.  This man who was always a loser is presented

  upon the auspicious occasion of his decease a scruptious not to mention splendiferous funeral with tall boys in black gloves and flowers and everything.

In the end, even Sol manages to make something of himself:

somebody pressed a button

 (and down went

 my Uncle Sol

and started a worm farm)

Perhaps Uncle Sol can be viewed as a sort of existentialist hero; that is, a man who may not win life's battles, but finds a certain dignity in striving to live.  In Sol's case, he finally achieves dignity in his death, when he is feted with an elaborate funeral and finally accomplishes something worthy by becoming food for worms.

Check out the link below for some other thoughts about this poem. 

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