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Vision: "Eyes" and "Look[ing]"

Symbol Analysis

Our self-aware speaker has a habit of using literal vision as a metaphor for the way people look at others (and themselves) in order to size them up and pass judgment. In Sonnet 29, we get the sense that our speaker thinks everybody's always looking at him and passing judgment whenever he's in public. And, when he's alone (as he is during the entire course of the sonnet), he does the same thing to himself. When references to "eye[s]" and "look[ing]" come up in this sonnet, it shows us how vulnerable, insecure, and unloved our speaker feels.

  • Line 1: The speaker starts off by saying he's a "disgrace" in the "eyes" of other men. Of course, it's a metaphor for the way men are judging him lately and thinking badly of him. At the same time, this line leaves us with an image of our speaker getting dirty looks from other people when he's out in public. No wonder our guy feels all alone.
  • Line 4: He says he "look[s] upon" himself and curses his lousy fate. Is he literally looking into a mirror? If so, what does he see? Does he see the same "disgrace" of a man that those other men from line 1 see? It's possible he's not actually looking into a mirror at all. The concept of "look[ing]" is obviously a metaphor for self-reflection. The lines that follow are a giant laundry list of everything the speaker thinks is wrong with him: he's not rich, he's not hopeful, he thinks he's ugly, and feels like he's got no friends, talent, or opportunities. Wait. He thinks he's ugly? Maybe he really is looking in a mirror as he does this self-inventory.
  • But, don't go thinking our guy is having a Michael Jackson "Man in the Mirror" moment. Because, even though our speaker looks at himself and doesn't like what he sees, he never really accepts responsibility for his condition and he never thinks about how he might change his circumstances. Instead, he chalks it all up to lousy luck or "fate." So, even though our speaker is really hard on himself, we're not sure how much insight he actually has.

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