What is the theme of the poem "The World is Too Much With Us?"

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

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The theme of illusion versus reality is a dominant one in "The World is Too Much with Us."

In the poem, Wordsworth reminds the reader that illusion should not be interpreted as reality.  For example, when he writes, "Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers;—," it is a reminder that there is something more profound in our daily lives.  Wordsworth suggests that one of the problems in the modern setting is the "sordid boon!" which mistakes illusion for reality. Wordsworth's poem is a call to change the way in which we view our lives.

He sees existence's illusion as preventing a truer sight from emerging.  When Wordsworth writes of "glimpses" that make him feel less "forlorn," they consist of transcendent visions.  These sights are of "Proteus rising from the sea;" and "old Triton blow his wreathèd horn."  Wordsworth insists that visions of Greek gods are more real than modern reality.

For Wordsworth, the illusion lies in our belief that our daily routines constitute reality.  He argues that what should be seen as authentic requires a different type of sight.  This inward and reflective vision is critical to understanding the world and our place in it.  Wordsworth suggests that we can be happier if we see a truer form of reality in our lives.


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