A man said to the universe:
“Sir I exist!”
“However,” replied the universe,
“The fact has not created in me
A sense of obligation.”

Analysis, meaning and summary of Stephen Crane's poem A man said to the universe:


  1. Abdelouadoud says:

    For the Universe, man is a boring creature, and boring creatures always ask for things that are beyond their prerogatives.
    The Universe represents the vast space of Wisdom,
    Before modernity and Industrial Civilization, the man looked to the Universe with deep questions, curiosity and amazement,
    Modern man looked at the Universe as a rival, this heavy burden over man`s shoulders caused him deep mental exhaustion, and when the man`s brains supports no more the pressure, and straightforward declared his arrogant existence to Whom ? The Universe !!!!
    The Poem is telling how the man sacrificed the whole totality of Wisdom and elevated consciousness for the sake of Scientific Formulas and Industrial Development. For S. Crane, this bargain is a failure of human kind on how to appreciate important things in life, Instead, ruining the blessing of life to material ends, that`s why the Universe was careless and bored, knowing that earthly materialism is no more than a particles that keep shifting shapes and fading to nothingness yet consciousness and wisdom will always remain in a higher ranks which represents the fine minds, that`s what the Universe is looking for in this poem and couldn`t find

  2. Emily says:

    Perhaps this poem was written to remind mankind that the “universe” does not owe us validation, or anything for that matter.

  3. Peter C. Langella says:

    Crane was a naturalist. Thus this poem, ironically.

  4. Julia B says:

    This is one of my favorite poems by Stephen Crane. I think one way to interpret this poem is that it is a simple description of how humans seek validation from sources outside of themselves, and specifically seek validation from entities they perceive to have power greater than themselves. This man is not saying to a blade of grass or a lady bug “I exist”, he calls out to “the universe”.

    When we are born we have a biological imperative to be seen and have our existence validated by our caregivers who have all the power. In fact, infants who are not touched enough can die, so as infants our very life depends on validation of our existence. From the moment each of us is born and crying out for attention, we are asking “the universe” to acknowledge our existence. Yet, ultimately as children develop into adults and our primary caregivers are not all powerful, we inevitably demand external validation from society (the universe), depending on what part of the world we reside, we are likely to get a response of indifference from “the universe” (society).

    But this is just one of many ways to interpret this poem.

  5. jaime3232 says:

    i belive it is telling us that nature takes no notice of our struggles.

  6. Anna says:

    To the guy who commented on the “atrocious speling of (nearly) all posters” you spelled the word spelling wrong. Just thought I should let you know.

  7. Stephen Crane says:

    Double rainbow all the way, what does this mean?

  8. mike says:

    One of my favorites. The important question to ask yourself: Why, if the universe feels no sense of obligation to the man, does it bother to answer?

  9. Amanda says:

    This is an existentialist poem plain and simple. Stop trying to add subtext to it! Just appreciate it for what it is.

  10. Christa M.C. says:

    I don’t think the poem is anything about religion. I think the poem is a representation of a kind a political message. The man represents the people, the Universe represents those in power. I think it is an anti-welfare message. (The man believes he is entitled to certain things while the Universe is telling him no.) A sense of obligation (again, in my opinion) is referring to things like Universal Healthcare, garrenteed rights and priveledges that should be earned instead. The Universe, in this poem, recognizes that they shouldn’t necessarily give in to the desires of the man.

  11. Rachael says:

    This poem is about a man, who represents mankind as a whole, contemplating his existence. The universe represents a god-like figure. The man speaks to say he exists, and the universe is nonchalant and uncaring about it.

  12. ERJUN says:

    does the poem talk’s about fate?

    i do not think so……..

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Do you have any comments, criticism, paraphrasis or analysis of this poem that you feel would assist other visitors in understanding the meaning or the theme of this poem by Stephen Crane better? If accepted, your analysis will be added to this page of American Poems. Together we can build a wealth of information, but it will take some discipline and determination.