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Idea Of Social Diversity in Song of Myself

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Walt Whitman

Walt Whitman’s America was one of great diversity and cultural flourishing–which he loved. He wrote about he loved all of America, and how he was “at home on the hills of Vermont or in the woods of Maine, or the Texas ranch” (1405). Even with its problems, Whitman had a great appreciation for American culture and diversity. He was at least happy in America, saying “I am satisfied – I see, dance, laugh, sing…” (1395). Most of his view on American diversity can be found in section fifteen of Song of Myself where he lists all the different types of people he knows. Whitman describes one of them in his voice: “the young fellow drives the express wagon, (I love him, though I do not know him)” (1402)–showing more appreciation for all aspects of American life. This writing likely comes from his experiences in New York where he “immersed himself in the pulsing life of that rising metropolis…spending time with his eclectic group of friends, who ranged from workingmen to artists” (1388). Whitman seems more passive to American life than Emerson. While Emerson was trying to influence cultural–or at least intellectual culture–Whitman was more an observer, eager to experience it as he says, “I resist anything better than my own diversity / Breathe the air but leave plenty after me / And am not stuck up, and am in my place” (1405).

To create music and form, Whitman uses techniques anaphora, rhymes, repetition of phrases, and the repetition of sounds. Take this excerpt for example: “And such these tend inward to me, and I tend outward to them, / And such as it is to be of these more or less I am, / And of these one and all I weave the song of myself” (1404). First he repeats the word ‘and’ to start each line, and he repeats the phrase ‘and such’ for the first to lines. The first to lines have a few rhyming words between the two: me and be, and them and am. The third line references the repeated word ‘these’ from the first two lines, and tells why “these” things are significant to him. There is also parallel structure in all three lines, as “And such” or “And of” references two things: those inward to him and outward to him, those more he is or less he is, and those one and all with which he weaves the song of himself.

One passage I really liked was “Listener up there! what have you to confide to me? / Look in my face while I snuff the sidle of evening, / (Talk honestly, no one else hears you, and I stay only a minute longer.) / Do I contradict myself? / Very well then I contradict myself, / (I am large, I contain multitudes)” (1438). I like this passage because it has so much of Whitman’s voice in it, as he directly addresses the reader. I like how he is saying the reader’s response to the poetry is direct to Whitman and cannot be interfered by anyone else, and I like how Whitman says he contradicts himself because he knows so much.

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