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Metaphors Of Freedom In Walt Whitman’s “When I Heard The Learn’d Astronomer”

953 words - 4 pages

Metaphors of Freedom in Walt Whitman's "When I Heard the Learn'd Astronomer" Walt Whitman, more than most poets, stressed his pure thought in his poems. That is, he stressed feelings towards issues that he attended to every day. This way of expression tends to draw the reader closer to the poem, and allows them to feel the conflict of thought which the author tries to convey. Generally, Whitman expresses an idea that separates conventional thought from that of his own mundane thinking. In his poem, "When I Heard the Learn'd Astronomer, Whitman expresses a need for freedom in more than one way. He grasps the righteousness of something seemingly mathematical and explains its worth as something creatively fulfilling. The main idea of the poem focuses on the worth of individual thinking over that of logical, universal thinking.The first of the two main sections of the poem consists of the first four lines. They all begin with "When. " This suggests that Whitman refers to the past in this section. He begins by telling his audience of the time in which he heard a "learn'd astronomer." Right away, the reader assumes the astronomer to be a respected figure, and someone of great worth. Whitman must also have believed this, as he seems to convince himself of it. This astronomer symbolizes a set way of thinking. So far, there is freedom to think in the way the astronomer does, yet no other choices appear. This way of thinking remains as the way of thinking, disregarding any other sense of thought. The situation, in effect, is similar to that of a court case where a witness has been asked to tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth. It seems that the reader is being led to the whole truth, yet in fact they are getting part of the truth from this astronomer. He is learned, but only logically.The astronomer leads Whitman to believe that what he says is the truth, and lays the information out for him to see. When all is said and done, the belief carries through as blindly as a child accepts candy. Up to this point, Whitman knows the facts. He has what has been given to him and nothing more. He has freedom to accept or reject, and he accepts. This appears to be a metaphor of many natures. Perhaps, it confronts the idea of slavery. In Whitman's time, slavery was a huge issue. It had always been assumed that the African American people were not of the same status as Caucasians. People had been taught what they had thought to be the truth, but the idea of equality never struck them as a possibility. Most of the population agreed completely with those who opposed racial equality. It was simply "the way things were" at the time. Those who agreed with racial...

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