Who are you, Little i?
By E.E Cummings
Cummings’ poem “who are you, little i” describes a child looking out a window at the end of the day. It is about nature and the effect it has on the speaker. The speaker of the poem is the person “voicing” the words, recalling a childhood moment closely connected with nature. Perhaps the speaker is Cummings.
This poem is related to nature and its effect on the speaker. This poem is quite short
which contains only eight lines. The main theme of this poem is freshness of beautiful nature and its positive effect on the humans. This poem opens with the speaker standing near a window and looking out of it, at the end of a day. He goes to a nostalgic mood, recalling his childhood, when he used to watch a sunset thoughtfully. He remembers how he used to enjoy such a beauty when he used to be a little boy of five or six years. It is a wonder that he still has youthful presence in himself. This presence can recognize the beauty of the evening. Perhaps in his inner heart he wants to come out, but his maturity and adulthood doesn’t allow him, to do so.
The poet has beautifully described a little boy, his location and his acts of peering (looking) and feeling about beautiful and wonderful nature. He has presented his experiences of childhood closely connected with nature. He has presented himself as a little i or a boy of five or six years old who keeps on peering beautiful golden sunset of November through some high window and pondering about the wonderful transformation of the day into night in a very beautiful way.
- The poet has used semicolon (;) between the two words to provide a break in the long sentence while keeping the thought flowing.
- The poem can be divided into two parts: first part is from the first line to the fifth line where we find the speaker’s state of mind recalling the past pleasing moments of his childhood. He is in a nostalgic mood.
- The second part is from the sixth to the last line of the poem (he is in a doleful (wistful/sad) mood. This part describes his liberation from his mood).
Understanding the text
Answer the following questions.
- Who can be the speaker of this poem?
The speaker of this poem can be the poet (E. E. Cummings) himself. He has presented himself as a little boy here in this poem by recalling his childhood experience connected with nature.
- What is “little i” doing?
‘Little i’ is peering the beautiful and golden sunset of November from some high window and feeling about the beautiful way of transforming the day into the night.
- What can be the relationship between “little i” and the speaker of the poem?
The relationship between ”little i” and the speaker of the poem can be the relationship of natural attachment. The little boy or ‘i’ is an outcome of the speaker’s memory of childhood experience. Here, the speaker is voicing the words in favour of this beautiful nature and recalling his childhood experience closely connected with nature. We find the speaker’s deep devotion and respect towards this beautiful and vast nature.
- What is the speaker remembering from his childhood days in the poem?
The speaker is remembering an extremely beautiful scene of nature from his childhood days in the poem. He is remembering himself as a little boy of five or six years in some high window who is peering and enjoying the beautiful golden sunset and its transformation in November.
- What attitude does the speaker seem to have toward the child in the poem?
The speaker seems to have a positive and lovable attitude towards the child in the poem. The speaker seems quite desirous about his childhood days. He feels extremely happy in connection with this beautiful nature being little ‘i’. He enjoys the scenic beauty of the golden sunset through his childhood’s eyes. He seems longing for his childhood days much.
Reference to the context
- Why do you think Cummings has placed a semicolon between the words window and at?
I think Cummings has placed a semicolon between the words window and to break the two different locations. Here, he has used a semicolon to distinguish the locations inside and outside the window. Here, the little boy is sitting inside the window and peering at the beauty of November’s sunset outside the window. The placement of semicolon has created the description of two different locations in relation to boy’s acts.
- If the speaker is the child grown up, why does he ask, “who are you”?
He asks, “who are you” because he is feeling good in his memory to find his childhood days of a completely carefree life. He feels free from sufferings and burden of obligations. He asks so to express the pleasures of his carefree childhood days that are closely connected with nature.
- In this poem, an adult reflects on the childhood experience. Based on that, what might be the theme of the lines: “(and feeling: that if day / has to become night / this is a beautiful way)”?
Here, in these lines, we find the boy’s feeling about the beautiful scene of November’s golden sunset. The boy finds a quite beautiful way of transformation of golden colours of the sun of day time into black colours of the night. He feels about this wonderful transition of the beautiful nature. Thus, the theme of these lines might be the wonderful changes in this beautiful nature which are beyond humans’ thoughts, feelings, emotions, ideas etc. These changes have deep effects on humans. Here, the theme in its deeper meaning also refers to the end of this life which is full of burdens of obligations and pains. The light of the day time refers the life whereas the darkness of night refers to death. The beautiful way of transformation of the day into the night also shows the concept of life and death. The speaker wants to be a child again leaving this life of sufferings.
- What is the rhyme scheme used in the poem?
A rhyme scheme is the pattern of sounds that repeats at the end of a line or stanza. The rhyme scheme used in the poem is ABAB and CDCD.
- Explain the pun in “little i” that is related to what he is doing.
A pun is a joke that reveals different possible meanings of a word. It also refers to the words that sound alike but have different meanings along with humour. Here, in the act of the ‘little i’, we find beautiful use of the pun. The ‘little i’ is peering golden sunset of November. The ‘little i’ or the boy has been presented here in some high window. Here, ‘little i’ and ‘high’ sound alike in rhyme scheme but create laughter for the readers to find out the meaning. The speaker has presented ‘little i’ in some high window’s location. Here, the mismatched height of ‘little i’ and ‘window’ has been presented for the act of peering beautiful golden sunset of November which has created laughter.
- How does Cummings’s use of lowercase letters affect your understanding of the poem? Explain.
Cummings’s use of lowercase letters affect my understanding of the poem. The use of lowercase letters in his poem have different literal meanings beyond their forms. The style of using lowercase letters is considered to be incorrect in writing English grammatical form. His use of lowercase letters here in this poem has created a lot of difficulties for me to grasp the actual meaning of the poem.
Reference beyond the text
- How does nature inspire the speaker in “who are you, little i”? Explain.
Nature inspires the speaker a lot in “who are you, little i”. The beauty of nature has made him recall his beautiful childhood experience. He finds himself as a little boy of five or six years old in his childhood. He keeps on peering at the beautiful golden sunset and feels for the beautiful way of the transition of the day into the night.
- Recall a childhood moment when you felt closely connected with nature. Describe the time and place as well as your feelings and thoughts about it.
The most interesting moment in my life was the day when I experienced a fine rainbow in the sky. During that time, I was in fifth grade. It was the time of my monsoon vacation. One Sunday, after the rainfall, I got amazed to find the most beautiful rainbow in the sky in the morning time. I kept on watching it through my window for a long time. I felt lucky to get the chance to see it. The beautiful scene of the rainbow is still fresh in my life. I want to see it time and again in my life.