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What is a summary of "I Sit and Look Out" by Walt Whitman?

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nayanaraj | Student | eNotes Newbie

Posted July 14, 2012 at 3:10 PM via web

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What is a summary of "I Sit and Look Out" by Walt Whitman?

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deedee196 | Student , Grade 11 | eNoter

Posted September 30, 2012 at 8:11 AM (Answer #1)

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"I sit and look out" is a poem about modern society. The narrator is looking out of the window at life- and all that he sees is Sorrow, Suffering, Corruption and Degradation of society. The advent of capitalism and industrialization has had a tremendous impact on the moral values of the people who choose to be detailed observers, as echoed in the title. In this poem, Walt Whitman comments on various matters, but passes no judgement. He allows the readers to make their own interpretations without moral impositions. Whitman was a believer in Individiualism. He preferred to trust his own instincts on matters, which is why he leaves judgement to the readers of the poem. The last line of the poem conveys a helplessness and inability to adress these perennial issues. The poem calls for an awakening in the readers minds, so that they do not simply "Sit and Look Out" but take action and find solutions to society's demons (i.e. the problems mentioned in the poem), and to change the world. All the observations were made during the poets time, the 20th century, and sadly the world has not changed since then.
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sarahc418 | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Assistant Educator

Posted July 14, 2012 at 3:29 PM (Answer #2)

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"I Sit and Look Out" is a poem about Walt Whitman regarding the cruelty of human nature and the sins of people. The entire poem has a negative tone, and there are no positive images to be found in any line. The speaker, while observing it all merely "sees," "hears," "marks" and "observes" each atrocity. At the end, he says that he sees "all the meanness and agony without end" and does nothing. The speaker is silent despite all the horrible things in the world. Walt Whitman here conveys the message that one of the most extreme sins is to be a silent onlooker while others are suffering. 

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