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In The Eyes Of Walt Whitman

1010 words - 4 pages

IN THE EYES OF WALT WHITMAN.The unique path that Walt Whitman followed during the American Civil War (1861-1865) led to an insightful record that captures the turmoil of this era on an intimate level. Like all transformational events in history one must examine the literature of the time to reach an understanding of the effects on common people. Whitman is generally regarded as the greatest American poet. This essay will show the many themes in his prose.Whitman was considered one of the most important American poets of the 19th Century. Whitman was a free thinker who wrote how he lived while managing to be optimistic and romantic which inspired his readers. Whitman identified strongly with the average person of society. One famous quote he wrote said "Not till the sun excludes you do I exclude you." (Lowen, Nancy- page 11) People hailed him as the most authentic voice of the United States of America. Edgar Allen Poe had said, "The vitality and variety of his life was the mere reflection of the vitality and variety of the United States of America."The most poignant scenes of the Civil War come from Walt Whitman's wartime prose and most distinctly his book of poetry entitled "Drum Taps" in 1865. Several of "Drum Taps" poems resulted from his years in Washington, D.C., spent as a psychological nurse healing sick and wounded soldiers. Whitman wrote to a friend in 1863, "The doctors tell me I supply the patients with a medicine which all their drugs & bottles & powders are helpless to yield"(2) in reference to the aid of his cheerful disposition and careful attention to the welfare of the soldiers.Whitman's most persistent American theme is "the individual and the community," in "Song of Myself" he introduces himself as "Walt Whitman, an American." This shows his ideas on social unity and the importance of each individual. His ideas about the Civil War are reflected in many of his poems. In "Beat! Beat! Drums!" he decribes how war disturbs the lives of everyone, without remorse. I believe he thought it was a terrible thing that we had to fight against our brothers, that it was necessary in order to rid our country of slavery. Whitman, an abolitionist, saw the Civil War as a last resort that was a long time coming.Another theme is the illumination of light and shadows and darkness to depict the battleground. Whitman suggests this quality of moonlight in "Look Down Fair Moon." In one aspect, Whitman uses the concept of illumination to glorify images of soldiers. He even used words such as "Christ like to describe one of the soldiers. However, he also uses the concept of illumination to expose the horrors of war particularly the bodies of dead or wounded soldiers. In addition, Whitman uses reflection of light to express a literal absence of holiness, as well as his own concern about depicting real images in poetry. On one hand, Whitman commemorates the dead soldiers by requesting that the moon "bathe this scene" and "pour softly...

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