my father moved through dooms of love

by e. e. cummings
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Themes and Meanings

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Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 466

“My father moved through dooms of love” is a tribute to Cummings’s dead father, but it lacks many of the elements one might expect in an elegy. There is no physical description of the deceased, no mention of mourning or refusal to mourn, and, in fact, no mention of the father’s death beyond the use of the past tense. In a very real sense, the poem is not about the poet’s father at all, but about a philosophy of love and of life. Cummings raises the poem to this level by avoiding any specific references to his father. There are no details or anecdotes in the poem that point to one particular man, no clues to the identities of those around him. Beginning with his genuine respect for his father, Cummings exaggerates his father’s capacities to delineate his own ideals. The poem’s father is not a man, but an idealized representation of what an individual could be, of how love can operate in the world.

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For Cummings, the individual is of great importance. Love as Cummings believes in it is not an ethereal gift of the spirit world, but a force that exists in the natural world that people inhabit. There is no call to a higher power to solve the world’s ills; only the individual, battling evil with the power of love, can redeem the world. Through the example of the life of one person—not a divine savior, but a man as human as the poet’s own father—the poem demonstrates the effect that one individual can have on other people. Through his love, he can bring them peace, joy, and nobility. Those who wield this kind of love find it a powerful force, but it does not come easily. Embracing the world means embracing all of it, and there are risks. Love everyone, and some will not love you back. Speak the truth, and some will turn against you. Develop your capacity to feel, and you will feel sorrow as well as happiness. Not many people are willing to try this kind of love, but one individual can give another hope and the courage to try, and then there are two.

“My father moved through dooms of love” is not simply a poem about feeling better. Moving beyond the example of his father, Cummings presents a very specific list of what is wrong with the world. The individual who can confront his own fears and failings can also confront the world’s—and must, if the world is to be redeemed. In the last two lines, the poem returns to its key words: “father” and “love.” “Father” is the individual person, who has the power to change the world. “Love” is the name of that power.

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