Edna St. Vincent Millay

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What are the differences between life at sea and life in the city in the poem “Exiled”?

Quick answer:

In “Exiled,” the main difference between life by the sea and life in the city is that, in the former, there are no people around. Weary of words and people, the speaker yearns for the solitude that life by the sea can bring.

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For many city dwellers, life in the city can get a bit much sometimes. The noise, the hustle and bustle, the dirty streets, all of these things can get to you over time, so much so that one starts to fantasize about leaving the city altogether and seeking out a more tranquil, less unhurried life far from the madding crowd.

In “Exiled,” the speaker yearns to escape from the city, wearied and worn down as she is by “words and people.” Heartily sick of the city, she wants nothing more than to live by the sea on the coast of Maine, where she is certain that she will be happy.

Life in the city and life by the sea are like night and day. For one thing, there is so much nature to see by the coast, with all those “wheeling gulls” and “shells and anchors and ships.” Contrast that to the concrete jungle of the city, with its “great buildings / Stricken with noise, confused with light.”

One also gets the impression that an added attraction of life by the sea for the speaker is the solitude it provides. Unlike the city, where people are everywhere, here it is possible to enjoy the clean, sea air and the joys of nature without being bothered by anyone. It's notable that when the speaker refers to all the wonderful things that the Maine coast has to offer, human company isn't one of them.

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