The Effect Of Anger And Frustration In Neruda’s Walking Around Poem

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Neruda’s “Walking Around” presents the speakers’ detestable view on society, through the image of a common man on a walk. As the speaker travels Neruda cleverly displays a hateful depiction of society by projecting common day activities as prevalent issues during this time. The speaker himself is disgusted by the human race and the actions taken to depreciate the world and decimate common morality principles. Hence, the speaker feels trapped and isolated by the world around him, particularly society. The world has driven the speaker to feel as a pawn who consequently has no control over his own life. Neruda uses these emotions or experiences to convey a sense of conflict, hopelessness, and criticism. He achieves this by punctuating the poem with the speakers’ disguised reflections of anger and frustration. Neruda uses images of anger and frustration in his poem “Walking Around”: first to present the idea of an internal struggle, second to accentuate a sense of hopelessness and isolation, and lastly to reflect his criticism of the modern world.

Neruda uses images of anger and frustration to reveal the speaker’s internal struggle in “Walking Around’. Trapped within a reality in which the speaker is dissatisfied with his own life, a common walk transforms into a withering tale of identity. The speaker’s contemplation of his identity in society and desire for change is connected through the use of nature imagery which portrays the speaker’s abhorrent perspective on society. Neruda uses the word “root” in line 18, to compare the speaker’s life to a stagnant object showing the halt in his own life as he contemplates his own perception of society. The lack of growth in this statement demonstrates his belief that he himself and the world around him have no capacity for change or progression. The phrase continues, ‘I don’t want to go on like a root in the shadows…” showing that the speaker is exhausted of his place in the world and strives to escape from his life, or inevitably face death (Neruda 18). The dark twist in this stanza is indicative of the hatred the speaker feels upon reflection of the progressive maturation of his world, and the shame he feels for the path humanity has taken. The speaker’s rage shines through on line 13: “How delicious would it be to shock a notary with a cut lily…”. These lines show the speaker’s initial desire to disrupt common practices in society and change the path of his current life in an eccentric fashion. Although, Neruda’s stylistic choice to use references to nuns and religious figures presents a change on an existential level (Neruda 14). A notary is a reference to the culture of death in contrast to a “lily” which is a symbol of purity or devotion, while the nun is a reflection of fate. By using references to death, purity, and fate in the same stanza Neruda paints the idea of transformation. The speaker, a physical representation of the desire for change, wants to retaliate. An innocent portrayal of a walk is translated into a deep internal conflict that reflects a hatred for society and his own life through Neruda’s images of anger and frustration in “Walking Around”.

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The pattern of imagery involving anger in Neruda’s “Walking Around” translates to the hidden expressions of hopelessness and isolation the speaker feels throughout the poem. The speaker has become tired of not only the human condition but his own self-image, specifically, he feels oppressed by the conditional category society has placed him in as a “man”. As seen the speaker states: “Comes a time I’m tired of being a man…” he is tired of being a man, tired of the world around him (Neruda 1). It appears that the speaker is referring to his past and the difficulty he faced in conforming to society which only stemmed from his later hopelessness in human nature. Although the speaker is not only exacerbated by society but the stresses that it brings. Neruda compiles several stresses that the reader experiences from being a man, from the smell of a barbershop: “A whiff from the barbershop has me wailing” to common amenities: “no shopping centers, no bifocals, no elevators…” (Neruda 5-8). The speaker’s hatred for society and himself have projected onto the image of all men, his thoughts of other men he encounters make him further hate himself. This idea of self-loathing is seen on line 39 when the speaker states: “there are mirrors that ought to have wept from shame and terror”. His perception of the apparent evil in the world has manifested in his mind to see bones piercing windows of a hospital, intestines hanging from doors of houses, and human teeth in coffee pots (Neruda 32-37). The grotesque imagery Neruda uses in these lines not only shows the readers’ gory perception of the world, but also his deeper disgust for the people around him. The speaker is unhappy, hopeless, and feels isolated by the people around him, which presently makes him hate society and feel tainted by the bleakness of the world. In short, Neruda uses the idea of anger to portray the speaker’s loneliness and hopelessness in the world.

The presentation of a manmade material world in Neruda’s “Walking Around” reflects the speaker’s aversion to industrialization and the sense of vanity it implanted in humans. The world around the speaker is developing and transforming into a place that promotes the rich and wealthy and above all commends conformity. The speaker is tired of his job and of his life and wants a change from the world he lives in, although he feels opposed to speaking his opinions to others. Beyond his hatred of his own life, the speaker reflects upon his contempt for the vanity that humans have presented in the workplace and home life. Although the speaker hates his position in society, he does not attempt to change it: “I stroll along serenely, with my eyes, my shoes, my rage, forgetting everything,” (Neruda 41-42). Neruda is presenting the idea that the speaker is holding out hope to one day change his life, but himself will not speak out against the injustice he faces. The speaker’s disdain also extends to the business world around him, he hates the shops and the busy streets. Neruda portrays the speaker’s disillusionment by stating: “all I want to see neither buildings nor gardens…into certain shoe stores reeking of vinegar “(Neruda 7,33). Industrialization, the start of beginning and change, something that the speaker can never achieve is most likely the root of his contempt and loneliness. His contempt not only stems from his hatred of industrialization but also the vanity he sees in human nature. Neruda portrays this vanity through carefully placed references using imagery. Specifically, on line 40 Neruda references “poisons” which alludes to the aspects of human nature that the speaker hates in himself and others. The man-made world which has developed into a physical embodiment of vanity, to the speaker’s eyes shows a need for reformation that is necessary in order to rewrite the wrong done by humans. Neruda uses illusions of anger and frustration within the poem to allude to the need for change in the man-made world that stems from industrialization and vanity.

Neruda uses the speaker’s emotions of anger and frustration in correlation with the speaker’s internal conflict, sense of hopelessness and isolation, and criticism of industrialization in order to illuminate the ideas of identity, loneliness, and change within the poem. Neruda also uses the speaker’s reflection on being a man, references to transformation, and the presentation of a manmade material world to demonstrate what he believes needs reform in society. He uses the emotion this poem invokes to express a revelation of the innate evil he witnesses in society. His extensive usage of imagery also portrays a hatred for vanity and self- subservience throughout the poem. To conclude, the role and effect of anger and frustration in Neruda’s “Walking Around” is to shed light on aspects of human nature that present conflict, hopelessness, and change through the eyes of the speaker. 


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