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The Biography of Walt Whitman Essay

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Updated: Sep 17th, 2021

Walt Whitman was an outstanding and unique poet of the 19th century who foresaw new social and political changes. Whitman voiced ideas about man, society, and the universe that in many ways characterize the general perspective of the modern mind as affected by the ideas of science. Thesis Whiteman wrote because he wanted to educate a common man about social changes and political ideas, new visions of freedoms and personality.

Walt Whitman wrote because he wanted to inform general public about social changes and processes affected American community. The greatness of his writing is the ability to combine a realistic and unsparing evaluation of both the contemporary failings and the structural weaknesses of democracy with a full statement of its spiritual potential. Following Gambino (2003): “Whitman’s faith in democracy … was rooted in a belief in the best of the human souls of ordinary citizens, often dismissed as his “mysticism”. The main themes, connected with social and democratic changes, were ideas of freedom and the self, freedom of choice and unity if the nation. In “the Song of Myself” he writes: “And beat the gong of revolt, and stop with fugitives and them that plot and conspire” (Whitman, p. 34). One key to this unique balance may be found in the unusual factors influencing its composition and racist language.

Whiteman wrote because he tried to anticipate scientific and social liberation telling people about new rights and freedoms proposed by the new age. He anticipated the big picture of the cosmos, energetic, pulsating, multitudinous, evolutionary, creative, many-layered, knowable, mysterious, individuated, and organized. For those who share and appreciate this perspective today, his message is therefore contemporaneous (Reynolds, p. 65). Whiteman declared, writing of his hope for the unification of Americans, is “the law of successions” (Mack, 2053). It is spiritual progress toward higher unity. The poet was expressing his sense of connectedness with all things, of the unification of processes in a field, of the material and energetic continuity of all things, of the fact that nothing is lost in its energetic character but only transformed into a new form, of the evolution of physical and biological energy For this Whiteman did not need all the theories, but for him they did illustrate, extend, and confirm his direct intuition.

Sexual orientation and new vision of human sexuality forced Whiteman to speak about these problems and tell people about new social imperative. Critics (Reynolds 133) recognized the strong presence of homosexual feelings in Whiteman’s life during the Civil War period, expressed in his dedicated visiting of the wounded and strongly suggested in some unpublished manuscripts and notebook entries of the period and in his correspondence with soldiers he met during the conflict. Following Reynolds (2005): “in his poetry he treated sex and the body in a physiological, artistic way as a contrast to what he saw as the cheapened, often perverse forms of sexual expression in popular culture”. Drum-Taps poems were the second of two concerted attempts Whiteman made during his career to fashion a homosexual affirmation. In the poem Reconciliation he writes: “WORD over all, beautiful as the sky, ‘beautiful that war and all its deeds of carnage must in time be utterly lost” (Whiteman, p. 78). These lines show that poetry and ‘’’a word” was the main tool used by Whitman to express himself and his emotions.

In sum, Whiteman bypassed the abstractions of nineteenth century materialism and went directly to his experience with people and nature. He spoke about new social landscape and wrote about his experiences and feelings.

Works Cited

  1. Gambino, R. Walt Whitman: He Was a Liberator of People and Culture, Using a Liberated Poetic Form. The Nation 277, (2003): 14.
  2. Reynolds, D. S. Walt Whitman. Oxford University Press, 2005.
  3. Mack, M. The Norton Anthology of World Masterpieces. W. W. Norton & Company; Exp Sub edition, 1997.
  4. Whitman, Walt. Complete Poetry and Collected Prose. Ed. Justin Kaplan. New York: Library of America, 1982.
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