“Song of Myself”: Themes and American Influence

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America has always been a nation of free thinkers and pioneers, the poet Walt Whitman is an excellent example of this. Whitman’s poem “Song of Myself”, the most famous poem from the self published book Leaves of Grass, is a remarkable personification of American individualism. He applied his intellect and distinctiveness to his literary work, earning him the title “the father of free verse”. Walt Whitman set out to write a book of poetry that was specifically American, without the influence from European authors that dominated early American literature. He achieves his goal with Leaves of grass, by focusing on the connectedness of the world and the natural desires of a human being. During its time, “Song of Myself” was a spiritual and controversial work, and made use of ideas from several religions to create an altogether different religious experience. Walt Whitman borrowed heavily from Christianity and mixed it with various other religious high notes to form his own blend of spirituality. His poem echoes with the teachings of Jesus, the Celts, and eastern religions. Walt Whitman displayed a significant belief in nature, the human body, and equality. In my view, Mr. Whitman expresses that the world is God’s greatest gift and that the supreme sin is not enjoying the gift in every way, with every sense. Walt Whitman’s poetry, even though widely accepted today as an undeniable literary force, was not met so favorably during his time. Due to the overtly sexual nature of the work, many conventional Americans frowned upon Whitman’s frankness, considering “Song of Myself” to be too risqué. Whitman speaks literally and metaphorically about sex and sexuality during a time when the human body, in and of itself, is a sin. Arms are referred to as limbs, in an effort to disconnect them from the body. Whitman defies society by embracing basic human needs and wants in a

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