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Caryn for September 1st

In “Song of Myself”, Walt Whitman toys with the comparison between god, the poet, and the man; all of which are interchangeable.  His “I” is a general “I”, he is every man, every women, in every shape, color, and class.

As the poet, he is the constant observer, chronicling every aspect of life, from east to west, north to south, mountains to seashore. Through his observations, he constructs and image to the reader that suggests and open minded view of the world. He talks of intermarriage between a Native American Girl and a trapper and a runaway slave that he nurses back to health (p 35).  This perception of his world evokes and ideal of what should and should not be, rather than what was truly going on at the time.

Though in the very beginning of the poem Whitman intentionally draws attention to himself as an individual: “the shelves are crowded with perfumes, I breathe the fragrance myself, and know it, and like it” (p 27) and constantly refers to “I” and “Me” throughout, it does not seem to imply one actual person but more of a universal collection of people and things; a widening scope that spans throughout time, space, life, death, and everything in between. He reminds the reader that death does not make people or things disappear but rather “all goes onward and outward…and nothing collapses”. (p 32)

Whitman maintains the principle theme of grass throughout the poem explaining that grass is everywhere, just as god is everywhere, it does not discriminate between races or sexes. “This is the grass that grows wherever the land is and the water is, this is the common air that bathes the globe.” (p 43) Meaning that god does not discriminate, he and “I” love all and are all equally.  He goes on to remind us that there should be no judge, that we are not better than the other.

“Song of Myself” at the surface seems to be a crisis of Whitman’s personal identity, but once the spectrum is broadened, Whitman challenges the reader to experience life and divinity for themselves, not through teachings in school, the bible, or even by parents.  Whitman urges us  not to fear death, “I depart as air” he explains, “I bequeath myself to the dirt to grow from the grass I love, if you want to look for me under your bootsoles.” (p 88) He illustrates the fact that we are all creatures of god, constantly reflecting gods work and when we depart this earth, we do not disappear.

~ by carynlev on August 30, 2009.

Uncategorized, whitman@umw

One Response to “Caryn for September 1st”

  1. Caryn, I agree that the descriptive observations Walt Whitman provides for the reader helps to demonstrate the open mindedness we, as readers, should have. Also, you did a great job of pulling out important quotes that help to illustrate the theme of open mindedness and new perception. Your post was easy to follow and well written. Nice Job!

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