Notions Of Freedom Essay

1889 words - 8 pages

Notions of freedom and captivity abound in the writings of Frederick Douglass and Walt Whitman. As contemporaries both men wrote much on the issue of slavery in the United States, Frederick Douglass’s Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass depicts his quest for freedom from captivity. Walt Whitman celebrates the freedom he sees as inherent in America through his verse. The work of both, however, can be seen to have been captive to political considerations of the period.

According to Carl Martin Lindner, “Freedom is central to Whitman’s vision of life – the artistic life, the individual life, and the life of the society.” The notion that freedom is intrinsic to American life is a central theme of Whitman’s writings. The preface to the 1855 edition of Leaves of Grass outlines his admiration of the American people and “their deathless attachment to freedom.” In his letter to Ralph Waldo Emerson in 1856, he refers to the “free modes, characteristic of The States.”

This concept of “free modes,” seen in “Song of Myself” through the use of free verse, a poetic form Whitman is considered to have championed , signals Whitman’s intention to be free from the literary constraints of old Europe. As he declares in his preface, “[the poet] bestows on every object or quality its fit proportions neither more nor less.” Whitman is free to make his own choices concerning the form and subject of his poems.

“Song of Myself” presents the reader with a wide variety of subject matter. By joining with the reader from the outset:

I celebrate myself, and sing myself,
And what I assume you shall assume,
For every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you.

Whitman implies that everything he celebrates in the poem is worthy of celebration by the reader also. Prostitutes, Indian weddings, blacks, suicide, and surgery are among the sights encountered in the poem; taboo subjects for the period, and their inclusion show a democratic ideal of America worthy of celebration in Whitman’s view. By claiming kinship and identity with all facets of the country, Whitman embraces his role as “the mate and companion of people, all just as immortal and fathomless as myself.”

These ideas of equality are extended to women’s rights in “Democratic Vistas”; he posits that one-day women may be “even practical and political deciders with the men.” Writing to Emerson he writes that American poets:

recognise with joy the sturdy living forms of men and women of These States, the divinity of sex, the perfect eligibility of the female with the male, all The States, liberty and equality… the noble southern heart.

Frederick Douglass describes the character of the southern states in a far different manner. His Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass presents a stark counterpoint to the democratic ideals espoused by Walt Whitman. Violence replaces democracy in Douglass’s account, “It is better that a dozen slaves suffer under the lash, than that the overseer should be...

Find Another Essay On Notions of Freedom

Female Deviance Essay

2418 words - 10 pages . Society is still structured as a patriarchal system, in which women still struggle to gain the recognition as individuals without being subject to dominant notions of femininity and its associated expectations.To conclude "Freedom lies in our capacity to discover the historical links between certain modes of self-understanding and modes of domination, and to resist ways in which we have already been classified and identified by dominant [notions

Two Conceptions of Freedom or Two Appearances of a single Conception?

564 words - 2 pages In his essay "Two Concepts of Liberty," Isaiah Berlin distinguishes between two conceptions of freedom, namely negative and positive conception of freedom. Basically he defines negative liberty as the absence of coercion. He states: "To coerce a man is to deprive him of freedom" (121). According to him, coercion is the intention to interfere in the freedom of an individual. Thus, absence of coercion is absence of deliberate

Genophilosophy

2588 words - 10 pages successfully dealing with these questions, there is a need for common efforts of scientists, lawyers and politicians to develop new notions of time, responsibility, freedom, history and subject. Defining those notions will make possible to express these new demands and to formulate our needs and desires. Which kind of freedom, which kind of future, which kind of time, which kind of history, which kind of subject and which kind of human beings we want to

Open Your Mind

1709 words - 7 pages care about its exterior. Superficial sightseers abandon their right to discover sovereignty of the Grand Canyon as it is right before them. Sovereignty is personal freedom to explore true meanings instead of following experts' opinions and messages from the images of the Grand Canyon. This is a loss to sightseers. And they feel satisfied but do not notice their loss. Preconceived notions cause short-sighted views when sightseers come to look at the

My Phenomenology of Freedom

1027 words - 4 pages and without that then it is not freedom at all but simply a puppet controlled by a puppet master by force or being a prisoner in confinement, thus, to have a free will is to have a choice. What if the choices are bad? Can you still qualify it to be free will? I guess it is if it based on one's decision but we all have freedom to do good or evil; yet to make choice of evil is not to use, but to abuse our freedom. So I guess it settles the notions

tort law

10262 words - 41 pages who ground the notions in ideas of freedom and autonomy should have particular difficulty with our demonstration since individ- uals would unanimously reject a fairness notion if it makes them all worse off. Second, there is an important matter of logical consistency. If indeed a principle is shown to be deficient, one cannot consistently adhere to it on the ground that the case in which its deficiency is glaringly apparent is not the case one is

Response to Turner's Essay on The Significance of the Frontier in American History

666 words - 3 pages not being fresh based on ambitions, but were merely victims of their current surroundings. Supporters of Turner's thesis, defend Turner's ideas of the frontier as the opportunity to spawn individualism, democracy, and freedom. Furthermore, they announce his claims as valid and reasonable, defending Turner's notions that during the great American frontier "the thinkers were restless and inquiring, but what they lacked

Formal and Substantive Equality

1254 words - 5 pages the punishment that is seen as fit in a result of an individual’s wrong-doings whereas distributive justice is more of a collective ideology and is based just as much on rewarding someone for their actions as much as delivering the fair and just response to their negative actions. How does negative freedom differ from positive freedom? Negative freedom is the freedom from restraints or external factors. These external factors may

The Many Faces of Freedom

1379 words - 6 pages common people; a rather perilous methodology. He proceeds to claim that the struggle to gain liberty involved restraining such overwhelming governmental power. Drawing from these authors' varying definitions of freedom and liberty, it does seem as though it can be taken to mean whatever one wants. Yet in the context of different theorists, texts, and situations it becomes clear that different notions of freedom can be useful and all ultimately

Freedom from the bars of your soul

2352 words - 10 pages holding a prisoner there no matter how free the inside may be, one is still inside and still trapped within the four corners of the cell, the fence and more specifically the authority in which is restricting one from the freedom they want back. In conclusion, although the argument can be made that prison are more lavish than those of the past, a prison is still denial of freedom. After analysing Foucault’s ideas and notions on the restriction of

What is Third Wave Feminism, and How Does It Differ From Second Wave Feminism?

885 words - 4 pages What is third wave feminism? In what ways is it similar to or different from second wave feminism?Four main points-Explain third wave feminism, core ideas.Second wave feminism.Discuss comparisons.Core notions- in second wave feminism, gender is socially constructed. Preoccupation with equality, what it is, what the ideas were [social, liberal, radical]. Key theorists during second wave feminism argued that the social construction of gender could

Similar Essays

Are The Poor Politically Free? Essay

1968 words - 8 pages I will advance the thesis that under both, the positive and negative, notions of freedom, the state of poverty does not obstruct or lessen political freedom. By saying that the poor are politically free, I mean that although the poor may lack certain goods, they do not lack any aspect of their political freedom. First, I will define political freedom in the negative notion of the word, as “free to the degree that no man or body of men interfere

Freedom And Equality In The Comparison Of Political Systems

2490 words - 10 pages Freedom and Equality in the Comparison of Political Systems ABSTRACT: The notions of freedom and equality in a group are precisely defined in terms of individual exertions of influence or power. Freedom is discussed in the version ‘freedom from’ influence rather than in the version ‘freedom to do’ what one wants. It is shown that at the ideal conceptual level complete freedom implies equality. Given the plausibility of the definitions this

Battle Of The Sexes Essay

814 words - 4 pages The retrenchment of African American women’s freedom was arguably one of the most polarizing events of the 1880s that caused moral and ethical dissent between black men and women. The lack of leadership roles given to women in various religious, and political groups, led to the creation of the Black Women's (convention) Club Movement. With men in control of the religious sphere, the convention allowed women to attempt to do a better job than the

The First Amendment Essay

555 words - 2 pages the course of history by the initial democratic notions of the immigrants to the same desire for greater freedom that we have today. Ever since colonial times, the protection of personal freedoms in the United States has been significantly important. Even in the early stages of American history there was an urge to put legally protected freedoms into written government documents. The result was the drafting of the first ten amendments to the