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Ideas of Gender and Domesticity in Leaves of Grass and Selected Emily Dickinson Poems

Ideas of Gender and Domesticity in Leaves of Grass and Selected Emily Dickinson Poems
Though both Walt Whitman and Emily Dickinson were highly self-reliant and individualistic, he found importance in the “frontiers” and believed the soul was only attainable through a physical connection with nature, whereas she chose to isolate and seclude herself from her community in order to focus solely on her writing. In this analysis, I will look at excerpts from Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass and Emily Dickinson’s poems, “I’m ‘wife’— I’ve finished that”, “What mystery pervades a well!” and “I’ll tell you how the sun rose”, to contrast their representations of self-realization and domesticity and the implications of this domesticity on their gender.
The first topic I will discuss and compare is their different attitudes toward “domesticity”. This is, of course, the opposite of everything Walt Whitman believed in. As I aforementioned, he held to the belief that the only way to have a pure soul and true connections with the Earth was to venture out into it. Physical, rather than emotional, connections with nature were absolutely necessary to life and to full self-realization (Comment, 62). Section 33 of Leaves of Grass begins with his cataloging all the wonders of nature he has seen, “Where the panther walks to and fro… where the otter is feeding on fish… where the black bear is searching for roots or honey…
Over the growing sugar, over the yellow-flower'd cotton plant… Over the western persimmon, over the long-leav'd corn…” (L, 33), and is followed later on by “no guard can shut me off, no law prevent me”. Whitman is discussing how free and alive he is in the American frontier, and attests that that is the only true way to be free, to find ...

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... and an end to his capacity to write. Domesticity for her—the only circumstances in which she would be able to.

Works Cited

Comment, Kristin M. "'Wasn't She A Lesbian?' Teaching Homoerotic Themes In Dickinson And Whitman." English Journal 4 (2009): 61. General OneFile. Web. 9 May 2014.

Hughes, Gertrude Reif. "Subverting The Cult Of Domesticity: Emily Dickinson's Critique Of Women's Work." Legacy: A Journal Of American Women Writers 3.1 (1986): 17-28. MLA International Bibliography. Web. 9 May 2014.

Farland, Maria. "Decomposing City: Walt Whitman's New York And The Science Of Life And Death." Elh 4 (2007): 799. Project MUSE. Web. 9 May 2014.

Wrobel, Arthur. "Whitman And The Phrenologists: The Divine Body And The Sensuous Soul." PMLA: Publications Of The Modern Language Association Of America 89.1 (1974): 17-23. MLA International Bibliography. Web. 9 May 2014.

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