Friday, 4 January 2019

Next To Of Course God America I Analysis by E. E. Cummings

This article is an analysis of Next To Of Course God America I by E. E. Cummings.

Next To Of Course God America I Analysis:

The poem is a satire on political arrogance and the exploitation of patriotism to justify conflict.

Form:


  • Written as a sonnet.
  • little punctuation.
  • Lowercase and unusual grammar.
  • Two voices: mainly first person politician and second is third person observer.

The sonnet form is a traditional love poem and Cummings has chosen it to reflect the subject of patriotism. He has, however, played with the form and it is not a sonnet in the strictest sense. By distorting the sonnet form, Cummings shows how patriotism has a corrupting effect on the speaker and it has distorted their perspective on conflict.

The lack of punctuation and unusual grammar means that it is a difficult poem to read. This, perhaps, suggests that Cummings is critical of the first speaker's message and that it is difficult to comprehend how patriotism can be used as justification for conflict. The use of lowercase throughout the poem belittles the grand themes of nationalism expressed by the speaker.

The use of the two voices shows that the main body of the poem is a political speech and allows the second speaker, and the reader, to distance themselves from the central message. The final line contrasts with the rest of the poem.

Language:


  1. god/America/glorious/heroic/liberty
  2. these heroic happy dead
  3. deaf and dumb/and so forth


  • Prevalence of grandiose language
  • Lots of cliches
  • Words merged and line unfinished

The poem is littered with words that suggest the grand themes of nationalism and patriotism. As well as this, most of the lines are made up of clichés showing how little thought has been put into the speech by the speaker. The clichés contrast with the grand themes put forward as they have little value or meaning.

The merged words show how the speaker is rushing to get his speech out; again, suggesting that there is little value to the message. Finishing line 2 with 'and so forth’ is dismissive of the previous imagery.

Imagery:


  1. oh / say can you see by the dawn's early my / country 'tis of
  2. rushed like lions to the roaring slaughter


  • Lyrics from two patriotic songs
  • Lots of intertextuality

The references to the patriotic songs of America, including the national album, immediately create a sense of nationalist pride in the poem. Cummings, again, merges the lines leaving them, and their message, incomplete. They have no real meaning to the speaker but are being used for rhetorical purposes.

The use of intertextuality (referencing other texts) shows how the speaker is unable to come up with their own ideals and principles. The speech is not delivered with conviction but rather on a patchwork of worn-out and overused phrases and clichés.

Rhythm/rhyme:


  • Use of enjambement
  • Irregular meter
  • The rhyme scheme of ABABCDCDEFGFEG

The enjambement that is used throughout the poem adds to the fast and rushed pace to the speech. The words are rushed highlighting the lack of thought that has gone into the speech.

The irregular meter and the rhyme scheme shows how Cummings is not sticking to a traditional sonnet form. The rhyme scheme starts off following the Shakespearean style but the final 6 lines (EFGFEG) are an unusual rhyming pattern distorting the sonnet form reflecting the distorted message.

Tone:


  1. next to of course god America i
  2. shall the voice of liberty be mute?


  • Satirises grand themes
  • Critical of patriotic arrogance
  • Questions the silent acceptance of nationalist values

The poem explores and satirises the arrogance and pride of three central concepts: God, nationalism, and self. Such arrogance, assuming moral and military superiority can lead to disaster. The poem criticises these values showing their negative and debilitating effect.

next-to-of-course-god-america-i-analysis


Line 13 suggests that people are too willing to accept these values rather than speak out and stand up to the politicians such as the one shown in the poem. Cummings is urging the reader to not be passive observers in matters of conflict.

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