In "The World is Too Much with Us," what are the negative aspects of the world according to Wordsworth?

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accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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The "world" in this poem is presented by Wordsworth in overwhelmingly negative terms. His central argument in this poem is that we have given ourselves over to the world to such a degree that we have made a "sordid boon," actually unwittingly giving "our hearts away" as we pursue the world--the material world of possessions and wealth--instead of focussing on our souls and on our relationship with Nature. Wordsworth goes on to argue that by devoting ourselves to "getting and spending" alone and not our souls and Nature we actually "lay waste our powers" and have made ourselves "out of tune" with Nature and its glories that are capable of restoring and nourishing our soul:

This Sea that bares her bosom to the moon;

The winds that will be howling at all hours,

And are up-gathered now like sleeping flowers;

For this, for everything, we are out of tune;

It moves us not.

By giving ourselves over to the world we have dulled and sensitised ourselves to the beauty and majesty of nature, being not moved by the natural wonders that we can see. Wordsworth thus argues that we need to return to Nature and re-kindle our respect and admiration for it by separating ourselves from the malign and profoundly damaging influence of the "world."

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Essentially, those elements in the world that create the feeling of alienation and repression of individual identity are those forces that "are too much with us."  Wordsworth links this with the denial of the natural forces that are present in the world.  The industrialized world, the urban setting, and the conditions that prevent a full embrace of the natural world are the negative aspects of the world that Wordsworth seeks to avoid.  For example, The sea and the winds that might liberate one from world-weariness are depicted as singers or musicians with whose song people “are out of tune.” The reader is then startled by the poet’s sudden, aggressive “anti-confession”: “Great God! I’d rather be/ A Pagan suckled in a creed outworn.”  From beginning to end, the sonnet is seen as an unrelenting attack on superficiality and conventionality in faith and in human motivation promoted by the fixed contours of “the world.”

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