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Individuality And Democracy In Walt Whitman's Song Of Myself

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Walt Whitman is considered the foremost poet of American democracy of his time. Not only did he fully embrace it, but he believed that American democracy was more than a political system, but a way of life (Casale 48). Many of his personal experiences influenced his deep democratic point of view (48). As a volunteer at an army hospital during the American Civil War, he saw many die and became increasingly grateful for the opportunities provided by the American government (Mirsky). Later, as he was residing in New York City, Whitman witnessed America face urbanization. He loved the diversity of the cities and believed it was possible because of democracy (Brand). This adoration of democracy is apparent in many of Whitman’s works, such as “Drum-Taps”…show more content…
The poet was fascinated with the realization that masses of unique individuals construct a single democracy under which everyone is amalgamated. As aforementioned, this paradoxical concept of individuality coexisting with unity and equality is evident in “Song of Myself” (Chase 132). Whitman believed the theme of unity is a common link embracing all humanity. Whitman also felt that “one of the founding beliefs of American democracy is the fundamental equality of all people” (Casale 49). In “Song of Myself,” the people portrayed as a collection of distinct individuals with their own soul and…show more content…
In a significant event in section six of the poem, a child asks, “What is grass?” (91). The speaker does not know how to answer, but in this case, grass becomes a visual metaphor for American democracy, a group of equivalent individuals (Casale 64). Whitman struggles to answer the child, but he knows for certain that it –both grass and democracy—is for everyone: “…old people… women, and… offspring taken soon out of / their mothers’ laps” (106-107). This relates to individuality and unity because multiple blades of grass create one field, just as myriads of people unite under democracy (Delancy). Just as grass grows everywhere, the poet believed that American democracy should be spread and become an international concept. Furthermore, grass is separate blades, or leaves, that grow together and form grass, which is considered one whole entity. Whitman loved how nature reflected the paradox of
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