Walt Whitman: Democracy At Play

2295 Words10 Pages
In 1855, Walt Whitman, an influential American poet published his first edition of his collection of poetry, Leaves of Grass, in which a controversial piece was included, “I Sing the Body Electric.” Whitman wrote the poem during the 19th century and pre civil war, within a free verse genre. Harold Bloom, an American critique and professor at Yale University, mentions in his book, Bloom’s How to Write about Walt Whitman, that equality is one of the central standards of the American society and that throughout most of Whitman’s life, “America struggled to fulfill the promise of equality for all” (Bloom 107). That said, the stereotypical male and female of the 1800s were given defined roles in society: “Man with the head, woman with the heart” (Larke). Woman stayed home and performed tasks that defined their role as a wife and mother. On the other hand, the man’s role was to get involved in outside activities. Today, changes in ideas and aspirations differentiate less the roles of men and women. Women still have main responsibilities for the home and children; however, as opposed to the 19th century, there is a greater measure of equality. Whitman sees democracy as a way of integrating individuals’ ideas into the everyday life, such that all are considered equal. The poem is divided into nine sections in which Whitman challenges the conventional gender roles during the 19th century. In “I Sing the Body Electric,” Whitman argues that all bodies are of equal importance regardless of race, gender or social differences, as he expresses his concern towards the limitations of gender roles based on the norms of society during the 19th century. Through the use of parallel structure, Whitman provides a catalogue of the body by enumeration an... ... middle of paper ... ...hould be considered the same. Works Cited Whitman, Walt. “I Sing the Body Electric.” Poetry Research Center. Academy of American Poets. 13 February 2011. Asselineau, Roger. "The Evolution of Walt Whitman." Asselineau, Roger. The Evolution of Walt Whitman. Iowa City : University of Iowa Press, 1999. 814. Bloom, Harold. "Bloom's How to Write About Walt Whitman." New York: Maple Press, York PA, 2009. 264. Jeffrey Briggs, Anabel Villalobos, Esther Chow, Thomas Hsieh. The Writing Studio: Wiki Page: I Sing the Body Electric by Walt Whitman". January 2011. 14 February 2011 . Larke, Sean. Role of Men and Woman in the 19th Century. 2009. 31 January 2011 .
Open Document