The Significance of Walt Whitman

Essay by MoneyRebornCollege, UndergraduateA+, April 2014

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Christopher Taylor Taylor 1

Marnie Glazier

Introduction to Literature - Short Paper #3

March 18, 2014

The Significance of Walt Whitman

Arguably regarded as one of America's most influential and innovative poets, Walt Whitman played a vital role in America's transition from the practice of old literary conventions borrowed from Europe to the emerging American style of writing. Furthermore, due to America's state of being different both politically and pragmatically from its European counterparts, it was necessary for American poetry to distinguish itself from past models, as well. Thus, new ground is broken in both subject matter and style. In this paper, I'll be analyzing the different themes and symbols in Whitman's works that he used to describe the ideal democracy.

One of the themes frequently portrayed in Whitman's poetry was the idea of democracy as a way of life. Whitman envisioned democracy, not as a political system, but as a way of experiencing the world with one another.

This played a significant role in boosting morale in 19th century America because at the time, people still harbored doubts about whether democracy could survive as a political system. Even more, Whitman imagined democracy as a method of interpersonal communication that allowed individuals to mix their beliefs with their everyday lives. We see one prime example of this in the poem "Songs of Myself" and in the Democratic Vistas; an important work of comparative politics and letters on American Society.

In Songs of Myself, Whitman uses symbols to define the possibilities of democracy, as well as to address important issues. One example of this occurs in lines one and two of stanza six where a child asks, "What is the grass? Fetch it to me with full hands." This is where Whitman establishes the central symbol of...