22 pages 44 minutes read

E. E. Cummings

anyone lived in a pretty how town

Fiction | Poem | Adult | Published in 1940

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Symbols & Motifs

Bells

The bells in the poem are clear representations of time. Bells are often used to mark different hours of the day or specific occasions in life. For example, church bells often call people to worship, wedding bells signify the union of two people, and funeral bells commemorate the dead. While bells are designed to mark the passage of time or an event, their ringing also has a stopping effect, often keeping the time in an extended moment of observation and thought.

In the poem, the speaker introduces the bells in Line 2, saying the town features “up so floating many bells down.” This introduction simply adds to the imagery of this town, giving it a surreal feeling. However, later in the poem, the bells return, and this is where their significance comes into focus. The speaker mentions “how children are apt to forget to remember / with up so floating many bells down” (Lines 23-24). Here, the speaker makes clear the connection between bells and time, specifically with how the bells mark the passing of children from innocence to experience. Just as time passes from season to season, people pass from joy to grief to loss to gain.

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