The Sexual Nature of Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman

1060 Words5 Pages
‘To a stranger’ is a poem written by Walt Whitman, which was published as a part of the collection of his poems titled “Leaves of Grass”, in the year 1855. The sexual nature of the poems in this collection fuelled a great controversy at the time of its publication, and in 1865 he lost his government job as a result of the indecent behavior which his boss saw reflected in his works. In the “leaves of Grass” there is a separate cluster of poems called the “Calamus”, and “To A Stranger”, is a part of that cluster. The main theme discussed by Whitman in this poem is the quest for love, understanding and companionship. In this poem Whitman expresses a feeling of yearning directed, not just to a person, but in general to the world. He sees brief and chance encounter of strangers as an opportunity for them to interact, and enter into a relationship. From the subsequent lines, the readers are led to believe that the narrator is in love with the stranger. However throughout the poem, the narrator remains skeptical whether to approach the stranger, and talk to him or her. The poem may also have been a dream vision, as Whitman relates to a transient experience, recalling some of the things the stranger and the narrator might have done together. "You grew with me, were a boy with me, or a girl with me... "I ate with you, and slept with you". It is also not addressed to a particular person, thus the vision of the strange person (who Whitman says might be he or she) is a metaphor, to a generic everyman we encounter in life. He uses the exclamatory mark in the very beginning, to lay emphasis on the word stranger, which is the key of the poem. No other line in the entire poem carries an exclamatory mark in t... ... middle of paper ... ... reality. In essence Whitman, through this poem, conveys the spiritual intimacy he feels with all men and women of his country. Through this Whitman, throws light on the commonalities that exist between all human beings, and explains why we should not remain strangers to each other. The ending of the poem confirms that the stranger is a product of a dream. "I am not to speak to you, I am to think of you when I sit alone. . .” It is clear that the stranger resides in Whitman’s mind or intellect, and thus there is no chance of losing him/her. He talks directly to the stranger in an active voice, which provides the poem an intimacy. Whitman’s poem talks about love and the quest for it, and the use of simple vocabulary enables even a common man to identify with his theme. He ends the poem with the hope that, love even with a stranger- will find its way.

More about The Sexual Nature of Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman

Open Document