I Sit And Look Out Summary

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

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As the previous educator mentions, the poem is a catalog of all of the cruelties and acts of meanness that human beings inflict upon one another.

Whitman's narrator makes note of the pain of former soldiers ("secret convulsive sobs from young men, at anguish with themselves, remorseful after deeds done"), mothers misused by their children, wives misused by their husbands, the pain of being unloved or of being jealous, and broader suffering—famine, pestilence, and tyranny.

I disagree, however, with the notion that the poem is completely negative. Yes, it contemplates suffering in numerous forms, but it acknowledges the suffering of those who frequently went ignored, such as women and "negroes," who are regarded as victims of the "slights and degradations cast by arrogant persons."

The narrator does not act to alleviate anyone's suffering ("I sit"), but each line begins with an acknowledgement of that suffering—"I hear," "I see," "I mark," and "I observe"—which is the first step toward action.


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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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