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Analysis and comments on in Just- by e.e. cummings

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Comment 57 of 747, added on November 30th, 2005 at 6:24 PM.

I think that this is the best poem that I have vere read in my whole entire
really long life. I like it a lot. It is cool!!!!!!!!!

Comment 56 of 747, added on November 26th, 2005 at 10:37 AM.

(I haven't read through many of the interpretations so far, though I see
some very interesting takes here. I see some people talking about what is
'right' or 'correct', and I just wanted to clarify that 'correctness' is
not something I even give thought to in poetry, so what follows really is
only an interpretation - one which someone else may have already put
forward :> also, a lot of this is very ex tempore)

the first thing that is clear to me about the poem is that it is a very
specific moment. time is not even a factor because the scene of the poem is
so fixedly and blissfully in the "puddle-wonderful" present. I agree with
most that this poem is about childhood and a type of loss thereof, but
there is no 'process' here or arc of growth. it's a single, simple moment
in springtime which by all appearances is innocent and fresh; and indeed
it's only by looking more closely at the changes occurring that any depth
is involved. but essentially I prefer to think that the focus is on the
moment itself rather than on all that it connotes.
in any case, what does interest me and what I realise most vividly about
"in Just-" is the variety of activity taking place, and the contrast
between the children and the bal(l)oonman (mis-spelt I think to involve
more closely the childhood perspective) and what these two parties actually
do. there is an apparent joviality and ease about the baloonman as he is
introduced to us, he is whistling and is presumably carrying balloons which
are symbols of light-heartedness and simple joy (and of something else,
which I'll get to in a moment); also, because "wee" as a word referring to
small size is an uncommon word outside of British dialects as far as I
know, my intuition tells me upon reading the word in its free, unpunctuated
context as an uplifting exclamation of glee, normally spelled "whee!". the
word "wee" in its adjective form and meaning is important to another aspect
of my interpretation; but in terms of action which I want first to look at,
the fact that "wee" as seen as an exclamation is not punctuated or
emphasised (e.g. with an exclamation mark) makes the tone fun but not
entirely passionate. now immediately following the baloonman's introduction
we are presented with a kind of exuberant onslaught of happening and
imagery, associated with the rapid growth and noise of spring. but there is
a contrast present already here, I feel, between the baloonman and
"eddyandbill" in terms of action or role: all the baloonman does is
whistle, and though I've not seen the poem in this way before, this whistle
seems now to be a call almost like a 'pied piper' leading the children; at
the baloonman's whistle, "eddyandbill" leave their activities without
hesitation, and there's an irony to this that I think is significant. if
the poem is seen to be about departing from childhood, and the "baloonMan"
is the epitome of adulthood (as I'll show in a moment), then it seems
awfully strange that the children are so willing to leave their game and
"piracies" behind. there's a certain kind of naïvety going on here
alongside the shift of maturing which makes the poem mildly ironic.
anyway, next in terms of action we have the baloonman (this time "queer /
old", certainly interpretable as adulthood which is understandably strange
or 'queer' to children) whistling once again: his action remains the same.
but there are new children ("bettyandisbel") who come also to follow him,
but from different activities; and here I think is the crux. all the
baloonman does is 'whistle far', the same activity every time, but each
time the children depart ("running" and "dancing") from different and
varied activities ("marbles and / piracies", "hop-scotch and jump-rope").
what I see this all amounting to is that Cummings is suggesting that
adulthood as opposed to childhood is far more limited and single-minded,
but changing and new in other ways: though the actions taking place do not
change, and actually appear somewhat monotonous and impersonal (no value
judgement is made on 'whistling far'), something else does change upon each
'whistle'; instead of the activity changing, the _people_ themselves
change: the baloonman is "little [&] lame", "queer [&] old", and finally
"goat-footed" - the last morphosis crossing over into illogicality, showing
that while in terms of activity and play adulthood is drab, the imagination
becomes enhanced and enlarged.
tying into this view of the baloonman as a kind of "anti-Peter Pan" leading
children into adulthood under the pretense of yet another fun game are the
balloons themselves as symbols; while as children life offers no pressure
in terms of goals to achieve and standards to set and meet, as an adult
there are constantly dozens of "balloons" - targets of achievement set by
society - to be grabbed at and hypothetically attained (also termed the rat
race). as far as I can see, what this poem seems to be saying, in a
slightly ironic sense, is that we as people living in society (comprised
largely of tensions and expectations such as those of the sexes; Cf.
"eddyandbill" vs. "bettyandisbel") have a kind of inherent instinct for -
to put it bluntly - money-grubbing and the furious hunt for 'dreams' which
as young children we aren't conscious of but which we become more and more
aware of as these paradigms are pounding into our heads. the scenario of
this poem is really a kind of 'merry dance into doom' in that the bliss of
marbles and piracies and hop-scotch can never again be attained, because we
forsake them for the mere pursuit of 'balloons'. this makes us into small
people, 'little' or 'wee' people, because we forsake a pure part of
ourselves to achieve things in life we are told we want. that is why the
baloonMan is called derogatory things like old, lame, little - in
comparison to the free and blissfully ignorant children the baloonMan is
haggard and unhappy. the fact that the baloonMan 'whistles far' indicates
the facades and new roles we adopt to cope with what we lose from the
transition out of childhood, which though far richer in some senses is a
'far cry' from the bliss of childhood. what we gain is understanding and
consciousness, which ironically shows us what we had but didn't realise we

the thing about literary analysis is that it all sounds so much more
complicated written out and rationalised than what it actually reads as.
all of these thoughts and theories are only connotations I see upon reading
the poem and thinking about, and it's the translating of that into language
which makes it seem analytic and complex. anyway, if someone read my
interpretation as far as this, I appreciate it. ;> if this interpretation
adds to someone's appreciation of the poem, even better. I tend to see a
kind of sarcastic or ironic humour in a great deal of Cummings' work; but
then again at face value this poem is notably jolly, so it's really a
matter of what one feels like seeing, or letting oneself see.

Kasper from Finland
Comment 55 of 747, added on November 10th, 2005 at 12:20 AM.

While doing research on e. e. cummings (also presented as E. E. Cummings,)
I stumbled upon this web page and was fascinated by the various
interpretations and individual ideas that were expressed on the comments
link. Gathering from the totality of my research, I would have to say that
I have come to the conclusion that, overall, while the poem does convey the
theme of childhood/sexually cognizant maturation, it also presents an
intriguing sense of the concept of innocence, especially when juxtaposed
with cummings's other, commonly graphic and sexually explicit poetry.
Although I have identified a sexual motif in the poem, I heartily disagree
with the balloon man/pedophile idea, and I don't believe that the poem is
an attempt to showcase a perverted or disgusting sense of humor.

P.S. Andre – I think that if you want to correct the erratic internet
grammar of others, you should look first to your own “typos.” (I.e. “i”
should be ‘I,’ “english” should be ‘English,’ etcetera.) I am pointing
this out not because I really wish to be picky about spelling on the
internet, but rather because I think that it is rather rude and
hypocritical of you to call people “stupid” and berate their spelling
online. Thank you.

KM from United States
Comment 54 of 747, added on November 4th, 2005 at 1:34 PM.


Lamia Moe from United States
Comment 53 of 747, added on October 18th, 2005 at 3:36 PM.

I'm in my final year of school, and I'm doing my final setwork/poetry exam
tomorrow/today(as it's past midnight already). This poem is one of our set
poems. And I love it! Here's my interpretation, I sure as Hell hope what
our teacher taught us is right.

Okay, I don't think the words "in Just-" have anything to do with
"injustice". If you're gonna argue that, you may as well argue that the
poem was written for a friend called "Just- in" (Justin - haha, I'm not
serious, just as "injustice" is not right either). Well, everyone gets the
general idea of "mud-luscious" and "puddle-wonderful". "Little lame
balloonman" - when the kids are young, they have sympathy for the
balloonman, they're too innocent to know of any abnormalities or prejudices
that grownups may have - ie. feeling wary towards a creepy looking guy. So
to them, he's just "lame" (not lame, as in corny or stupid, lame in a
childlike way). Jumping ahead, he becomes the "queer old balloonman", now
the kids are growing up, and they're beginning to notice he's different and
strange. In the last stanza, it's the "goat-footed balloonMan". I don't
think it's Pan, I think it's Satyr, the goat-man representation of
adulthood and lust. He's not a balloonman anymore to the kids, he's now a
Man (with a capital "M"), ie. adulthood, lust, no more innocence. They're
grown up, and he's completely foreign to them, they're wary and afraid of

"Whistles far and wee" in the 2nd stanza, there's only spaces between
the "far", emphasizing how much distance his whistling is carrying (maybe),
but the point is that there's a normal space between the "and wee". In the
3rd (?) stanza, it's "far and wee" and the spaces are bigger - meaning,
as the kids are growing up and seeing balloonman in a new light, they
aren't as quick and eager to come running to him. In the last stanza,
there're complete lines separating the "far and wee", meaning now they've
grown up, they don't come to his call anymore. The spaces just go on
forever, like his whistles reaching no ones ears.

Random stuff: Firstly, "Spring" meaning growth, vitality, the growth of
children into adulthood. The "eddieandbill" and "bettyandisbel" is
representing the closeness of the friends. But, in the 2nd stanza, when
they're still young, the boys coming "running" (fast, excited) from
"marbles and piracies (Haha, - piracy is a crime *cough*) and those are
imaginative games. In the next stanza, the girls coming dancing (slower
than running, and they're focusing on their dancing, sort of preoccupied,
not fully interested on balloonman) and they come from "hop-scotch and
jump-rope" and those are more practical games. When children grow up, they
lose their innocence, and ability to dream - sort of. And in the last
stanza, no kids are mentioned, 'cause they've grown up and no one comes

Hope this wasn't too long, and I hope I'm right! I don't think anyone will
ever know. But I hope this maybe helped someone, but then again, this is
just my interpretation! ^_^

Katy (17) from South Africa
Comment 52 of 747, added on October 17th, 2005 at 5:25 PM.

The stupidity of some of you amazes me. While i think the poem is open to
interpretations, maybe some of you should learn to use proper english
(typing "you" instead of "u" isn't that hard, and kids who don't understand
the poem don't look here for help, didnt you read the rules before posting?
no homework help). On the other hand, some of you have very interesting
interpretations of the poem. here is mine:
"Goat-Footed" refers to the Greek god Pan, who is a man above the waist and
has the form of a goat below the waist. He is the God of nature as well as
herding. Traditionally, nature in poems has served as a symbol for purity
and that which is untouched by the corruption of mankind. Wouldn't this
seem to make sense to go along with the theme of a child's purity? Also, he
is the god of herding and sheparding; in a way he shepards the children who
have come out to play on a lovely spring day. The title, in Just refers to
the injustice of growing old. While the children play and have fun, the man
is still working, despite the happy atmosphere. This is my take on it, i'm
not saying its right or wrong.

Andre from United States
Comment 51 of 747, added on October 17th, 2005 at 1:42 PM.

In the first line the words 'in just' make you think of injustice-this
suggests that the little lame balloonman has suffered from the injustice of
not being able to play and experience childhood like the children mentioned
in the poem.

He therefore brings joy and happiness to them by travelling far
distances(far and wee)
to bring them balloons- he brings them the joy and happiness that he
couldnt experience as a child himself as he was crippled(lame-goat footed)

He also doesnt want ant sympathy for being 'lame' as it brings him joy by
bringing joy to other small children.

Ruby from South Africa
Comment 50 of 747, added on October 10th, 2005 at 3:17 PM.

In the first stanza he says “when the world is mudlicious” meaning that
children can come out to enjoy the beginning of spring. The little lame
balloon man can be described as a person that is handing out balloons of
fun. Then the next stanza describes to very good friends playing and
stopping what they are doing to go and receive their balloons. The last
line of the second stanza says “and its spring” means that everything is
just grateful in life when its spring. The line that separates the second
stanza and the third stanza suggests that everything is just joyful for
children. The second to last stanza describes the same thing of the first
two stanzas of how spring is growing, new, and amazing for children.
Finally the last stanza will start the whole process of children stopping
what they are doing to acquire their balloon of fun.

Tom from United States
Comment 49 of 747, added on September 25th, 2005 at 1:24 PM.

I think that the poem refers to the transition of Spring in the perspective
of the children. Like Christmas, when kids grow up, they see events such as
Christmas or in this case, SPring, as something trivial. The magic or
spirit of that season gets lost. That is why notice the spacing in "far and
wee". It gets farther and farther. This is the whistling made by Pan (who
is the allusion for the balloonman) who has reeds. He is the GOd of Nature
and also music, and he epitomizes spring since as mentioned, he is the GOd
of Nature. In Just is a compact way of saying: "When spring is finally
here." Pan is represented as a balloonman probably because a balloonman is
a figure that entices and excites the kid regardless of his sex. So as the
children grows up they deem the balloonman to be a mythical figure, since
like Spring, they see it to be a myth then, nothing real or special.

Peachie from Philippines
Comment 48 of 747, added on September 25th, 2005 at 8:55 AM.

my teacher is asking me about the speaker,setting,purpose,stylistic and
conflict.but the problem is that i have no idea about it.i need help anyone
please,and thank u to anyone who helpa me.

k from Greece

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Information about in Just-

Poet: e.e. cummings
Poem: in Just-
Added: Jan 31 2004
Viewed: 4352 times
Poem of the Day: Aug 31 2000

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