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do you think whitman fits emerson's category or would you ultimately describe him...

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mdveil | Student, Undergraduate | eNotes Newbie

Posted September 22, 2012 at 8:25 PM via web

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do you think whitman fits emerson's category or would you ultimately describe him differently or who would you compare him  to in today' culture?

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sarahkoehler | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Adjunct Educator

Posted September 22, 2012 at 8:37 PM (Answer #1)

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Keep in mind that both men are Transcendentalists and that Walt Whitman is answering Ralph Waldo Emerson's call for "An American Poet." The two are very similar -- both focused on the greatness of the individual and his ability to work with others for the betterment of society. Consider Whitman's "I Hear America Singing" (full text link below). The professions listed are those of everyday people -- hard-working men and women who sing the praises of their work as carpenters, masons, woodcutters and boatmen. The women are sewing and washing. The poem culminates with a festive scene in which a party is described as those who have spent their days hard at work now enjoy time of fellowship with others. Emerson wanted a poet who would represent America's every-day people, not the millionaires or the politicians or the ones who were born with a silver spoon in their mouths. Emerson wanted a man who could, through his writing, stand for the American majority, and Whitman clearly answered that call. He was himself a man who worked as a journalist and teacher (as well as in a number of other odd jobs) to support his own writing career. He grew up in Brooklyn and loved talking to people -- so much so that he spent nearly 11 years volunteering in Civil War hospitals with wounded soldiers. His most famous poem (argueably) is "Oh Captain, My Captain" in which he laments over the death of Abraham Lincoln.

In short, yes, I believe Whitman answered Emerson's call for An American Poet perfectly. Check out the links below for more information that might help you.

Sources:

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