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Does Walt Whitman's "Passage to India" celebrate globalization and space exploration?

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afkarahmed | eNoter

Posted September 12, 2013 at 8:10 PM via iOS

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Does Walt Whitman's "Passage to India" celebrate globalization and space exploration?

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scarletpimpernel | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted September 12, 2013 at 8:51 PM (Answer #1)

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Walt Whitman's "Passage to India," Poem 183 in Leaves of Grass, certainly promotes globalization but not, perhaps, in the sense of modern's society's definition of the term.

In Lines 34-36, for example, Whitman stresses that God's purpose is for 

"races, neighbors, to marry and be given in marriage, / The oceans to be cross'd, the distant brought near, / The lands to be welded together."

This Transcendental, utopian idea of all mankind living in harmony with one another is Whitman's version of a global society. In contrast, many in today's world connect globalization to business and transportation--a type of society in which people can communicate with each other more easily and travel to and from various continents in record time, but not one in which humans necessarily want to assimilate into a global culture and erase all boundaries.  

In regards to space exploration, one has to consider once again Whitman's transcendental ideology. From the poet's perspective, man can become a god himself and transcend this world. Thus, Lines 204-205,

"How should I think--how breathe a single breath--how speak--if, out of myself / I could not launch, to those, superior universes?"

do not necessarily intimate literal space exploration.

While Whitman's "Passage to India" portrays technological advances in a positive light, and he most likely would have been all for exploring space, he also seems to be warning readers not to forget about the past. He cherishes the traditions and explorers of ancient times and advises mankind to remember that the inventions of his day would not have been possible without the efforts and cultures of the past.

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