What aspects of American culture are celebrated in the poem "I Hear America Singing?"

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

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Whitman's unabashed love of the diversity of American character is on full display in "I Hear America Singing."  It is almost as if Whitman is walking in any American town and is taken in by how everyone fulfills their own vision of destiny in making up this tapestry called "America."  As each lives out his own destiny, Whitman is convinced that each sings their own song, adding to the multivocality of the narrative harmony that is America.  Whitman's lack of elitism is present in that most of Whitman's "songs" in the poem are consisting of manual labor or working class people whose songs are the ones that entrance Whitman.  He does not hear the sound of landed wealth nor does he hear the songs of politicians or industrialists.  Rather, he hears "mechanics," singing a song that is "strong."  Whitman also hears "the mason" who is either reporting to or departing from work.  The "boatman," or the "mother" or the "young wife at work" all comprise these songs, being sung with "open mouths."  In this light, Whitman's view of American Culture is one devoid of economic class stratification, and one where individual experience is the only defining element.  The American that embraces this sense of freedom is one that Whitman deems vital to American Culture.  Whitman's "faith in American democracy" is confirmed with these songs he hears being sung in America.

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