Is there a paradox in "Facing West from California's Shores?


Walt Whitman

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This poem is characteristic of Whitman in most respects except that it is short. It lists the countries near the “shores of my Western sea” and is inclusive of the macrocosm-microcosm habits of his thought. The poem is especially interesting because it is built on a series of personal paradoxes. The paradox underlying the poem is that the speaker searches for something but does not find it, but even if he should find it he would never know his success because he characterizes himself as a seeker, on a continual quest. Thus the travels westward from our continent will prove rewarding in themselves, but they will not grant him the fruit of his search. His search, in short, is more significant for him than reaching his goal.

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