Whitman’s “A Noiseless Patient Spider” & “Song of the Open Road”
I see Whitman’s poems intersect with each other when it comes to the concept of freedom created by open spaces. These two poems also intersect when it comes to the burden that weighs people down when they try to exploit open spaces. In the poem, A Noiseless Patient Spider the spider was eager to capitalize on its discovery of unlimited space. However, the spider was overwhelmed by the vastness of space. The spider is unsure what to do next.
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In the poem, Song of the Open Road, the traveler was excited to explore the open road before him (Whitman Song of the par. 2). Nevertheless, he made the heartfelt confession that he still carries the burdens that weigh him down in life. I find it interesting to look into the dilemma that people encounter when they realize their power to travel or conquer open spaces. I always wonder why people are content to live in cities wherein they are confronted with limited space.
People have the capability to leave everything behind, and settle in unexplored territories. The history of the United States is characterized by the actions of explorers. It is impossible to explain the history of America if one will delete the story about Christopher Columbus’ quest to uncover the secret beyond the Atlantic Ocean. U.S. history is incomplete if one will overlook the contributions of Lewis and Clark when they embarked on a quest to discover a westward route towards the Pacific Ocean.
People are unwilling to exploit the benefits provided by open spaces, because they are weighed down by unnecessary burdens. I think that we fear the unknown. We are terrified to contemplate the challenges created by unpredictable terrain. We are afraid to open our hearts in order to embrace individuals with different worldviews. We are afraid to leave our comfortable dwelling places, even if we know that overpopulation will overtake us in the near future.
I understand the predicament faced by the road warrior. However, it is hard to understand the struggle of the spider (Whitman Noiseless Patient Spider par.1). I think that human beings require the familiarity of home before they are persuaded to uproot their families, and live in a foreign land. Just like the spider, we are unwilling to venture into the unknown, until we are able to establish connections with the local people.
Margaret Fuller’s “Summer on the Lakes”
I am fascinated by the author’s statement when she was travelling away from Buffalo, New York. She wrote, “It grieved me to hear these immigrants who were to be the fathers of a new race, from the old man down to the little girl, talking not of what they should do, but of what they should get in the new scene. It was to them a prospect, not of the unfolding nobler energies, but of more ease, and larger accumulation” (Fuller 18).
It is important to take a second look at Fuller’s comments. It is a window to a time when America was not yet overrun by excessive industrialization. An incredible thought came to me when I was reading these lines. I realized that we have become the descendants of the materialistic people that traveled westward in order to exploit the natural resources of states like California and Texas. It is also a revelation to me that we are no longer horrified at the talk of material gain.
When Fuller heard children talk about money and the acquisition of goods, she was confounded by the materialistic nature of the people who were committed to conquer the West. It is important to highlight her reaction, because we no longer share the same view today. It is interesting to note that we consider pronouncements of material gain as commonplace.
When we listen to athletes and celebrities argue about money, we are led to believe that they were entitled to millions of dollars in compensation. I want to understand the value of the contributions of athletes and celebrities, if one compared it to the sacrifices of real heroes like nurses, teachers, firemen, and soldiers.
It is high time to echo the sentiments of Fuller. America’s children must realize that there was a time when great men and women roamed this country not in search of silver and gold. They travelled to exotic places and dangerous locales not for the purpose of personal enrichment. They decided to explore these places to appreciate the raw beauty of the American continent. It is imperative to awaken a different type of patriotism. The successful reawakening of patriotic fervor will help replace the consuming desire for money.
Douglass’ “The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass”
I believe that Frederick Douglas’ account of slavery in the southern states expedited the ratification of the Emancipation Proclamation. As a result, it was signed into law by President Lincoln. I think that there were two major reasons why the book became a bestseller, and compelled white politicians and businessmen to reconsider the idea of slavery. First of all, Frederick Douglas was a former slave. Second, he was the son of a white slave master.
It has to be made clear that aside from his experience and his socio-economic background, Douglas was a force to reckon with, because of his intellect. He taught himself how to read and write. Without the ability to read and write it is impossible to communicate the horrors that have transpired within the slave camps. The author made a commentary on a cruel practice that compelled the separation of mother and her child born in slavery.
Most of the time the child was relocated several miles away, and given under the care of an old woman unfit for field labor. He wrote that he did not understand the rationale for separating mother and child. However, he realized that the ultimate purpose was to “hinder the development of the child’s affection toward the mother, and to blunt and destroy the natural affection of the mother for the child” (Douglas 10). This is an example of his writing that stirred up the emotions of influential leaders in the northern states.
I believe that Frederick Douglas played an important part in humanizing the struggle of the slaves. Before his arrival, American slavery was another political topic that white people discussed in the streets and in the U.S. Congress. However, the books written by former slaves provided an inside look into the horrors of the American slave system. It is impossible to shut off the words that described the inhumane treatment of Negro slaves.
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When Douglas uttered his observations, people realized that they needed to treat Negro slaves as human beings. They began to see another facet of the struggle for freedom. I am also fascinated by the insights of Douglas, especially those that pertain to the transformative power of slavery.
Douglas believed that slavery transformed ordinary people into heartless individuals. I think that this line of thought forced white Americans to eradicate slavery in order to protect a certain way of life. It was made clear to them that slavery was no longer a simple business strategy to lower the cost of production. Douglas made them realize that slavery was a crime against humanity.
Douglas, Frederick. Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglas, an American Slave, London, UK: John Johnson Publishing, 1881. Print.
Fuller, Margaret. Summer on the Lakes, Boston, MA: Freeman & Bolles, 1844. Print.
Whitman, Walt. A Noiseless Patient Spider. 2015. Web.
Whitman, Walt. Song of the Open Road. 2015. Web.