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How Walk Whitman And His Work Portray True American Values

2131 words - 9 pages

Many of Walt Whitman's poems are expressions of American life and culture. His works serve as a definition of America by uniting all of its greatest qualities, including democracy and diversity. Whitman was a real American man and the country's first national poet.Whitman is constantly seen as a straight-forward, opinionated man. His unconventional, unique approach to poetry seems to resemble America's attitude about life (Wiener 12-13). He saw himself as a common and "rough" working man. Much like people's views of America, Whitman received mixed reviews, but those who connected to him really loved his works. Ralph Waldo Emerson claimed that Whitman's book was the "most extraordinary piece of wit and wisdom that America has yet contributed" (Conarroe 5).One of Whitman's shining qualities was his relation to all Americans regardless of race, gender, religion, or lifestyle. The use of "I" in several of his poems refers not only to Whitman himself, but to anyone with goals similar to his. His poems relate to all people that work towards freedom and equality. His poetry can relate to all of the people who are chasing the American dream. The speaker portrayed in Whitman's works is really the epitome of all Americans. The speaker is a hard working, simple, and often an assertive person (Wiener 196-198).Whitman has shown himself to be "the spokesperson for women as well as men, blacks as well as whites, the well-heeled and the downtrodden" (Pinsker). Disturbed by all types of discrimination, Whitman was an abolitionist and a feminist. He acquired sympathy for slaves early in his life when he interacted with the young slaves on his family's farm. Later, he disapproved of anyone who was pro-slavery (Wiener 79, 196). Whitman used inclusive words such as "the man or the woman," instead of using 'man' to encompass both genders (Wiener 59). He showed these feelings of equality in his poem "One's-Self I Sing" when he states, "The female equally with the Male I sing" (Miller, James 257).Whitman played many roles during his life but the one that remained closest to his heart was that of the working American. This is the lifestyle that he wrote most about (Bloom Walt Whitman 1985 103). He considered himself a Jacksonian Democrat, a man concerned with the common people (Wiener 134).Whitman had called himself "one of the roughs." Whitman is not shy in showing exactly who he is. He showed his readers how he wanted to be perceived directly at the beginning of his book Leaves of Grass. Instead of printing his name on the cover, there was a picture of himself wearing his working clothes and a hat tilted on its side (Conarroe 3-5). Then, in "Song of Myself," he tells the reader that he is "Walt Whitman, an American, one of the roughs, a Kosmos, Disorderly, fleshy, and sensual" (Hindus 56).In one of his most famous poems, "I Hear America Singing," Whitman illustrates the American dream of various working citizens. The poem includes laborers such as carpenters and...

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