Get help from the best in academic writing.

Hypocrisy in E.E. Cummings’ the Cambridge Ladies

The Hypocrisy of Communal Identity in cummings’ the Cambridge ladies

E.E. Cummings’ [the Cambridge ladies who live in furnished souls] is an enigmatic, ironic and sarcastic poem which reveals the unreal, fraudulent lives that the Cambridge ladies live. The poetic speaker’s tone is filled with sarcasm and irony to show the contradiction between the Cambridge ladies’ actions and beliefs. This discriminating voice is used when speaking of the Cambridge ladies’ Christianity, their communal identity, and when speaking of their frivolous concerns. Depth and empathy, both of which the ladies lack, are juxtaposed against the women’s emptiness and indifference. Collectively, the Cambridge ladies share the inability to connect to their religion and to the exterior world that surrounds them. In addition, Cummings contrasts nature imagery against the material and socially based Cambridge Ladies. Because these ladies are well endowed and isolated from the outside world, they are not able to fully comprehend the reality of issues.

Through this comparing and contrasting, E.E. Cummings is able to show the superficial and fabricated world that the Cambridge ladies have created. Although these women claim to be strict Protestants, their unsympathetic behavior proves to be less than holy. The Cambridge ladies are not able to fully understand the harsh reality of a world that lies beyond their trifle lives. Because they have already been given everything they need in life without working for it, the women are content with their set ways and have “comfortable minds” ([the Cambridge] ln. 2). These women have never known anything other than luxury and happiness. Thus, the ladies have no reason to challenge their church’s or society’s customs….

… middle of paper …

…ople who confine themselves to a limited sphere of knowledge and a confined group of peers. Rather than looking towards the outside world and into the unknown, these women commit themselves to spreading rumors, being “loyal” Christians, and being socially adept. By sharing a communal identity, they give up all individual freedoms. The Cambridge ladies forget to see and understand the individual beauties in life such as the moon. Everything they believe is internalized by their social doctrines; they leave no room for change or for new ideals. Therefore, they are unable to associate with the serenity of nature or with a world separate from themselves. Because they are assigned to a societal doctrine in which they have no control or say over, they become apathetic to its causes. They no longer concern themselves over problems and “do not care” about anything at all.

Des Esseintes’ Infatuation with Artifice in Huysmans’ Against Nature

Des Esseintes’ Infatuation with Artifice in Huysmans’ Against Nature

In J.-K Huysmans Against Nature, Des Esseintes rebels against his family, religion, and Parisian society to establish an identity unique to himself. He perceives this rejection of the truistic self as the development of individuality when, in actuality, it is only a self deriving from his reaction to the overstimulated public. By decorating his abode with eccentric objects, he falsely believes that he can detach himself from the common populace. When he finds new objects to focus upon, he is able to depose his emotions and instill them within the object. Des Esseintes wants to be a rare individual; through his bizarre purchasing and decorum he thinks he is his own self. As Des Esseintes becomes more and more neurotic, the objects start to drain life out of him and begin to take on a life of their own. Through this exchange of energy, Esseintes hopes to obtain distinct persona that is independent from mass society’s. His perversion and manipulation of natural objects reflect his need to create a fantasy world, an unrealistic world where he can escape from the harsh realities of his childhood and will be “unspoilt by rampaging Parisians”1. This retreat can only last so long before Des Esseintes realizes that he cannot survive without being a part of society; he returns to Parisian life as a way of fleeing his past as well as avoiding his own apparent afflictions that will melt away when he conforms to society’s standards.

In response to living a desensitized Parisian lifestyle and a monotonous upbringing, Des Esseintes creates ideal settings that stimulate his “overfatigued senses”2. Des Esseintes is born into a family which had been inbred. This …

… middle of paper …

…ermarry, his interaction with Parisians, and because of his religious background. The city provides him with an atmosphere of comfort because he doesn’t have to make his own decisions, the mass public does that for him. In the city he has the comfort of direction. Therefore, he looks to the public and Parisian society to help define and construct one simple mass identity.


1. Huysmans, J.-K., Against Nature, trans. Robert Baldick (New York: Penguin Books, 1959). 24.

2. Huysmans, 23.

3. Huysmans, 17.

4. Huysmans, 24

5. Huysmans, 18.

6. Huysmans, 26.

7. Ibid.

8. Huysmans, 21.

9. Huysmans, 23; 27.

10. Huysmans, 31.

11. Huysmans, 39.

12. Huysmans, 38; 36.

13. Huysmans, 32.

14. Huysmans, 37.

15. Huysmans, 27.

16. Huysmans, 63.

17. Huysmans, 66.

18. Huysmans, 67.

19. Ibid.

20. Huysmans, 68.

21. Huysmans, 30.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.