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What is the theme of Walt Whitman's poem "I Hear America Singing"?

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bryttnee17 | Student, Grade 11 | eNotes Newbie

Posted April 12, 2009 at 10:26 PM via web

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What is the theme of Walt Whitman's poem "I Hear America Singing"?

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mrs-campbell | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted April 13, 2009 at 1:07 AM (Answer #1)

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This poem is a joyous reflection of the many working people in America, and how they are going about their day, strong, happy, healthy, and good at their jobs.  The theme is productivity, or happiness in one's station in life.  He describes all sorts of people on their jobs-mechanics, carpenters, masons, boatmen, shoemaker, woodcutter, and even mothers, wives, and young men.  Each picture he presents of these people is their "blithe" and happy nature in their station of life.  He uses such optimistic and joyous words to describe them going about their days:  "blithe", "carols", "strong", "delicious", "robust", "friendly".  The entire poem is a celebration of life, a celebration of the many different types of people that make up what America is, and how they find joy and happiness in their every day.

I hope that helps a bit; it's a great poem!  Good luck!

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sarahkoehler | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Adjunct Educator

Posted September 22, 2012 at 8:40 PM (Answer #2)

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Remember that Whitman was answering Ralph Waldo Emerson's call for "An American Poet," someone who could best represent the majority of Americans rather than the elite politicians, millionaires or aristrocracy. Looking at the full text of the poem shows Whitman's respect and love for American people in their most basic environment: work. These people are optomistic and joyful in their work, even if the work itself is not glamorous or "special." Whitman adored those who found the joy and happiness in everyday life.

Good luck!

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