in Just-
spring when the world is mud-
luscious the little lame baloonman

whistles far and wee

and eddyandbill come
running from marbles and
piracies and it’s
spring

when the world is puddle-wonderful

the queer
old baloonman whistles
far and wee
and bettyandisbel come dancing

from hop-scotch and jump-rope and

it’s
spring
and
the
goat-footed

baloonMan whistles
far
and
wee

Analysis, meaning and summary of e.e. cummings's poem in Just-

98 Comments

  1. DATo DATonian says:

    My Interpretation:

    The poem to me represents the dichotomy of the ages of the characters.

    The ballonman is stated to be old, lame, and poor. (If he is selling balloons for a living he must be poor.)

    The children by contrast are young, full of energy / vitality, and residing in that magical time of life known as the age of innocence, – before the realities of how harshness and evil the world is made manifest to them.

    The bridge between the two are the balloons. To the children they are a source of brightly colored and amusing toys. To the balloonman they are only a source of income. The magic and joys of youth have long since abandoned the balloonman.

    The children have the rest of their lives to live. The balloonman is in the autumn of his years. We hear his shrill whistle dimly as he hobbles into the distance to his sad destined fate as the children revel in the joy of their newly acquired balloons, totally and mercifully ignorant of the harshness of life which awaits them.

  2. Kim Hoopingarner says:

    I think this poem is about spring and talking spring and playing out side

  3. MorbidOp says:

    This poem is definitely about the loss of innocence, but there is something that I think a lot of people are overlooking; the year this poem was released (1920) was the same year Trojan condoms first came out. Just sayin.

  4. Tilly says:

    I really don’t think you can say that you ‘shot down ideas’. cummings isn’t here to tell us what this poem is about, and because of that, I don’t think you can dismiss any idea – they are all as reasonable as each other. however, the Greek god Pan (not PaM) was the god of many things: nature, spring, hunting as well as fertility and sexuality. also, the Pagan god, also called Pan, is very similar, depicted with horns, cloven hooves, and a forked tongue and tail (this is the image which Christianity took to represent the devil). Both of these gods are often pictured with a large phallus. Also, the connection with the devil I find interesting. To sum up my ideas of the poem briefly, I think that it is set over three springs, the first with ‘eddieandbill’, the second with ‘bettyandisbel’ and the third with only the balloon man. to me it seems that the children pass down rumours of the balloonman, and he becomes more sinister as each spring comes by. the parents also worry, thinking him to be ‘queer’, and warn their children to stay away, believing him to be overly sexual (reference to Pan, and the reason for the capatilisation of man in ‘balloonMan’) and the children thinking him to be evil (the Devil), although the innocent balloonman is innocent. the way the children are now avoiding him saddens him, and so the spacing of ‘far and wee’ changed, become slower and slower to mimic the unhappy tone of his whistling. I don’t think that your AP American Literature class can come up with the definitive answer to what this poem is about.

  5. Chase Christensen says:

    Obviously upon reading this I directly am seeing the “reader response lens” and the “psychological lens as well. Interesting enough I have heard this poem being of childhood sexuality and pedophiles. This is the result of conflicting time periods. When this poem was written people offering balloons was not an uncommon thing. Unlike now a days people selling balloons where not pedophiles they where people in hard times trying to make a living. the idea of a “goat footed balloon man” is more of one of joy and spring. I researched this reference made in the poem. The reference is to the greek god Pam. Pam was the god of spring, music and theater. He is truly a positive god. He is also considered to be a god of herding and flocks. Interesting enough the the man seems to be herding the children during spring. Contrasting the possible sorrow or hardships of the man and the joy of spring and what he is giving to the children. He is not a pedophile. We associate spring with the season of rape, and strangers as dangers, but this is not hat E.E. cummings was thinking about. Pam is a postive character and so is spring. spring was the end of winter the start of summer. harvest were being planted and food and joy were in the near future. This contrasting of joy and the lame or queer baloon man is discussing the nature of joy. How a balloon man and children can feel joy no matter what situation in the time of spring. the idea of the world being mud. the world today is mud in many peoples minds, but whats important is that no matter the situation they still find joy. the goal of this book is to look at the simple things of life like spring balloons, and children and how they bring such joy to the world. This joy of the simple things in life is what we must seek. dont take life too seriously seek out joy and hope. This poem is not about pedophiles. this poem is not about childhood sexuality. I am writting this out of my AP american literature class. We have discussed this and shot down those ideas. That idea came from conflicting time periods and ideologies that result from that conflict

  6. jane says:

    My child at sharon is doing a project about e.e. cummings and is learning about this poem

  7. Jim says:

    The people who read deeper meanings of depravity into this paean to the giddy breezes of new life need to listen to Professor Tom Lehrer– “I could tell you things about Peter Pan, and the Wizard of Oz is a dirty old man!”

  8. skidaddle says:

    My interpretation is kinda different from a lot of the other ones. It does have a kind of irony in it – connected with “injustice.” That injustice seems to refer to one of two things:
    1) The balloonman is a pedophile, as some suggest, and abusing kids, giving them “joy” but making them also dirty, and the injustice could be that the children sometimes find it sad that they bust these guys who abuse them, but also treat them really nice.
    2) What seems even more convincing is a comment on homosexuality, as evinced by the balloonman’s “queer”ness. Dismissing the terms – insisting only on one meaning, not the other, seems to defeat the purpose of poetry – poets choose words for a reason – the multiple meanings. If we take it in the sense of homosexual, not strange or weird, then here, the balloonman is perhaps some personification of homosexual joy. The closeness of “bettyandisabel” or “eddyandbill” can be seen then to be more than just childhood friendship. There is nothing funny, or gross about this, but rather, the poem seems to be saying that their joy is considered “unjust” via the words “in Just-” and it seems it could be read different ways: could be a disgust for homosexuality, could be (seems to me more) consideration and sorrow for homosexuality and the discrimination of it, or the slander – such as its connection with communism under Joseph McCarthy.

    It should also be noted we can read the first line and it seems most certainly best read like this – as BEING IN something – called Just; someone commented it was silly to say it is injustice, just as it would be silly to call it “In Justin.” I hadn’t thought of it, but the speaker is saying “IN” something called Just; perhaps it IS Justin, or a male person. Another element of the poem has to do with capitalization – which is associated with names. Just and Man are capitalized. Could here be the contrast with woman – again, from a male perspective, perhaps a sexual love between two men.

    All of this seems apt or – I mean, who knows what authors intend? Least of all do they know themselves. Sometimes their darkest, most repressed desires come out. But who knows. The one thing that does seem weird is if we just take it literal, then it is a bad poem, and further, kind of weird ideas. Childhood? I mean – yeah, fun – but either regressive, or kinda strange feelings. There is of course, though, a curiosity also present in the poem that is interesting.

  9. Gymmyfangfriend says:

    to steve in the united states:
    PAN is the god of the wild. APHRODITE is the goddess of fertility and love.

  10. Ashleigh says:

    I think that this poem is about the children growing up and becoming aware of the presence of sexuality.
    At the beginning , it’s childlike and innocent, but ideas like ‘mud-luscious’ using ‘mud’ from the child’s realm and ‘luscious’ which is a rather adult term introduce the process of maturing. This is added to by the capitalisation of the M in ‘balloonMan’ later in the poem – the children now realise that he is indeed a man, not just a person, and they become aware of the adult world and of sexuality.
    The spacing at the end could be showing that the children realise that they’re no longer going to be children and are trying to hang onto that part of their lives so Cummings is dragging out the ending. The final ‘wee’ could be sad, thinking about all that will be lost; questioning whether or not it’s a good thing to be growing up; excitement to grow up & carry on the next chapter; or simply the abrupt end to innocence.

  11. emily smith says:

    in my freshman english class i need to know what type of poem in just is- example- haiku, sonnet, narrative, etc…

  12. Kiki says:

    Read within the lines guys! My fast paced language arts class analyzed this, and you’d be amazed by the true definition!!!
    The goat-fitted balloon man is actually a child molester. Notice, the kids disappear after they see him. He’s in the background, quietly whistling, and watching the kids in the spring. Slowly, with a lame foot, he moves in closer. Notice, how the poem ends with with WEE bolded and written bigger, showing that he’s moving in closer. He’s just using the balloons to attract the children. The title, In Just, forms 1 word; Injust. That’s why it starts off with In just balloon man, or Injust balloon man. E.E. Cummings is writing about the evil in the world, and how when you’re young, the world looks happy. But it’s not, there’s evil lurking out there. Read the WHOLE poem, and look for the deeper meaning within it. You’ll be surprised with what you find!!

  13. Kaurav Bogati says:

    Today i read the poem by E E Cumming and its full of symbols.And the poem is about the children who is innocent and balloon man is nature and goat footed which is not exited in the poem.It is just a symbol.And when the child became teenager their attitude changed and finally when they turned into adulthood from teenager.Spring season means time of fertility.So the poet shown name without any space and when they turn into adulthood then there is whistle and its all natural and it happened.And it tried to show the sexual and sensual because poet do not close the poem.And in this Cumming’s poem unwritten part is much more powerful and important which is not shown in the poem.

  14. steve says:

    the goat footed balloon man is pan, the god of fertility, and also of love/sex. it’s about people losing their innocence. it’s not about spring.

  15. kassidy says:

    i think this poem is about how spring is the time where everything is reborn and young and new and fresh and pure and innocent- so it’s naturally the time where children are drawn to play outside in the nature and beauty of the earth and really connect with each other and the enviornment around them. and even though it is beautiful and fresh its also beautiful in from a child’s eyes: ex. “mud-lucious” and “world of puddles” – who appreciates puddles besides a kid? then the balloonman represents an adult who has to signal to call in the children and herd them in from their play back into the counterinnocent world of adults. and the lame, queer, and goat-footed are merely insults whispered behind the adult’s back by the children for interupting and trying to alter their fun. because wouldn’t it be great if the world worked where you could play outside and connect with the earth and your playmates and not have to ever “come inside” or answer to that call? and yet “adulthood” takes over and whistles for us.

  16. kelsey says:

    i read comment about the ballonman representing Pan, the Greek god and i thought that the physically shape of the poem actually kind of looks like pan himself.

  17. ema says:

    I’m a freashman and i attend advanced course. we are entitled to writes a essay on a poem that we are not to choose. I was assigned in Just and I’m having a fair bit of trouble interpreting the message behind. though your comments have greatly helped i find writing an essay on this poem quite difficult.I am rahter confused by his capitalization when lastly addressing the ballonman he writes as ballonMan not like the other ways it is written throughout the poem. Maybe its my some what deteriating childhood or my somewhat intelligance but I agree that this poem is a reminicence( problably mispelled)of a childhood memeroy

  18. angi says:

    It’s spring fever happening! He’s calling eddy and bill, betty and isabel (children} on the way to adulthood. Puberty? I think so……Using Pan was perfect. Brilliant

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