The Speaker’s Conflict with Identity in Neruda’s “We Are Many”
The problem of self-identification is a frequent topic for reflection by philosophers and psychologists. Each person can express himself in different ways in different conditions and situations. The speaker of Pablo Neruda’s “We Are Many” is very puzzled by his own uncertain identity and wants to understand who he really is. In various life situations, his opposite personal qualities come into conflict with each other giving him additional discomfort. Finally, the speaker understands that the problem of self-identification may be inherent not only to him; each person is so multifaceted that this issue requires in-depth study. Therefore, in Pablo Neruda’s “We Are Many,” the author shows internal conflicts which the speaker must overcome on the path to self-identification.
The speaker tries to reveal his true identity. He doubts who he really is. Among the many personal qualities, the speaker tries to allocate one to self-identify: “Of the many men who I am, who we are / I can’t find a single one” (Neruda 1-2). He tries to study himself as best as possible to understand which personal quality prevails and plays a leading role in his decision making. He realizes that, due to circumstances, he behaves like different people, but he emphasizes that he wants to be one person. The speaker wants to change the situation, but he does not succeed. The main reason why he cannot understand his essence is the large number of people with whom he identifies himself: “I never know who I am, / nor how many I am or will be” (Neruda 30-31). The speaker recognizes that a multitude of selves lives inside him and each of them expresses his different and changing facets. He is very concerned about this issue. Thus, self-identification is the task that the speaker must solve in a given period of his life. In addition, the numerous personalities of the speaker come into conflict with each other. The speaker is concerned about the unpredictability of his own behavior. He tries to be a highly intelligent person, but in some cases, he acts as a fool: When everything seems to be set to show me off as intelligent, the fool I always keep hidden takes over all that I say (Neruda 5-8)
The speaker recognizes that identity is not fixed and static. It is always moving. He tries to control himself, but it is not possible. He really wants to be courageous, but the inner coward does not allow him that: “And when I look for my brave self, / a coward unknown to me / rushes to cover my skeleton” (Neruda 11-13). The speaker is desperately trying to find a nobility in his soul and to be a hero, but something inside of him prevents this. Thus, the author emphasizes the fact that there are many different, contrasting, and even contradictory personalities within him who are not controlled. The speaker wants to know how widespread this problem is among other people. He assumes that, by achieving intrapersonal balance, he will succeed in achieving balance throughout the world. The speaker wants to know whether the identity conflict is internal only for himself, or if there are people with the same problem: I would like to know if others go through the same things that I do have as many selves as I have and see themselves similarly. (Neruda 38-41)
The author wants to make sure that someone else besides him is also concerned with the issue of self-identification. In addition, he is interested in how these people perceive this situation. He wants to understand whether it is important to them as much as to him. Also, the speaker considers that the discovery of various and contrasting aspects of personality is similar to the discovery of various places and reliefs on earth: “That when I explain myself, / I’ll be talking geography” (Neruda 44-45). Comparing the many personalities with little-known alien lands, the speaker tries to explain to himself that multifacetedness is a common phenomenon in our world. He suggests that it will take a lot of effort to understand why this is happening and how to control it. The author believes that the secret corners of the human soul are as mysterious as distant lands requiring detailed study. Thus, the narrator wants to recognize whether each person is really made from many different selves and how common this phenomenon is. As demonstrated by Pablo Neruda in his poem “We Are Many,” the speaker needs to overcome internal conflicts in order to self-identify. He wants to figure out who he really is. Also, the speaker is especially concerned about the conflict between his different personal qualities. As result, he decides to investigate this problem more deeply to understand how important and common it is among other people. Since the behavior of the same person in different situations may vary, this question may be relevant for many people.
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