The World Is Too Much with Us

by William Wordsworth

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The World Is Too Much with Us Themes

The three main themes in The World Is Too Much with Us are the power of nature, the dangers of industrialization, and the need for simplicity.

  • The Power of Nature: The speaker believes that nature has the power to heal and transform humans.
  • The Dangers of Industrialization: The speaker believes that humans are losing touch with nature due to industrialization.
  • The Need for Simplicity: The speaker believes that humans need to simplify their lives in order to connect with nature.

Themes and Meanings

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Last Updated September 6, 2023.

Materialism and Consumerism

The poem "The World Is Too Much With Us" by William Wordsworth deeply explores the themes of materialism and consumerism, shedding light on the detrimental effects of a society overly preoccupied with worldly possessions.

In the opening lines, Wordsworth laments how the relentless pursuit of material gain consumes humanity:

The world is too much with us; late and soon,

Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers.

The phrase "Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers" starkly highlights the modern tendency to expend our energy and potential in the pursuit of material gain. This observation emphasizes how individuals channel their time, effort, and creativity into accumulating wealth.

In this sense, Wordsworth showcases the paradox of materialism. While acquiring material wealth might seem rewarding, it often comes at the cost of sacrificing our emotional and spiritual well-being.

...we have given our hearts away, a sordid boon!

...we are out of tune;

The word "sordid" suggests a sense of degradation, implying that pursuing material gain can devalue our humanity. The phrase "we are out of tune," on the other hand, emphasizes the disconnection between humanity and nature. The materialistic mindset renders us insensitive to the profound wonders of the natural world.

The speaker's perspective reveals a critique of this mindset and the broader materialistic society, portraying a secondary theme of societal critique interwoven with the primary theme.

Great God! I'd rather be

A Pagan suckled in a creed outworn;

The words "Great God! I'd rather be" reveal dissatisfaction with society's prevailing values and priorities. The relentless pursuit of wealth and material gain is depicted as a misguided endeavor that leaves individuals spiritually and emotionally impoverished.

"The World Is Too Much With Us" reflects the adverse impacts of materialism, consumerism, and society. It cautions against the heedless pursuit of possessions and invites contemplation on the true essence of a fulfilling life.

Disconnect from Nature and Spiritual Values

The theme of disconnect from nature and spiritual values reflects a deep concern about the harmful consequences of contemporary society's obsession with materialism and its disregard for the beauty and significance of the natural world.

Throughout the poem, the speaker emphasizes how humans are ensnared in a cycle of "Getting and spending," driven by relentless consumerist pursuits. This ceaseless focus on money and power has led to a distancing from the very essence of nature, which once provided solace and inspiration.

The speaker's declaration that "Little we see in Nature that is ours" underscores the notion that humanity has relinquished its rightful connection with the natural world. Rampant consumerism has led to a blindness to the inherent wonders of the environment, as people no longer pause to appreciate the world around them.

Wordsworth's imagery starkly contrasts the alluring charm of the natural world and the constricting hold of twisted societal norms. He suggests that this disconnect from nature and spiritual values is disheartening. It's a shame how people remain indifferent to nature's awe-inspiring power and beauty and how nature no longer moves us.

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.

The sea baring its "bosom to the moon" conveys a sense of openness, purity, and a willingness to reveal its depths, symbolizing nature's inherent generosity. In contrast, the metaphor  "up-gathered now like sleeping flowers" implies the confinement of human promise and sensitivity due to the overwhelming weight of superficiality, egoism, and status-driven...

(This entire section contains 759 words.)

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The speaker expresses a yearning to return to a simpler time when people were more attuned to the natural world's rhythms and found spiritual fulfillment in their connection.

I'd rather be

A Pagan suckled in a creed outworn;

So might I, standing on this pleasant lea,

Have glimpses that would make me less forlorn;

Have sight of Proteus rising from the sea;

Or hear old Triton blow his wreathèd horn.

The reference to "Proteus rising from the sea" and "old Triton blow his wreathèd horn" evokes the realm of mythology, where gods and nature were intertwined, highlighting the loss of this profound connection in the modern era.

In essence, the poem's theme of disconnect from nature and spiritual values serves as a poignant reminder of the importance of maintaining a harmonious relationship with the natural world. The poem's message continues to resonate as a timeless cautionary tale about the perils of losing touch with the natural world and the profound spiritual nourishment it can provide.