I Sit and Look Out by Walt Whitman

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Every historical period has its own hero of the time. It can be an active businessman or a sensitive aristocrat that fits the time best. In the poem I Sit and Look Out, Walt Whitman describes the horrors of the oppressive age he was living in. However, he does not try to change the situation and only "sits and look out". The question is whether being a spectator is enough to make the life of the oppressed better. The author is the mirror of the cruel 19th century reality, and this is a huge step towards democratization of the overall situation in the society. Even though such hero of the time does not fight for the rights of the oppressed, he makes the reading audience hear the lamenting choir of voices, who wait to be liberated. I Sit and Look Out is closely connected with historical data about the situation in the American society in the end of the 19th century. The ideas of Darwinism and Social Darwinism became a scientific and philosophical basis for labor exploitation of black Americans by rising industrialists after the Civil War. It became a convenient explanation of the racist ideas that were popular in the second half of the 19th century. According to Darwinist ideas, natural selection is the main issue that determines evolution. That means that only the strongest has the right to survive. Darwinism does not consider a human being to be a creation of God and does not take into account the inner desire of the person to grow. Social Darwinism takes the ideas of Darwinism about humans and animals in the wild nature, and applies them to specific social context. According to it, white Americans had a hereditary superiority over former black slaves, that is why they have the right to rule in the United States. In addition,... ... middle of paper ... ...the end of the 19th century was difficult and thousands of people were struggling under oppressive laws, supported by the racist ideas of Social Darwinism, Whitman (or the protagonist) does nothing. He is like God, who created the humans, but who has not intention to create injustice. That is why he is “sitting, looks out upon, Sees, hears, and is silent” (Whitman 1999). One person could do nothing about liberating the oppressed, but he was able to let the others know about the situation. The narrator of I Sit and Look Out can be called the hero of the 19th century in the United States. His voice is heard after many years and shows the historical example “ex adverso”. Works Cited Forsyth, Van. American History: An Anthology, Volume II. American Heritage, Custom Publishing, 1997. Print. Whitman, Walt. Leaves of Grass. Philadelphia: David McKay, 1999. Print.
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