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Analysis of E.E. Cumming’s poem “The Cambridge Ladies Who Lived in Furnished Souls”

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    E. E. Cumming’s poem “The Cambridge Ladies Who Lived in Furnished Souls,” generally lampoons the behavior and way of life of the Cambridge girls. In fact, just by simply using the word “furnished” in his title, Cumming made an ironic description of a group of ladies who more or less represent the aristocracy in New England during that time. Basically, the poem illustrated how the author disliked the Cambridge girls who did not care about anything that did not fit in their norms or way of life. In other words, Cummings berated the fact that these ladies seemingly have a world of their own and that anyone who is not qualified or who does not possess the qualities, behaviors, or traits that the Cambridge ladies have is not welcome in their realm. Most of all, based on the poem’s description of the ladies, Cummings also implied, in a very evident, manner, that how they should behave.

    It is notable that although the author did not directly state his feelings towards the Cambridge ladies and there is no explicit criticism of them, the images, language, and tone he used in the poem clearly portray that these ladies as fake and superficial. Moreover, the fact that Cummings vividly emphasized, described, and illustrated the ladies behaviors in a satirical way means that he does like them in any way. Therefore, it can be surmised that poems was indirectly conveying in his poem exactly how the Cambridge ladies should behave. By pointing out the faults in their behavior, he is also showing something what is lacking in them.

    For example, in the title and in the first line of the poem he described the Cambridge girls as living “in furnished souls”. In general, the definition of the word furnished is to be equipped especially with what is needed. Thus, in a sense, Cummings stated in the poem that the ladies’ souls or, more specifically, their identities are fabricated or manufactured according to their tastes. In the context of the time that poem was published, this also meant that like the Cambridge girls, aristocrats and other members of the so-called elite society live in a world that is only according to their norms and nothing else. In a way, Cummings is also saying that this is not they are supposed to behave and that they should live according to the general norms of society and according to theirs.

    In the second line of the poem, Cummings also called the ladies as “unbeautiful and have comfortable minds”. By unbeautiful, the author meant that the Cambridge girls were not necessarily ugly, but trying to be beautiful only in a superficial sense. It can be surmised from this line that the poem was mocking the ladies accessories, clothes, and other things that they apply on their bodies to make them beautiful. In this regard, this is also Cummings’ way of indirectly criticizing the ladies way of carrying themselves in society, possibly through lavish clothes and glamorous lifestyles.

    In the subsequent lines, Cummings describes the Cambridge ladies’ minds as “unscented” and “shapeless.” This basically means that Cummings was portraying the ladies as people without substance. Or if they have any substance at all, it can hardly be noticed. As mentioned above, the ladies were depicted as superficial and live in their own dimension and according to their own beliefs. While the author did not explicitly state that these ladies are dumb and mindless, his negative language, imagery, and lack of sincerity imply that the Cambridge girls are hallow and empty inside, but full on the outside. By doing so, Cummings again points out exactly how these girls should behave, while at the same time showing how they should conduct themselves properly

    Finally, the last lines of the poem more or less summarize Cummings’ satirical depiction of the Cambridge girls: “the Cambridge ladies do not care, above Cambridge if sometimes in its box of sky lavender and cornerless, the moon rattles like a fragment of angry candy.” Basically, in these lines, Cummings was already more direct in criticizing the ladies behavior. He implied that the ladies do not really care about things, people, or objects that they deem to be unfit for their world even. In a sense, it was Cummings way of portraying these ladies as elitists or high ranking members of the society who believe that they deserve the best in every aspect of their lives. Moreover, by cornerless box, Cummings meant that the ladies were living within a box where they decide the rules, the norms, and the lifestyle. Basically, the author also implied that the Cambridge ladies refuse to go outside their comfort zones and interact with people who seemingly do not belong to their group.

    In short, what Cummings was implying in his poem was that Cambridge girls should not behave superficially nor should they remain trapped in their little own world. By ridiculing the ladies’ behavior, he is also pointing out what he thinks is wrong with them and what is lacking in their personalities and attitudes. In effect, he is also indirectly implying how the girls should behave in their everyday lives. Over-all, Cummings entire poem was not only satirical but also had double meaning. His language is also very cynical and ironic, which further provided depth to the poem. Although he did not directly criticize the Cambridge girls, by casting them in a negative light, he was able to point out the errors of their behavior and, in effect, showing how these ladies should behave.

    Work Cited

    “The Cambridge ladies who live in furnished souls” 2008. 18 April 2009 <>.

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    Analysis of E.E. Cumming’s poem “The Cambridge Ladies Who Lived in Furnished Souls”. (2017, Feb 28). Retrieved from

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