I Sit and Look Out

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Walt Whitman is a poet with a strong sense of mission, having devoted all his life to the creation of the “single” poem, I sit and look out. In this giant work, openness, freedom, and above all, individualism are all that concerned him. His aim was nothing less than to express some new poetical feelings and to initiate a poetic tradition in which difference should be recognized. Whitman is almost as blatant as this in his pacing of current experience because in the short poem “I Sit and Look Out,” he begins “I sit and look out upon all the sorrows of the world, and upon all oppression and shame….” The reader is likely to be in the same position, sitting, while thinking the sorrowful images that Whitman provides. Thus, Whitman establishes a bond or even a subconscious merger between them. His use of “I” (instead of “you),” Whitman becomes all those people in his poems, and yet still remains “Walt Whitman,” hence a discovery of the self in the other with such an identification. In the line 7, I observe a famine at sea–I observe the sailors casting lots who shall be kill’d, to preserve the lives of th rest;, the meaning of “Casting lots” is a random method of choosing somebody, sort of like drawing straws or flipping a coin. Whitman is describing a situation where a bunch of sailors have run out of food on board ship, and they have to kill one of their own to survive. I think the last sentence gives the most meaning to me. “All these—All the meanness and agony without end, I sitting, look out upon, See, hear, and am silent.” Because I think this poem is about all the bad things in the world and that people just observe them, they see that its injustice but they do nothing about it. They keep still. Whitman is making a point that, no one stands up to the injustices of the world, to make things right, as he makes no kind of hint that people put some kind of action to prevent these things. Whitman is urging us, not just to see and hear the meanness and the agony of...
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