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When Serpents Bargain for the Right to Squirm

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Peter Lugthart

on 26 April 2013

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Transcript of When Serpents Bargain for the Right to Squirm

"When Serpents Bargain For the Right to Squirm"

E. E. Cummings The Thesis: Arguing by Example This kind of behavior is absurd and demeaning, and doesn't occur in nature. Therefore, because they act this way, people don't deserve to be elevated over the rest of nature. Tone Humorous, Lyrical. But also Satirical, Ironic, Critical. How? Absurd Images, Personification serpents "bargaining for the right to squirm." "wave signs on the dotted line." Irony Sonnet: -14 lines
-iambic pentameter (10 syllables per line, mostly iambs)
-slant rhyme (consonance): a-b-a-b, c-d-c-d, e-f-e-f, g-g
- four quatrains and an ending couplet Alliteration "no new moon" "sun strikes" "regard their roses" "compelled to close" Assonance/internal rhyme "make an acorn" may/okayed/wave
accuse/altitude/april We humans think we are better than animals because we have these "advanced" interactions, but when these behaviors are contrasted with nature, they seem dysfunctional. The poem is also a criticism of human hypocrisy.
We think we are "incredible" and "unanimal," but in many ways we are worse than animals. Point of View First person plural: "we" suggests that this is obvious; it's not just the narrator that thinks this way keeps the poem from being too accusatory- narrator is making fun of himself as well as the rest of humanity when serpents bargain for the right to squirm
and the sun strikes to gain a living wage -
when thorns regard their roses with alarm
and rainbows are insured against old age
when every thrush may sing no new moon in
if all screech-owls have not okayed his voice
- and any wave signs on the dotted line
or else an ocean is compelled to close
when the oak begs permission of the birch
to make an acorn - valleys accuse their
mountains of having altitude - and march
denounces april as a saboteur
then we’ll believe in that incredible
unanimal mankind (and not until) The Poet ee cummings or E. E. Cummings? modernist, but explored many traditional poetic themes 1894-1962 ex: relationship between humans and nature but informal tone, modernism:
-lack of capitalization
- punctuation- no commas or periods when serpents bargain for the right to squirm
and the sun strikes to gain a living wage -
when thorns regard their roses with alarm
and rainbows are insured against old age

when every thrush may sing no new moon in
if all screech-owls have not okayed his voice
- and any wave signs on the dotted line
or else an ocean is compelled to close

when the oak begs permission of the birch
to make an acorn - valleys accuse their
mountains of having altitude - and march
denounces april as a saboteur

then we’ll believe in that incredible
unanimal mankind (and not until) a b a b c d c d e f e f g g bargain/gain regard/alarm
Behavior gets worse as the poem goes on.
-early on, it's just sad that humans have to do these things.
-later, the actions themselves are harmful - personification exposes human greed, pettyness, and egoism when serpents bargain for the right to squirm
and the sun strikes to gain a living wage -
when thorns regard their roses with alarm
and rainbows are insured against old age
when every thrush may sing no new moon in
if all screech-owls have not okayed his voice
- and any wave signs on the dotted line
or else an ocean is compelled to close
when the oak begs permission of the birch
to make an acorn - valleys accuse their
mountains of having altitude - and march
denounces april as a saboteur
then we’ll believe in that incredible
unanimal mankind (and not until) anapest anapest Any Final thoughts?

How did you interpret the tone?

Any human/animal metaphors you thought were particularly important? Animals' actions in the poem are, obviously, direct metaphors for human actions. When Serpents Bargain for the Right to Squirm 10 10 10 10 10 10 10 10 10 10 10 10 10 10 makes the ideas seem less radical and more respectable (Change in tone)
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