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Walking Around by Pablo Neruda: Summary & Analysis

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  • 0:03 Pablo Neruda's Poetry
  • 1:01 Summary of the Poem
  • 3:52 Analysis
  • 4:51 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Ginna Wilkerson

Ginna earned M.Ed. degrees in Curriculum and Development and Mental Health Counseling, followed by a Ph.D. in English. She has over 30 years of teaching experience.

'Walking Around' is a rather dark poem by South American poet Pablo Neruda. This lesson will summarize the content of the poem and analyze what deeper meaning can be found.

Pablo Neruda's Poetry

Often, talented people are discouraged by parents from pursuing those talents. This was the case with Pablo Neruda, whose father discouraged the young poet from any career in literature or the arts. Yet he persisted with his urge to write poetry.

Pablo Neruda is the pen name of Ricardo Eliezer Neftali Reyes y Basoalto, born in Chile in 1904. Neruda adopted his famous pseudonym early in life; under this name, he became perhaps the greatest South American poet of the 20th century.

Although Neruda and his poetry are known world-wide, sometimes Americans, in particular, have trouble with the man's strong association with the Communist Party. In addition, his poems often prove difficult to translate from the original Spanish. Yet most students of literature will recognize at least one of Neruda's poems.

This lesson will summarize and look at the meaning behind one of Neruda's well-known poems, ''Walking Around.''

Summary of the Poem

You may know that some poems are called narrative poems, because they tell a story. Those that do not have a story-like format are called lyric poems. ''Walking Around'' actually has elements of both narrative and lyric formats.

The narrator describes things he sees on a walk. The reader can easily imagine a man walking about in his daily life and observing gardens, houses, shops on the street, and birds in the environment.

There is also a lyric element in this poem, as the walk the narrator takes is not chronological. The reader gets the sense that it may be many walks that together add up to a particular impression or emotion. This is a sad, despairing poem, and this emotion of hopelessness is strongly communicated to the reader.

The opening line states:

''It so happens I am sick of being a man.''

This line, along with the negative impressions the poet gives us of everyday sights, tells us right away that the narrator is emotionally distraught. Think for a moment about the difference between wishing for death and wishing not to be a person. The difference is subtle, almost a break in the man's ability to look at life in a realistic way.

In the second and third stanzas, we are told that he is tired of everything involved in daily living: the shops, the material objects (goods), and even his own body parts. Even his shadow is seen as a troublesome attachment.

The third stanza lets the reader know what might still motivate the narrator to keep living; and the images are a bit scary:

''to go through the streets with a green knife / letting out yells until I died of the cold''

Have you ever felt, even for just a while, that everyday activities seem to pile up and overwhelm you? This seems to be what Neruda is telling us about his own mental state in the next two stanzas. Things we might think of as positives, such as eating, or trees having roots in the earth, are turned around; there is nothing that the poet doesn't see through the lens of death and decay.

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