Walking Around by Pablo Neruda

In “Walking Around,” a poem written somewhere around 1935, Pablo Neruda addresses the conflict of man versus society. He discusses how humans have lost their individuality because all that people want to have is what other people have. It is a sad and despairing poem, as Neruda communicates the emotion of hopelessness to the readers.

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Walking Around

BY PABLO NERUDA

It so happens I am sick of being a man.
And it happens that I walk into tailorshops and movie
houses
dried up, waterproof, like a swan made of felt
steering my way in a water of wombs and ashes.

The smell of barbershops makes me break into hoarse
sobs.
The only thing I want is to lie still like stones or wool.
The only thing I want is to see no more stores, no gardens,
no more goods, no spectacles, no elevators.

It so happens that I am sick of my feet and my nails
and my hair and my shadow.
It so happens I am sick of being a man.

Still it would be marvelous
to terrify a law clerk with a cut lily,
or kill a nun with a blow on the ear.
It would be great
to go through the streets with a green knife
letting out yells until I died of the cold.

I don’t want to go on being a root in the dark,
insecure, stretched out, shivering with sleep,
going on down, into the moist guts of the earth,
taking in and thinking, eating every day.

I don’t want so much misery.
I don’t want to go on as a root and a tomb,
alone under the ground, a warehouse with corpses,
half frozen, dying of grief.

That’s why Monday, when it sees me coming
with my convict face, blazes up like gasoline,
and it howls on its way like a wounded wheel,
and leaves tracks full of warm blood leading toward the
night.

And it pushes me into certain corners, into some moist
houses,
into hospitals where the bones fly out the window,
into shoeshops that smell like vinegar,
and certain streets hideous as cracks in the skin.

There are sulphur-colored birds, and hideous intestines
hanging over the doors of houses that I hate,
and there are false teeth forgotten in a coffeepot,
there are mirrors
that ought to have wept from shame and terror,
there are umbrellas everywhere, and venoms, and umbilical
cords.

I stroll along serenely, with my eyes, my shoes,
my rage, forgetting everything,
I walk by, going through office buildings and orthopedic
shops,
and courtyards with washing hanging from the line:
underwear, towels and shirts from which slow
dirty tears are falling.

Analysis of Neruda’s “Walking Around”

Pablo Neruda’s “Walking Around,” which communicates the conflict of man versus society and the emotion of hopelessness was written somewhere around 1935.

Neruda starts the poem with, “It so happens I am sick of being a man” which gives the poem a tired and agitated mood. He then goes on to point out movie theatres and tailor-shops, both of which concern appearances and illusion. What Neruda tries to say is that he is worn out, he feels lonely in these appearance- oriented businesses, and he is sick of the man-made world of vanity.

He then refers to a barbershop, which also concerns appearance. He says that he does not want to see any more gardens, stores, or spectacles, all of which are about appearance. The other two things that he does not want to see, elevators and goods, concern modern life and society’s desire for more of everything. Neruda then shows that he is tired of his own vanity, as he writes, “I am sick of my feet and my nails/And my hair and my shadow.” Neruda further expresses how he wants to declare the evils of society until he dies.

Neruda writes about how he does not want to go on living like he has been living. He wants to share his observations without fear or insecurity. He does not want to be useless. He then refers to how each Monday, he is forced to go back to the job he hates. As Neruda worked for the government, this shows how he could not express his thoughts about the government he worked for. He creates a dark image of death, and compares every day of his job to death, and then to hell. So, Neruda wants to make everyone aware of their vanity and he would cross God and the government to do it, but he is insecure about sharing his thoughts.

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