A Critical Analysis of Walt Whitman’s “Song of Myself”
“Song of Myself” is a poem written by the leading American Romantic Walt Whitman, first published as “The Poem of Walt Whitman: An American” in 1855. It was then the time of Civil War and although America gained independence from the British rule, an ideological and cultural domination still existed. The American Romantic Movement sought to free America of this domination and create its own identity. In “Song of Myself”, Whitman uses unconventional style (showing resistance to European notions of writing poetry) and revolutionary content (emphasizing universality and equality among all people, concepts not approved by the British ) for the same function. This epic is, therefore, considered by many critics as an ideal declaration of the American principle of the right to life, liberty and pursuit of happiness. The analysis of the 21st section is given focus here.
The “I” here represents the ideal American whose identity is given as one who believes in the equality between all binaries as he is the poet of “the Body” as well as “the Soul”, “the woman” as well as “the man”. Blurring all boundaries between these binaries, Whitman advocates American transcendentalism, the idea that everyone and everything is one, contradicting European practices of discrimination. For example he writes, “I say it is as great to be a woman as to be a man”. Also, he subverts the trend of emphasis on day (symbolizing everything that was considered superior like men, whites, industrialization) by beautifying the “tender and growing” night (symbolizing women, ethnic minorities, Nature). According to Whitman, the American believes in the bond of “unspeakable passionate love” between all things, depicting him as the “lover” of the whole of the Earth, including everything in it. “…you have given me love - therefore I to you give love…” (line25) substantiates this claim.
Whitman, being the revolutionary that...