Describe the Romantic elements such as equality in Whitman's "Song of Myself".

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

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The Romantic elements present in Whitman's "Song of Myself" are an essential part of its understanding.  Whitman wishes to present himself as a part of the beauty of the world.  This sense of equality within the world does not cast him apart from it, aloof in some distant, coldly scientific, objective manner. In true Romantic form, Whitman's emphasis on his equality within the world is reflective of the Romantic emphasis on self.  The Romantic thinkers believed that the best way to understand the world is to be an active part of it.  In immersing oneself in the world, Romantic thinkers believed that individuals could assert a voice about the world and the individual's place in it that could reveal true understanding.  For the Romantic, the exploration of self in the world allows a point of view where one can better understand it.  The "mind's eye" emerges from this point of view in Whitman's work:  “Apart from the pulling and hauling stands what I am, . . . Both in and out of the game and watching and wondering at it.”  This equality regarding the individual and the world is something that lies at the essence of Whitman's work. 

In lines such as  “I loafe and invite my soul,/ I lean and loafe at my ease observing a spear of summer grass," the Romantic elements of love of self and nature can be evident. The work speaks to the desire to expand the moral and ethical imagination of the individual.  Whitman demonstrates that the individual immersion into the world can be where true understanding about it and soulful exploration of the self can happen.  The "ease observing a spear of summer grass" helps to capture this inward sense of moral imagination that Romantic thinkers believed was at the essence of individual consciousness.  This is another Romantic element that is present throughout Whitman's work.

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