Summary (Masterplots, Fourth Edition)
Written when Walt Whitman was in his early fifties, Democratic Vistas demonstrates the author’s discouragement at what he saw in America. The sobering effects of the Civil War, the death of Abraham Lincoln, and the overwhelming change resulting from the Industrial Revolution are quite evident as Whitman attempts to introduce a plan for the development of a golden age in the New World.
Like Whitman’s poetry, the work has no substantial organization; it tends to ramble and to be repetitious. Nevertheless, in its portrait of Whitman’s philosophy, and in its analysis of the potentiality of the American society, Democratic Vistas is extremely significant. Its criticism of American politics, culture, and values in general was partly the result of the disillusionment that existed after the Civil War, but the considerations are still quite applicable to American society.
Simply stated, the thesis of Democratic Vistas is that, while America is surpassing all other nations industrially and has the material facilities to continue its advancement, it lacks a distinct culture or spiritual identity. According to Whitman, such an identity could only come about through works of literature written in new literary styles by new artists. In effect, he is stating that the United States has the human resources, the material resources, and the sound political structure to make itself the most nearly ideal society that has ever...
(The entire section is 1849 words.)
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