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An Inexplicable Nature Of The American Identity

1394 words - 6 pages

In the early years of America’s foundation, a powerful air of uncapped potential, the desire for expansion and individual identification enamored the American people. Progress was inevitable as was cultural definition. But as time progressed, the feeling of unlimited strength, time and space transformed into something that, for better or worse, was no longer shared by later poets. Those of the “New World” came to realize that their world never really managed to leave behind the faults of the “Old.” Societal tension rose as different poets and authors struggled to pin down the direction of American culture and its ideals. When no solid idea was able to capture American culture adequately, the concept of an ever-evolving American identity was adopted. It became apparent that the American identity could not concisely be defined because its description transformed into something greater than itself. Despite the notion of defining something so incredibly wide and vast, society has become increasingly pre-occupied with explaining exactly what the American identity means. Even when authors such as Walt Whitman, Ralph Waldo Emerson and Emily Dickinson navigate the American identity, their ideas, although similar in many respects, offer various nuances and perspectives on the topic. By investigating the various idiosyncrasies of their language and the focus each emphasizes, the complexities of the American identity can truly be highlighted.

In the case of linear movement, Whitman brings forth a distinct perspective of time as he disregards the traditional idea of external reality. This loss is set off by a heightened presence within the realm of consciousness. Therefore, Whitman’s nonlinear form of movement is accompanied by a destruction of what one would consider the normal time sequence. These “superior moments” (Whitman, Leaves of Grass) of fulfilled time are characterized by a more religiously inclined difference. Closely related with this experience of time and space in Emily Dickinson's poetry is the frequent use of tension-filled metaphors and abrupt pauses. In analyzing the structure of each particular movement the reader is struck by two apparently contradictory time principles. On the one hand, Whitman demonstrates a consistent style of for rhythmic and measured motion, represented by an irresistible progression in the form of regular steps that show the advance of generations across centuries. The march of progress exemplifies Whitman’s belief in the perfectibility of a universe and the careful line that must be drawn between a hopeful utopian society and the measureable reality. As Whitman’s universe continues to expand into time and space, there is in fact, no limit to the “perpetual transfers and promotions” (Whitman, Song of Myself) of nature or human development. It is as Emerson proposes in his essay, Circles, “there is no outside, no enclosing wall, no circumference to us” (Emerson, Circles).

It is significant that in Whitman's...

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