E. E. Cummings

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Student Question

Who is the speaker in e. e. cummings' "who are you, little i"? What is the relationship between the speaker and the "little i" and what is the speaker's attitude towards them?

Quick answer:

In the poem "who are you, little i" by e. e. cummings, the speaker is the poet, and he is addressing himself in the form of his own inner child. The inspiration of a brilliant sunrise has caused his childlike wonder to awaken. He feels that the overwhelming wonder of the lovely sunrise helps to dispel the dread of the coming of night's darkness.

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On the first reading of the beautiful poem "who are you, little i" by e. e. cummings, the poem appears to be about a parent watching a child who is looking out a window at the sunrise. However, the narrator writes that the child is "five or six years old," and any parent, or even any other adult visiting the home, would surely know how old the child is. Additionally, the child is "peering from some high window," and a five- or six-year-old child would not be able to see out of a high window.

These clues, along with the small "i" that the narrator addresses, inform readers that the narrator is not speaking to a child that he has found looking out a window. Instead, he is addressing his own inner child, the childlike wonder that lives within him. He has been abruptly startled by the beauty of a sunrise (nature), and the wonder and inspiration it has brought him has caused him to remember how he used to feel when he was a child. He asks "Who are you, little i?" because it has been a long time since he has experienced this childlike sense of wonder. He is grateful that these feelings have reawakened within him. The pun in "little i" is that it not only refers to a specific aspect of the poet's personality, the childlike sense of wonder, but it also refers to seeing the world through the "eye" of a child.

The semicolon between the words "window" and "at" expresses a pause between the two main sections of the poem. In the first part, the poet asks his question, and in the second part, he goes on to further describe the sense of wonder he has experienced. The day turning into the dark night is frightening to a child and even to many adults, but the poet exclaims that contemplating the beauty of nature, such as this magnificent sunrise, is a "beautiful way" to live life and to keep away the darkness.

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