E. E. Cummings

Start Free Trial

Editor's Choice

What is the meaning of E. E. Cummings' poem "she being Brand / -new"?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

This poem is an interesting—if occasionally difficult—read, considering its seemingly erratic use of spacing, punctuation, and capitalization. A little research into the style of E. E. Cummings's writing gives us a deeper insight to the meaning of this poem. Cummings is known for using idiosyncratic spacing, text alignment, and capitalization as additional poetic tools (in addition to the usual imagery and form techniques many poets employ). As with any literary device, Cummings's play with words and letters helps to create each poem's tone, mood, and meaning.

I believe it helps to read E. E. Cummings's poetry out loud. With his style in mind, "she being Brand / -new" tells the story of a man taking his car out for a pleasurable ride, at times speeding up to enjoy what the car is capable of, and at times slowing down to relish the experience.

As with most poetry, however, perhaps the real meaning emerges when the reader takes the themes and central metaphors of "she being Brand/ -new" into mind. To state it frankly, this poem seems to be an extended metaphor for an erotic act between a man and a woman. I'll try to support that conclusion without being too indiscreet.

E. E. Cummings crafts the poem with particular focus on the tactile feelings of driving and the intimate inner workings of the car. He also works with his atypical syntax to communicate the energy of the narrator. The narrator begins very eager, then realizes he has to slow down before the ride accelerates and the poem reaches its climax. The poem ends with a feeling of completion as the narrator slams on the brakes and brings

allofher tremB
to a:dead.


Approved by eNotes Editorial
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

This poem by e.e. cummings is a great example of extended metaphor. On the surface, the poem appears to be about a driver's excitement to drive a new car. The use of the pronoun "she" could be man's tendency to refer to an automobile as feminine. Upon further examination, it becomes convincing that the poem is actually an extended metaphor for a man's sexual experience with a woman, and the woman is possibly a virgin. There are many lines and words to support this interpretation. Pay careful attention to the language of the poem and the suggested climax/orgasm at the end. e.e. cummings plays with form and structure, and he uses non-traditional punctuation to push the boundaries of what words can mean.

Approved by eNotes Editorial
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

I love to comment on poems and analyze them, but this one is making me blush!  The poem, a fairly famous one, is a thinly veiled reference to sexual activity.  If, instead of a car, you think of the object of the man's efforts as a woman, well, it starts to make more sense.

Normally I like to quote from the poem to prove my point but I feel kind of dirty doing it here.  I'll let someone else point out the details.  The man, though, fumbles around like men do in sexual situations.  Once he begins to handle his "car" more delicately, and with greater respect for its mechanics, the car responds a lot better to his "driving."  In the end, because of his skillful handling of the, uh, throttle, he gets the car to go really fast and then brings it to a satisfying stop.

And, as Forest Gump said, "that's all I have to say about that."

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Approved by eNotes Editorial