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Song of Myself

Uploaded by Brent Goodin on Feb 15, 2002

Forged in the fire of revolution and defined by manifest destiny, America has always been the land of the individual. Although the American dream has not always been coherent, (married with 2.5 kids, 2 cars, a dog and a satisfying job), the spirit of innovation, individuality and progress remains unchanged. The father of free verse, and perhaps the American perspective of poetry, Walt Whitman embodies these values in his life and work. First published in 1855 in Leaves of Grass, "Song of Myself" is a vision of a symbolic "I" enraptured by the senses, indirectly embracing all people and places from the Atlantic to the Pacific oceans. The entirety of the piece seeks to merge the individual and the natural world in an attempt to uncover the individual's humanity.

“Song of Myself” is divided into numerous sections. Each segment exemplifies Whitman’s literary genius. In order to fully understand the meaning of this piece, seven sections have been chosen to highlight the main themes.

Whitman is the subject of the poem and throughout he assumes three identities: “myself,” “my soul,” and “the real me.” When he refers to “myself” that is the persona others see, a peripheral viewpoint of himself. “My soul” symbolizes his inner character while “the real me” remains a mystery to himself as well as the reader. In section five he regards himself as the “other.” “Myself” and the “other” can be used interchangeably. In this section Whitman is making love to his soul. He also makes clear his relationship with God. He believes that the divine and the soul are fused as one. He is convinced that he is God.

In section ten, Whitman sees himself as a hunter in the wild mountainous environment, a sailor, and a clam digger. By the mention of the clam digger, one can assume that his imagination has brought him to New England. His mind runs rampant and he expresses his thoughts on paper; he observed a marriage between “the trapper” and “a red girl.” He also pictured himself taking care of a runaway slave. He is in opposition to bigotry, by his welcoming temperament.

Often in Whitman’s writing he uses lists to add weight to the central focus of his piece. He employs this technique in section sixteen to catalog his many occupations such as: “A farmer, mechanic, artist, gentleman, sailor, quaker, Prisoner, fancy-man, rowdy, lawyer, physician, priest.” He imagines himself in...

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Uploaded by:   Brent Goodin

Date:   02/15/2002

Category:   Literature

Length:   11 pages (2,475 words)

Views:   3018

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