Whitman and Women: "Song of Myself"

Essay by boobyUniversity, Bachelor'sA+, September 2006

download word file, 11 pages 3.0

"I am the poet of the woman the same as the man," Whitman exclaims, in "Song of Myself" (419). The exultant, rolling lines of Whitman's poetry contain abundant references to both the sacredness of women and the limitlessness of their power. At the heart of his representation of women lay his desire to build a new American identity anchored on democratic and egalitarian principles. Whitman depicts women, particularly in their maternal role, as the cornerstones to the realization of his utopian social vision for America, but what is more evident than this powerful glorification of the maternal figure is his revolutionary portrayal of women as highly individualized, self-contained figures. In Whitman's woman the reader sees a soul affirming, sexual being, who is "not one jot less than" man ("A Woman Waits For Me,"16).

Leaves of Grass, Whitman's life collection of poems, portrays women as the gateways to life, and in turn, the gateways to the promise of a libertarian dream.

In "Unfolded out of the Folds" Whitman exalts the sacredness of woman as one who brings forth creation: "Unfolded only out of the superbest woman of the earth is to come the superbest man of the earth (2)." He pronounces that man's greatness is dependent on woman:

A man is a great thing upon the earth and through eternity, but

every jot of the greatness of man is unfolded out of woman;

First the man is shaped in the woman, he can then be shaped in

himself. [11-12]

Whitman advanced the divinity of motherhood, but to him it was much more; motherhood was a sacred solution to the agitation and turbulence of the America of his time. His view of woman as the architect of a new free and equal America is most evident in "Song of the Broad Axe.