What are some themes and symbols in "Song of Myself", with specific details?I need help with the details on the themes and symbols in this poem. I'm just not good at finding all the...
What are some themes and symbols in "Song of Myself", with specific details?
I need help with the details on the themes and symbols in this poem. I'm just not good at finding all the details. Please and thanks for all the help!
"Song of Myself" by Walt Whitman celebrates the theme of democracy and the oneness of mankind, specifically the American people. As well, it represents Transcendentalist thought concerning mankind's common soul. The poem also focuses on the theme that life is a journey to uncover one's self, one's identity. The symbol encountered in the first section, that of I, literally appears to be the poet, Whitman. However, the I becomes larger than the poet:
I celebrate myself, and sing myself,
And what I assume you shall assume,
For every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you (Section 1).
The I symbolizes the self as well as modern man, or Every Man. We are all the I, celebrating and singing this song of democracy. Later in the poem, the I becomes the self on the journey to explore the universe:
"I know I have the best of time and space, and was never measured and never will be measured" (Section 46).
The I then becomes a symbol of us all on a quest that Whitman proposes we all undertake:
Not I, not any one else can travel that road for you,
You must travel it for yourself (Section 46).
A second important symbol is the grass. The grass literally represents the regeneration of nature. However, it also takes on symbolic meaning. The grass "is the handkerchief of the Lord" (Section 6); that is, grass symbolizes God's hand in nature. In this same section, grass becomes a metaphor for a child, a "babe of the vegetation" (Section 6). And, even more importantly, the grass becomes symbolic of all people as we are all equal like blades of grass:
Growing among black folks as among white,
Kanuck, Tuckahoe, Congressman, Cuff, I give them the same, I receive them the same (Section 6).
The I and the grass are integral to understanding Whitman's themes.
There are several major themes in "Song of Myself". 1. Celebrating yourself in all of your glory and faults. 2. Reveling in the beauty of nature, and feeling a connection to it. 3. The connectedness and unity of life and all living beings.
For an example of #1, look at the very first line in section 1: "I celebrate myself and sing myself". This is a major theme throughout all of the sections. For #2, look at section 6 where Whitman talks about all of the things that grass could be, ending with it being himself after he has died (his body feeding the grass). For #3, section 16 is a great example of Whitman feeling connected to all human beings.
These are just a few examples; the entire poem is packed with examples of these themes. If you give it a read-through with those themes in mind, examples will jump out more clearly. Good luck!