Song of Myself (Section 21) What Whitman is trying to say about "Love"?Prodigal You have given me love--therfore I to you give love. O unspeakable passionate love

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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The closing lines to the section help to bring this transcendent notion of love that drives Whitman's understanding of both his world and his place in it.  Whitman brings out the idea that love is a universal emotion, not specific in its aim, but rather totalizing in how it encompasses everything.  The love that is shown in this particular section is driven by the idea that it was love that created the speaker.  It is love that generated his being and also created the world towards which he feels affinity.  When he describes the natural beauty of the Earth, there is a passion and wonder experienced.  In referring to this natural state as "lover," Whitman seems to be suggesting that his love of the world is reciprocal in that it has given him so much in way of natural beauty and connection to other human beings as parts of this world.  It is here where the concluding lines help to reveal this.  As the world has given him love, he engages in a reciprocal process in which he gives to it what has animated his own state of being.  The concept of love is something that he sees a universal and totalizing element, broadened to many and to the world, itself.


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