E. E. Cummings’ poem, “Maggie and Milly and Molly and May,” tells of an adventure of four girls who each learn a lesson in their experiences. To explain these lessons, Cummings uses poetic devices such as alliteration, simile, and symbolism, to elucidate the messages in an appealing way. In “Maggie and Milly and Molly and May,” Maggie, Milly, Molly, and May find a shell, starfish, crab, and stone, in which each object sends a message.
In the beginning of the poem, Cummings swiftly describes the initial encounter at the beach: “and maggie discovered a shell that sang / so sweetly she couldn’t remember her troubles, and” (3-4). When referring to a shell’s song, the sound of the ocean is heard from the shell after putting it up to an ear. Maggie has so much enthrallment for the particular sound that her tribulations abscond from her mind. To express this thought, Cummings uses slant rhyme to exquisitely elucidate the meaning of the two lines without openly inferring it. Just as Cummings gets to the point in lines three and four, the same thing is done in lines five and six in Milly’s portrayal.
The setting of the poem is the beach. Since the beach is the setting, the characters, like Milly, use objects there to mostly assist them with their troubles. For example, Cummings writes that Milly befriends a star: “milly befriended a stranded star / whose rays five languid fingers were;” (5-6). The definition of languid is to display a disinclination for physical effort or to be slow and relaxed. Languid, the description of the star, is slow and relaxed; it is lifeless. Milly is so desperate for a friend that she eagerly and desperately befriends it, because they both have something in common, loneliness. E. E. Cummings uses the same slant rhyme technique in lines three, four, five, and six to reiterate the rhyme scheme.
The third character out of the four, Molly, was the only one who did...