Age of Expansion Essay

Walt Whitman’s “Song of Myself” is a great example of the innovation and sentimentalism of his poetry that Perkins refers to in his introduction. There is a definite optimism underlying much of the poem, particularly in the connectedness Whitman expresses to the rest of the world, “For every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you” (13, ll. 3). Not only does he express a connectedness to humanity, which throws light on the realism at the heart of the piece, but also a continuity to nature and thought, “I have heard what the talkers were talking, the talk of the beginning and the end,/But I do not talk of the beginning or the end./There was never any more inception than there is now” (14, ll. 38-40). He seems to express a need to live in the here and now, to experience life as it happens – each moment unique and full of importance as the next, not only the beautiful but also the brutal, “The suicide sprawls on the bloody floor of the bedroom,/

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I witness the corpse with its dabbled hair” (17, ll. 152-53). He does not go on to express in minute detail the meaning of the corpse but instead, like the writers who followed him, acted as a witness for the event not an interpreter. He tells little of this man, just as his allusions to sex are surely intimate but intimate on a broader level of humanity that allows each person who reads to connect personally with the text. The poem may be “Song of Myself” but Whitman’s intent to identify himself with everyone and therefore allow him or her to identify with him is successful in its realism and imagery.

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