Analysis of “a total stranger one black day…” Poem by E. E. Cummings

a total stranger one black day

E.E. Cummings is one of America’s greatest poets. His poem “a total stranger one black day…” is one reason why he is considered one of the best. Let’s take a look at an analysis of the poem and then dig into some figurative language it uses.


“a total stranger one black day” is about a man who does something to anger a “stranger”. The stranger then fights him. The stranger found it hard to forgive the speaker. It is then revealed that the stranger is himself and now they are immortal friends.


This poem is about doing something you regret and hating yourself for it but then forgiving (even though it’s difficult) and living with yourself for what you have done. This poem is written in three non-rhyming couplets with eight meters each.

Figurative Language

  • Stranger – someone he doesn’t recognize (himself who did something wrong)
  • Black day – The color black symbolizes something evil or dark. In this case, the author is speaking about a day in which something bad happened. We can only assume what it is since the author doesn’t speak of it.
  • Fiend – Someone evil (himself having done something evil, possibly to himself or someone he loved)
  • “the other’s each” – The other side of himself, possibly like yin and yang. We need to have and accept both to live in peace with ourselves.

Poem: “a total stranger one black day…” by E.E. Cummings

a total stranger one black day
knocked living the hell out of me–

who found forgiveness hard because
my(as it happened)self he was

-but now that fiend and i are such
immortal friends the other’s each.

Reader’s Reaction

When reading this poem, I was immediately hit with the realization that I am the same as the author. We both do stupid things that hurt ourselves and we both beat ourselves up about it. However, in the end, we still go on and live our lives, treating ourselves like our best friend. I guess, this is what makes this poem so great. It is something that each of us can relate to as it is a human reaction. This doesn’t seem to be something that other animals do. If a dog hurts himself, does he hate himself? I guess we can’t really know the answer to this, but it doesn’t seem like it is the case. Humans are crazy, interesting, and sometimes horrible beings–even to ourselves. The only thing we can do is move on and continue our lives and not dread on our past mistakes.

Gary R. Hess

Gary was born and raised on a small farm in rural Kansas. Today, he is teaching various nationalities English in Southeast Asia. Get his newest poetry eBook here.

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