Against what values of American society does "Song of Myself" by Walt Whitman "beat the gong of revolt"?Whitman's epic poem Song of Myself, which first appeared in 1855 was revolutionary with...

Against what values of American society does "Song of Myself" by Walt Whitman "beat the gong of revolt"?

Whitman's epic poem Song of Myself, which first appeared in 1855 was revolutionary with regard to its subject matter and statements about man.

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

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First of all, it revolted against the common conceptions about the equality of black people.  In his poem, Whitman describes helping a runaway slave, giving him shelter and rest (see section 10); he even sat next to him at the same table.  This flew in the face of accepted social-and some felt moral-conventions, and the notions of equality.  He also describes the working black man with positive terms, describing their hard-working nature, their closeness to nature, and their earthiness that kept them real.  To make black people the subject of any positive descriptor was risky, and a bold statement about Whitman's belief in equality for all men.  This theme of equality even prevails in revolting against class-stereotyping.  Whitman praises and exalts the poorer working classes, and for the many "elite" classes, such exultation in grungy, poor, manual labor was quite different and repugnant.

Also, until Whitman, most of the poetry followed set rules regarding rhythm, rhyme, meter, and verse.  Whitman revloted against all of that, and wrote free-style, in whatever form he wanted.

A major theme of the poem also was trusting oneself above all other things:  religion, morals, conscience, "creeds", and other society-induced sets of rules.    This revolted against the intense religious sentiment, and strict moral codes of the time period.  But to Whitman, the self was all.  He truly followed Emerson's creed that "no law can be sacred to me but that of my nature."

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