Study Guide

Yet Do I Marvel Weakness

By Countee Cullen

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Nobody likes to admit weakness, but for the speaker of "Yet Do I Marvel," weakness is something nobody can escape. For the speaker, weakness is being unable to understand God's ways. It's not a physical weakness so much as a weakness against a force much greater than all of us: God. But what's troublesome is that God seems like a contradiction. If He's good, why all the suffering in the world? But it's this weakness, the speaker's inability to read God's mind, that leads him to the wonder captured in the turn at the end of the poem—to marvel at being a black poet is surely not a weakness, but it's the speaker's weakness in understanding God's ways that lead to his wonderment in the first place.

Questions About Weakness

  1. How does weakness play a part in the examples of suffering in the first 8 lines (octet) of the poem? Why does the speaker use examples of weakness that can't be changed? In other words, the examples of weakness in the poem seem like they're a permanent state of affairs—how does this affect the overall meaning of the poem? 
  2. How does the speaker portray God as someone who is too powerful to be understood by human beings? What words, images, and references does the speaker use to clarify God's power over life? 
  3. Is the last line of the poem about weakness or is it about empowerment? How does the speaker's claim that humans are powerless over God become the source of wonderment at the end of the poem?

Chew on This

Pain is just weakness leaving the body, right? Uh, okay, that might help if you're Rocky Balboa training for a title fight, but if you're like the speaker, then weakness over understanding God's mysterious ways is the cause of much suffering and confusion in the world.

Despite a list of different ways we suffer in life, the speaker turns weakness over God's ways into a strength that leads him to marvel at his own identity as a black poet.

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