Express the treatment of "self" in Walt Whitman's "Song of Myself" (emphasis on chapters 1, 2, 3, 16, 20, 21 & 24).

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booboosmoosh | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

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In Walt Whitman's "Song of Myself," Whitman expresses a oneness between himself and all other people, and his connect—and joy—with nature as well: a universality.

Chapter One deals with his birth, his parents and all parents, giving the sense of a cycle begun long before his birth, that continues as it has always moved along the thread of humankind.

Chapter Two speaks to nature and the love Whitman has in it. There are many sensory images here, the "sniff of green leaves and dry leaves...of hay in the barn." In this he expresses a vibrance in him of life, "the song of me rising from bed and meeting he sun."

One central message seems to be found in the last stanza of this chapter:

Stop this day and night with me and you shall possess the origin of all poems, 
You shall possess the good of the earth and sun...
You shall listen to all sides and filter them from your self.

Chapter Three leads me to think of the patterns of mankind: that there "is nothing new under the sun." Whitman tries not to get caught up in "what the talkers were talking," for he notes that this has gone on before and will continue so as long as there is life.

Showing the best and dividing it from the worst age vexes age, 
Knowing the perfect fitness and equanimity of things, while they 
discuss I am silent...

Chapter 16 provides a commentary on oneness, again, and his peace with it.

One of the Nation of many nations...I resist any thing better than my own diversity, 
Breathe the air but leave plenty after me, 
And am not stuck up, and am in my place.

Chapter 20 has a more philosophical essence. Whitman comments that he cannot be understood by being analyzed. He is one with the world, yet undefinable. He is satisfied to not completely understand himself, yet to know himself as well as he needs to.

I exist as I am, that is enough, 
If no other in the world be aware I sit content, 
And if each and all be aware I sit content.

Chapter 21 returns to nature. Whitman is the poet who speaks of all aspects of life, "body" and "soul," "man" and "woman." All things, all people, are equal at some point. But nature is worthy of our notice, and he praises many aspects of it with more sensory details:

Smile O voluptuous cool-breath'd earth! 
Earth of the slumbering and liquid trees! 
Earth of departed sunset--earth of the mountains misty-topt! 
Earth of the vitreous pour of the full moon just tinged with blue!...
Earth of the limpid gray of clouds brighter and clearer for my sake! 
Far-swooping elbow'd earth--rich apple-blossom'd earth!

Finally, in Chapter 24, Whitman defines himself in a wide, general manner, which does not truly define him at all. He is, once again, one with all, and a voice that serves others with his poetry.

Through me many long dumb voices, 
Voices of the interminable generations of prisoners and slaves, 
Voices of the diseas'd and despairing and of thieves and dwarfs... 
...And of the threads that connect the stars, and of wombs and of the father-stuff, 
And of the rights of them the others are down upon, 
Of the deform'd, trivial, flat, foolish, despised...

Listening to Whitman in this last chapter, the reader gets the sense that he simply reports what he witnesses or experiences, but he does not pass judgment or "clean up" what he describes . And again he turns back to nature:

I pause to consider if it really be, 
A morning-glory at my window satisfies me more than the metaphysics 
of books.

For Whitman, life seems just that simple.

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