Whitman Essay, Research Paper
Whitman’s Definition of Individuality
During a lecture in 1907, William James said “the philosophy which is so important in each of us is not a technical matter; it is our more or less dumb sense of what life honestly means. It is only partly got from books; it is our individual way of just seeing and feeling the total push and pressure of the cosmos” (Bartlett 546) Individuality has been a prevalent theme in every type of literature for quite some time. Whether it is a character discovering his/her individuality or the author expressing his, literature is full of distinction.
The term individuality has different meaning for each person. This is what makes the dynamic word so great. In many of the works read this session, individuality is a central concept. Walt Whitman expresses his own distinct view of life in “Song of Myself.”
Whitman’s radical ideas of individualism have a great deal to do with his Quaker background. The Quaker religion is one in which the authority is Inner Light. “Whitman himself was not only personally familiar with, but deeply impressed by, a religion whose only authority was the Inner Light” (Canoy 481). The Inner Light is a special influence, which made Whitman’s poetry unique.
This particular influence would guide Whitman on a path of soul searching, as well as help him define himself as an individual. In section fifteen of ‘Song of Myself,’ Whitman describes people from every class and every profession. He writes, “the young fellow drives the express-wagon…love him though I do not know him” (2753). Here we see evidence of the open-minded attitude Whitman wishes people would take toward each other. Whitman demonstrates love for all things—with or without prior knowledge of them. He goes on to say “I…breathe the air and leave plenty after me, and am not stuck up, and am in my place” (2756). Whitman expresses contentment at having explored the world and found his place in it.
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