While reading through the poem Song of Myself by Walt Whitman, what comes to your mind? His deep love for nature? The use of symbolism throughout the poem? Whitman’s questionable homoeroticism that seeps its way throughout the lines? What came to the forefront of mind when reading this poem by Whitman was his deliberately obvious theme of individuality while also maintaining a universal identity. I also think that Whitman throws in a common underlying theme of transcendentalism throughout his poem. At various times throughout Song of Myself, he really seems to show that each individual person has a sort of knowledge about themselves that surpasses their logic and sense but rather, uses their intuition and inner soul. He also shows how each individual person is, in fact, their own person, but that each person is a part of a bigger, universal identity. Whitman’s theme of transcendentalism intertwined with his main theme of individual having both personal and universal identities is what will be explored in this close reading analysis.
Whitman first shows his theme of individuality while having a universal identity in the very opening section of Song of Myself. The poem reads “I celebrate myself / And what I assume you shall assume, / For every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you.”(1-3) Initially, as the readers, we must question who the I is here. I interpreted it to be Walt Whitman himself. He never comes out and says the I is himself but as a reader, this is what can be assumed. As you dig deeper and analyze this passage you can see that Whitman is stating that although he is reveling in his self, he also has an association with all people. He is no better of a person...
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... a much bigger picture such as a lawn. Whitman also shows the each of our self-identities are vital to the universal identities when he writes about growing among different races and groups. Again, he is telling us that even though we are our own entire person, we are equal. No man is greater than anyone else. Whitman shows his transcendentalism side here because to come to this conclusion that grass is so much more than just grass, he had to look deeper than his senses or his logical knowledge of grass. Sight, taste, touch, smell, or sound couldn’t have helped him answer the boy’s question. Taking classes on the importance of grass could not have accomplished this either. Whitman shows here that a person must look inside themselves and see what their soul is telling them because at times, it can provide infinitely more wisdom than a scholar or a book ever could.
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