Individualism And Community In Walt Whitman's Song Of Myself

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E pluribus unum—out of many, one. This is the motto of the United States of America, a nation that prides itself with democratic characteristics such as individual rights, community through patriotism, freedom, and equality for all. However, these concepts are just ideals as individualism and community contradict each other as well as freedom and equality, and historically America has had difficulty balancing these ideals. One of Walt Whitman poems preaches the possibility that these concepts can work together. “Song of Myself” is Whitman’s paean to his ideal of American democracy, an idea which balances, or attempts to balance, freedom with equality, individualism with community, a relentlessly inclusive, or as Whitman puts it, “absorptive” …show more content…
Regarding the content of the poem, Whitman addresses the balance of individualism and community in order for a democratic nation to succeed. A community is made up of individuals, so while all of the community members share common characteristics, they also have to differ from each other so the community can grow and progress. If every individual thought the same way and did the same things, the community would become stagnant. In “Song of Myself,” Whitman takes this ideology and adapts it to poetry. Poetry is typically about either the poet and their thoughts and actions, or about one character’s journey through the poem and their thoughts and actions. However, Whitman makes this poem about both himself and the reader. Obviously the poem is about Whitman’s beliefs—just look at the title. But in the poem, he does something so simple yet revolutionary for poetry that also emphasizes a balance of individualism and community, private and public thoughts: he directly addresses the reader. For example, in lines 1207-1208, “Not I, not anyone else can travel that road for you, / You must travel it for …show more content…
First of all, Whitman did not stick to either of the two popular forms of poetry: lyric and epic. Instead, he presents his ideas as a free verse poem, combining elements of both of the favored poetic forms. Whitman’s free verse poem expresses his thoughts and feelings like a lyric poem, but the poem is focused on two characters, Whitman and the reader, allowing it to have a narrative feel, demonstrating qualities of epic poetry. Because free verse poetry includes lyric and epic elements, this form is an example of equality. It gives both of the popular forms recognition is the different aspects that are utilized in free verse. In addition to this, the form of the poem makes it accessible for many people to read, further stressing the ideas of equality and freedom as it has no

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